Thursday, October 31, 2013


NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! :-O

For those of you who don't know what that is, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of the month of November. See more info here:
I won last year (!!!) and it was lots of fun, so I highly recommend that you try it!

However, that means that during November, I will be writing the following:

1. This blog

2. My NaNovel.

3. Numerous college application essays (I wrote my Common App essay on reading and books, of course!)

4. English class assignments

So..... we'll see how this goes. :-/

I will still be continuing with my Jane Austen Marathon - as you can see from the What I'm Reading, I'm currently on Pride and Prejudice. This is taking longer than expected - I read the five better known books a few summers ago, and I remember them being way shorter... Maybe I just had more time on my hands.

Back to NaNo - if you are doing it (which you should be), you are welcome to become my writing buddy! In the NaNoverse, I'm known as Philomena. Join me in the awesome craziness! Become my writing buddy and send me a NaNoMail to the effect of "I read your blog! Let's write together!" so I know who you are.

I'm having a moment of questioning right before NaNo starts - I thought I was going to write the novel that is currently on my user profile over at, but I suddenly had a bit of random inspiration, and am now considering changing my novel to something completely, utterly different. Not a good thought to have on the night before November 1st!

**Deep breath**
So here we go!

Oh, and Happy Halloween, of course!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Difficulty of Dickens

On Monday I signed up for a Tale of Two Cities readalong in December with Bex at An Armchair by the Sea.

I read (or tried to read) my first Dickens book when I was about ten years old. I was obsessed with Eleanor Roosevelt at the time, and when I discovered her favorite book was The Old Curiosity Shop, I just had to read it.
I tried. I really tried. I gave it a good, concentrated effort. I had never given up on a book before - I've always been one of those people who need to finish what they start. But my mother, after hearing my complaints at yet another digression on "some random virtue," (as I consistently described it), gave me some sage advice: "You're reading this book for pleasure. If it doesn't give you pleasure to read it, you don't have to finish it."
I thought this over, and decided that yes, it was time to give it up. (Not forever, necessarily. Just for the time being.)

A few years later, I read Great Expectations. My reaction - to the plot, to the characters, to the splendid writing - can best be described in this way:


(In a good way, if you're wondering.)

I had to read it a half a year later for school, again, but I didn't mind. It's a spectacular book.

I think I've actually read it three or four times by now.

About a year or two later, I saw a preview to BBC's Bleak House. I, who am a staunch supporter of reading the book before seeing any sort of adaptation of it, got Bleak House from the library the next day.

Bleak House was better than Curiosity Shop. Much, much better. But the fact that Dickens was writing for serialization created natural digressions to take up column space. Good in a newspaper column. Not so much in a novel.

I eventually gave up on that one, too, though not as abruptly as with Curiosity Shop. I just sort of stopped picking it up when I needed something to read, and it quietly faded out of my life.

(By the way, I did see the BBC show. And it was awesome and now I'm considering possibly reading Bleak House  again soon.)

So this readalong is just the thing to get me out of my Dickens rut. I've been sort of avoiding him since the Bleak House adventure, but now may be the time to return.

I really, really hope I can finish Tale of Two Cities. Deep in my heart I hate not finishing books, and I've only ever done this with three (the two aforementioned Dickens', as well as Conan Doyle's The White Company, which is on my Classics Club list).

If you want to join me, you can link up to the original post at An Armchair by the Sea.


Update: Here are my three posts on Tale of Two Cities.
Post The First
Post The Second
Post The Third

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: If my house was abducted by aliens...

(Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)

I don't really read that much horror, so I'm going to do a past Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd save if my house was abducted by aliens. (Feb 2012)

1. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I got this for Christmas a few years ago, and it is one of my most prized posessions.

2. The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

3. The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

4. My Kindle. That has all my Jane Austen books on it!

5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

8. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. This was one of my favorite books as a child. My favorite line: "Goodnight, nobody. Goodnight, mush." :-) And it was so fun to find the mouse creeping around in practically every picture.

9. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. Another favorite childhood book. It was the book my dad was reading to me when he discovered that I was reading along with him! I was three years old.

10. All my notebooks of stories that I've written since I was eight years old. They're just so adorable and plot-less. :-)

And as a bonus, here are two creepy covers that I could think of. The books aren't necessarily creepy, however.

1. That Hideous Strength by C.S.Lewis

Yeah. Green heads with brains spilling out. Sounds about right.

2. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Those yellow eyes just creep me out.


Monday, October 28, 2013



Finished Sense and Sensibility today. I'll not be writing much on it right now, but I thought I'd pop in to say that in all the times I've read it, I've never realized how similar I am to Elinor. So remarkably similar. 
I know everyone loves Elisabeth from Pride and Prejudice, and I do too, but Elinor is so similar to me in almost every way (except for the fact that my sister is only slightly like Marianne). 
And I would totally take a guy like Edward over Mr. Darcy any day.

More on that later.

On to Pride and Prejudice!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Confessions of an Undercover Grammar Nazi

I used to consider myself a Grammar Nazi.

But then, my sister became one. And I realized what it was like to be on the receiving end of the Nazism.
It makes you feel like the person isn't listening to you, but to your grammar. (Thankfully, I do have pretty decent grammar abilities, so most of the time, my sister doesn't get flustered by my incorrect speech and actually listens to me. Actually, who am I kidding*. The fact that she actually listens is within some contention.)
Living with an Outspoken Grammar Nazi has made me reconsider my own Nazism. Now, I can't completely give it up. But at least I keep it undercover. Partially for the reason that I don't want others to suffer what I suffer under my sister. (That's a joke, by the way. I love my sister.) But also for the reason that I don't want to be yelled at. Once a fellow cussed at my sister after she corrected his "me/I" usage. