• Reading

    Classics Club Spin #28 List

    I’m going to attempt another spin. I had a play the last time which if I hadn’t essentially forgotten I could easily have read. I’ve put it on this list along with The Idiot and anything I felt was Autumnal feeling or at least not as Spring-y or Summer-y.

    1. An Anton Chekhov novel
    2. The Wimsey Papers by Dorothy Sayers
    3. A Good Man is Hard to Find or other Flannery O’Connor novel
    4. A Portrait of A Lady and/or Turning of the Screw by Henry James
    5. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
    6. Cymbelline
    7. Dracula by Bram Stoker
    8. Irish Faerie Tales by William Butler Yeats
    9. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
    10. King John
    11. Macbeth
    12. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    13. Richard III
    14. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
    15. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    16. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
    17. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
    18. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
    19. The Scarlet Letter and/or The House with Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorne
    20. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Reading

    Bookish Sites and Such

    Every so often I look for Goodreads alternatives, if I knew they’ve been owned by Amazon for 8 years, I’d forgotten, that explains the monopoly. Their export option messes up read dates and doesn’t track rereads and doesn’t have enough data.

    In frustration I found the spreadsheet I mentioned in this post. But I’ve not kept up on that. Just too much manual work.

    I was watching a Ruby Granger vlog and she mentioned The Storygraph. So I cleaned up my Goodreads export as much as I could and transferred it, it doesn’t show my rereads, I’ll have to figure that one out. It’s got a much simpler look which I like, and I love the mood and categorization, seems pretty accurate to me. And they now have an app.

    And yet I still have been using Goodreads. I need to go back and look at the Storygraph again. I think maybe I need to find a Youtube video explaining it. I’m a very slow adapter. I might have to try and use both for awhile to really get a feel to see if I want to switch.

    Estimate how many books you can read in a year based on this test. Super cool

    How I Read Classics.

    Dear Authors . . . Redemption Arcs. Edmund and Eustace are good examples of believable redemption arcs. They #1 Didn’t do anything insanely criminal #2 They still felt the full weight of what they had done after they were redeemed.

    How I Annotate Books. I really need to work on my book notes. I do like that I can easily highlight and save notes when I’m reading in the Kindle. I just need to remember to write down my notes. I have reading journals that I inconsistently fill, and then I’ve compiled some of my digital notes into a Reading Notes Evernote notebook.

  • Reading

    What I Read: August 2021

    I read a lot, but not necessarily well, I wasn’t thrilled with a lot of my fiction, however, I think it again helped me to think about my fiction. And the two non-fiction books I read were EXCELLENT!


    Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling. A must read for everyone in the West! Gives a true perspective of how much even the “poor” (US “poverty” is not based on actually need but comparison) of the West are SO much better off than not just true poverty and past times, but level 3 (there are 4 levels, Westerners and some other nations like Japan are 4). And how much the overall world has improved (and I’m a history major, I knew we had it good in modern, but wow, I still didn’t know how bad it used to be for children, that is a hard, necessary section). Also, I’m trying to keep in mind that level 3 workers work I think calculated 90+ hours, so if I have to patch together a couple jobs that may not even add up to 40 (and that I can CHOOSE), I can get over myself a bit, it won’t kill me.

    I want to explore the authors’ site, especially the Dollar Street part to see all the different standards of living around the world. Reminds me of that Children Around the World book we had growing up. I want this in my library.

    On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. I need to improve my writing but most of the writing books I came across were for fiction. This book benefits EVERY type of writer; it is excellent, truly emphasizing the importance of strong writing (which is rarely displayed in all the poorly written things published). I’ve definitely got this on my purchase list as well, I’ll need to review and review. I’m not trying to be a “writer” per se, I’m just trying to be more readable on my blog, to learn to express myself better and clearer. And maybe, maybe, if I go back to school someday for history, I won’t dread the reams of writing that will be necessary quite as much.


    Ashtown Burials series by N.D. Wilson (one of my favorite authors): The Dragon’s Tooth, The Drowned Vault, Empire of Bones, and part of The Silent Bells. I have 14 chapters from the serialized version the author is publishing which I’ve caught up on, I realized when starting them (and an earlier series mistake of not rereading the earlier ones) that I was going to have to reread since I’d forgotten. I’m so glad I did, I enjoyed these so much, I highly recommend, especially for a summer adventure vibe. Also, I’m going to have to get some of the merch too.

    Andy Catlett: Early Travels by Wendell Berry. I have loyalty-dislike relationship with Berry. This is my state’s best author, and I am near Henry county where his stories are set (although my family is mostly from the Western part of the state). He is our states greatest author I believe. And I appreciate aspects of his writing. However, I can’t stand the fatalistic tone (I’d have to say, very authentically Kentucky; if I have to hear “it is what it is” from people in real life I’ll scream) or his rather ahistorical romanticizing of agrarian life.

    Dune by Frank Herbert. I read this quite easily, although not super enjoyably. I just felt like this had so many plot holes or underdeveloped aspects, it just wasn’t satisfying or even as dramatic as the movie previews made it feel. I’m still interested (although less excited) in seeing it in theater though. I feel like sci-fi often has super interesting conceptions and plots, but falls short in the development. However, I need to read more sci-fi. Dad keeps bringing up Isaac Asimov (a blast from the past, Dad had a couple shelves of just Asimov, you know what, I think I need to do a post on our family’s book tastes . . .) and how he thinks every newer sci-fi author rips him off which may or may not be actually true. I think I’ll try Asimov’s Foundations series sometime.

    Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Joy Clarkson picked this book for the readalong she hosts on her podcast Speaking with Joy. I felt it so mysterious and grand because of the beginning and the podcast, but yeah, the build up didn’t go anywhere and ultimately it felt very forgettable especially after the boring ending. Although this is shorter and different, I felt that way about her first book, especially since I usually forget I read that book and it was a TOME!

    Circe by Madeline. It held my attention mostly, but I sure got sick of the “problems” of a self-indulgent, self-absorbed goddess. Wow, your life is SO hard. Also there was a UGH, NOPE twist at the end that caused me to not finish the last bit. And also, some egregious ick and violence from the god world. Less than Ariadne (the gory part is just unbelievably violence voyeurism or something) which I very quickly put down. I just can’t justify reading gratuitous graphic violence and sexual choices in such mediocre form. I mean the myths are part of culture and yes, stuff happens (one of my professors said the gods had sex with everything, people, animals, plants), but these are grand stories, part of ancient culture, part of the world’s heritage. And I don’t recall such level of gruesome, wallowing vicarious detail. While the original myths add to culture, such muck in mediocre writing subtracts from self, I guess I’m saying. It’s hard to explain how to draw my lines morally and artistically, but I think that is what it is.

    The Coming Storm by Regina M. Hansen. Thriller/horror (not too bad or else I’d not have read). Again, I was left thinking, how did this benefit me? It wasn’t a clean happy bit of light reading. And it is shallow fluff intellectually.

    A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine. Silly bit of fluff. I was trying to find something light, but not to this level.

  • Reading

    The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag

    I found this tag here on Maribeth’s blog. I’m going to try to exclude rereads from this mostly. I’m afraid I can’t keep duplicate answers off though.


    Best book you’ve read so far in 2021

    The best fiction is Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy (the essence of summer in a set of books). And the best nonfiction is Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.


    Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021

    The rest of the Corfu trilogy and what issues that I have of Silent Bells.


    New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

    I’m not into new releases much, I’m going to count the rest of the serial publication of N.D. Wilson’s Silent Bells, the last book in his Ashtown Burials series.


    Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

    Same as above.


    Biggest disappointment in 2021

    Torch, the last of R.J. Anderson’s Flight and Flame trilogy which follows the faerie rebels trilogy. I had too high expectations which never works for me AND I should have reread the previous trilogy and then the previous two novels. I don’t think I liked Nomad as much as I thought, and I forgot a huge amount.


    Biggest surprise in 2021

    I wasn’t expecting to like Amanda Kastner’s Questless as much as I did, I gave it 5 stars. I can’t wait for the next installment.


    Favorite new author in 2021

    I don’t know how any of her other books will stand up, but I enjoyed Greenwillow by B.J. Chute.


    Newest fictional crush/ship

    I mean I read a lot of Georgette Heyer’s which was fun. I liked the couple in The Blue Sword, but I’m not sure I’d call any of them favorite ships, but no really new ones that are crazy interesting.


    But I forgot just how much I loved Robert in Shirley and how much I shipped him and Caroline.


    Newest favorite character

    Nobody really stands out to make my absolute favorites list.


    Book that made you cry in 2021

    In Factfulness the section on what child mortality used to be like is pretty awful (but it needs to be known). I at least came close to tearing up.


    Book that made you happy in 2021

    Most of my rereads (L.M. Montgomery, N.D. Wilson, Shirley), especially Shirley. The Corfu trilogy. Georgette Heyer novels. Questless.


    Favorite book-to-film adaption you saw in 2021

    I don’t know, I think that a lot of the vintage movies I watched may have been based on books, but I’ve never read them. As soap and inaccurate an adaptation as the Durrells was, I still enjoyed it and it inspired me to reread and read the Corfu trilogy.


    Favorite bookish post you’ve done so far in 2021

    It is a mess, but I like my Emma post, if only for nostalgia, it was so fun to watch and comment like we did.


    Most beautiful book you bought so far in 2021

    I can’t remember buying anything significant. But I just got A Tangled Web and Blue Castle from Sourcebooks Fire for my birthday.


    Books you need to read by the end of the year

    Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth (I’m at least halfway). And maybe a few others from Tim Challies’s list on understanding the times.


    Surely I can finish The Idiot.


    I missed reading my easy Classics Club spin pick, Cymbeline. So, I think I should do that. And maybe a few more plays and books on my Classics Club list.


    I’m working on reading more state history and authors from my state in preparation to see if I can volunteer at our state historical society, we’ll see.


    I’d also love for some atmospheric fall reads I’ve good on my fall mood and aesthetic list and any others that fall my way.


    And finally, pick up where I left off on my reading monographs through American history. Somehow in addition to dragging my feet per usual on anything that isn’t my type of happy read, I’d deleted my extensive and thought out original list somehow, and I found that disheartening. I don’t know how far I went to rebuild it. But maybe this should be a January thing. It sounds like a good academic winter pursuit.


    Also, consider yourself tagged if you want to do this.

  • Reading

    Reigniting Tolkien Nerdiness

    I watched these two Wired videos (here and here) in which a Tolkien expert answers a bunch of questions a couple months ago. It is a Tolkien nerd’s dream.

    And of course I’ve also gotten touches of Lord of the Rings when listening to The Friendship Onion as well.

    I’ve always wanted to reread The Silmarillion and the other works I missed, and now I’m definitely going to this year, and I want to read the books chronologically. I think they aren’t all quite chronological (as in the stories might jump around), so I might use this (awesomely nerdy) system

    I listened to this podcast awhile back regarding the accuracy of our understanding of Tolkien (particularly in his most famous biograph by Humphrey Carpenter who apparently had it out for Tolkien and so twisted the perspective at least). So I’d like to read the guest (Holly Ordway) author’s book, Tolkien’s Modern Reading as well. Along with maybe some of the books on the art of Middle Earth and anything extra like that.

    I wasn’t sure if this was going to happen this year, but it turns out Hamlette is still doing her Tolkien celebration blog event, so I think I’d like to start on my rereading soon!

    And maybe I can round it all out rewatching the movies? I’ve not seen the extended versions of the Hobbits and those films are SO not following the canon, so we’ll see.


  • Reading

    August 2021 Reading Goals

    I’d like to get a few of these crossed off, but I know some of these will be rolled over into August.

    Borrowed Physical Books
    • Factfulness from my dad
    • Read the state history I borrowed from Papau
    • The summer section from A Year in Mississippi from my sister
    • Possibly the state history I borrowed from the library
    • The Foxfire Book from the library
    • Wendell Berry Books from the library
    My Books
    • Reread the first three Ashtown Burial books, so I can read The Silent Bells by ND Wilson
    • Your Move: An Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business. I may not want to keep this.
    • A Jane Austen Devotional. I’m not sure I want to keep this, I may pass around to my sisters afterwards.
    • Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth
    • On Writing Well
    • Classic Club spin pick, Cymbelline
    • Make inroads into The Idiot (aim for end of July)
    Other Fiction
    • Probably should have picked up Dune again earlier, but I forgot, so here we are.
    • Anything I want to read off my rereading list for summer for 2021.
  • Reading

    What I Watched July 2021

    I got so many great quotes from this month, so I’m going to be doing some separate posts.



    People will Talk. Another hilarious yet sweet Cary Grant film.

    Guys and Dolls. My first ever Marlon Brando movie. Loved the Sky and Sarah parts, skipped over a lot the Nathan and what’s her face parts.

    Bundle of Joy. Kinda cute, rather boring. Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.



    Community. It’s not brilliant but thus far it’s fun with some excellent sections of humor. There are some plot points I hate. Plus season 4 should never have happened. I thought I’d skip and go to season 5, but I’m not sure I’ll even make it that far.

    Troy and Annie can’t be together because you want Troy and Abed to be friends? Call me crazy but I think writers can work friendship AND romance for a character into a show. It would also help to give more time if they would delete the old creep and cut down on Ken and Barbie’s very basic story line.

    Speaking of Ken and Barbie, so there are two potential pairing setups, the older couple, Ken and Barbie, and the younger couple, Troy and Annie. Again, call me nuts, but if they weren’t going to have those pairings, maybe there are alternatives besides just simply switching the four people around, like you know they could date in their age group and out of their tiny friend clique?!!!!. That is EWW on multiple levels, the age differences (yes, I know the actual actors are same ages, not the point) and the weird sort of group incestuous sort of vibes. However, like I said tons of hilarious sections.

  • Reading

    What I Read July

    I didn’t do a jot from my July reading goals, although I thought I’d be finishing Far from the Madding Crowd. Yeah, no, Hardy is not for me. This was a 2nd try after years of growing up. Nope, CANNOT stand that sort of thing. Everyone makes very obvious terrible choices or is a terrible person and its all presented sort of fatalistically as if they couldn’t help themselves, woe are they. They most certainly could have helped themselves, most people manage to be able to avoid the extreme level of wreckage a Hardy character seems to relish (kind of an exaggerated Ethan Frome experience except these characters have even more agency and choices and so its more infuriating). It’s crazy how some of the same choices or plots can, by another author’s hand, evoke such a different response.


    I reread Jane of Lantern Hill and Magic for Marigold. Both of them charming and magical as always. However, Jane’s “mummy” is infuriating. Hmm, might have to do a post about that, it connects with other thoughts I have for a theme.


    The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden. Enjoyable at first but with a taste or warning or undercurrent of, hmm, issues. And then the last section, oh, my, stars. So, gave this a one. Just not comfortable with the content.


    Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson. Very enjoyable and funny.


    Greenwillow by B.J. Chute, I got confused posting my June reads so late, but I read this in July. Also enjoyable, in a sweeter way.


  • Reading

    My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts and Relatives; and The Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell

    I’d read My Family and Other Animals but by the time I watched the show The Durrells, I didn’t remember much of the details of the stories, so I decided I wanted to reread it as well as the next two: Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods. I’d read that the show was fictionalized and I could tell Larry was greatly changed, and I felt that the tone and atmosphere of the TV show was waaaay more modern (stereotypically so and what they did to Leslie . . . urgh!) than the book. I remembered many of the main characters from the book, but I couldn’t remember the various stories and wanted to know how much was fictionalized.

    I was absolutely correct about the tone and Larry plus the show writers, in addition to the bizarre modernization and adding of dysfunction (the family fought and all in the book, but the show added a level of something else) leached much of the humor and depth out of the episodes and replaced it with soap.

    A lot of the more recurring or minor characters in the show were actually in the book, and in the book much better or quite different. Unfortunately though, with Captain Lech Creech, we got his whole, horrid self in both versions, although he just didn’t show up with quite the frequency in the book as in the show I think. And the tv show left out a highly entertaining character, the marvelous French count. I don’t see how they could have left out someone so hilarious, but then again, the show seemed to prefer soap to wit. Also, since the show writers apparently felt the need to reduce Leslie to the narrow-minded stereotype (understand that both ways if you please) the French count labelled him as being, they couldn’t very well appreciate the sarcasm.

    There is a beeeyouteeeful several paragraphs about the Count which I had to shorten for space:

    “Three days later the Count appeared. . . we soon found that the Count found himself so attractive he felt it necessary to change his clothes about eight times a day to do justice to himself. . . Combined with this narcissistic preoccupation with himself, the Count had other equally objectionable characteristics. . . His English was limited, but this did not prevent him from expounding on any subject with a sort of sneering dogmatism that made everyone’s hackles rise. His philosophy, if any, could be summed up in the phrase, ‘We do it better in France’, which he used repeatedly about everything. . . He arrived, unfortunately, in time for lunch, and by the end of the meal, without really trying, he had succeeded in alienating everybody including the dogs. It was, in its way, quite a tour de force to be able to irritate five people of such different character apparently without even being aware of doing so, inside two hours of arrival. . . To Leslie, he offered the information that anyone who was interested in hunting must assuredly have the instincts of a criminal. . .

    And then a bit later, this gem:

    ‘I’m not sure I shall last the course,’ said Larry. ‘So far about the only thing he hasn’t claimed for France is God.’ ‘Ah, but they probably believe in him better in France,’ Leslie pointed out.


    But, then with the reaction to Emily of Paris, it does seem that some French don’t seem to understand that yes, you are on the same plan as us other peons, and if we can be teased and stereotyped and caricatured (Hello, have you met Hollywood? They would think I’m from Deliverance. Cah-rye me a river!). Maybe this section (of one person) is too demoralizing for those sorts.


    “Like so many Americans, they were possessed of a charming naïveté and earnestness and these qualities, as far as Leslie was concerned at any rate, made them ideal subjects for practical jokes.”


    And there is more in the same vein, I have so many quotes from these books. I highly, highly recommend the books, they are so atmospheric and unique and hilarious and perfectly Summer-y.

  • Reading

    July 2021 Reading Plans

    I’d like to get a few of these crossed off, but I know some of these will be rolled over into August.

    Borrowed Physical Books

    • Factfulness from my dad
    • Read the state history I borrowed from Papau
    • A Year in Mississippi from my sister
    • Start reading the Horatio Hornblower series also borrowed from my sister (this choice brought to you by this photo, you’re welcome) Edit: I started the first one, I couldn’t make it through the first chapter. SO GA Henty vibes. Mary Sue’s are popular now, apparently the boy version is Marty or Gary Stu. But I don’t think that fits, I think Peter Perfect sounds better for these older books (when the boy version seemed to happen more). Little young pompous prigs without an iota of humor who can do everything perfectly without practice and take everything deadly seriously (literally in this case) in writing were all of this is S-P-E L-L-E-D O-U-T  S-O  T-H-A-T  W-E  K-N-O-W  H-E  I-S  A  S-U-P-E-R   S-P-E-C-I-AL  H-E-R-O. I do not know how to express how HH irritated (and the writing) me within 30 pages. Hopefully I can enjoy the movie and the tv series, some of this is the writing or only expressed in writing.
    • Far from the Madding Crowd from the library
    • Possibly the state history I borrowed from the library
    • The Foxfire Book from the library

    My Books

    • Reread the first three Ashtown Burial books, so I can read The Silent Bells by ND Wilson
    • Your Move: An Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business. I may not want to keep this.
    • A Jane Austen Devotional. I’m not sure I want to keep this, I may pass around to my sisters afterwards.

    Other Books

    • Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth
      On Writing Well
    • Classic Club spin pick, Cymbelline
    • Make inroads into The Idiot (aim for end of July)

    Fiction Possibilities

    • Circe
    • More Hornblowers
    • Other YA adventure novels like more from the Nick of Time series
  • Reading

    What I Read June 2021

    My June Goals were

    • Finish A Fine Romance.
    • Read Factfulness and return to my dad. Rollover to July and/or August.
    • Read Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth. Rollover to July and/or August.
      Reread Emma.
    • Catch Up on The Silent Bells serial by ND Wilson. I’ve decided I need to reread the whole series first so rollover to July and/or August.
    • Read the state history I borrowed from Papau and return. Rollover to July and/or August.
    • Make inroads into The Idiot (aim for end of July). Rollover to July and/or August.
    • Maybe On Writing Well. Rollover to July and/or August.
    • Other fiction possibilities:
      • Greenwillow
      • Maybe the other to Corfu books

    So basically I only read the light and fluffy books off my list.

    Greenwillow by B.J. Chute. I’ve had this on my shelf for a couple years, but I finally picked it up and read it. It is such a lyrical and peaceful book. I didn’t know much about it at all, but I picked it up and thought, this is set in America and immediately assumed New England/Northeast. (How? What were the indicators that this was American?! Something in the tone, the sentence structure?). The author is from Minnesota, but while I haven’t read much of that area, the novel really felt like it had a rural Puritan New England atmosphere (like a softened view, not a Ethan Frome or Nathanial Hawthorne one). I’m curious to know other peoples’ thoughts.

    My Family and Other AnimalsBirds, Beasts and Relatives; and The Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell.
    After finishing The Durrells I wanted to reread the first book and then read the next two to see how much was changed. Since I highlighted quite a few funny parts, I’m going to save this group review for another post.

    Emma by Jane Austen. I read this as part of a book club, but I didn’t end up participating much, I got quite sucked back in.

    The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father by Jim Wight. I finished all the James Herriot books, and so I wrapped it up by reading this biography written by his son. He wrote very true to life, so this merely rounded out a lot, there was not very much surprising or anything except Alf Wight’s bouts of depression. I thought it a sweet, mild, rather melancholic read. I now want to get ahold of James Herriot’s Yorkshire and watch the newer series (I just couldn’t get over the casting of the old, not that all the new ones seem excellent, but the older casting Siegfried!).

    A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch. This was such a sweet and relaxing read. It’s an illustrated travel journal, it is quite fun.

  • Reading

    Classics Club Spin #27 List

    Well, these spins have 2 out of 3 + success rate for me (I say over 2 out of 3 because I at least started The Idiot which I’ve again put on this list) which is pretty good.

    1. An Anton Chekhov novel
    2. A Good Man is Hard to Find or other Flannery O’Connor novel
    3. A Toni Morrison novel
    4. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
    5. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    6. Cymbelline
    7. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    8. Grapes of Wrath and/or East of Eden and/or Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
    9. Henry VI, Part 1
    10. Henry VI, Part 2
    11. Henry VI, Part 3
    12. Henry VIII
    13. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
    14. O’ Pioneers and/or Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
    15. One Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or another novel by Jules Verne
    16. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
    17. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    18. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
    19. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
    20. Walden by Henry Thoreau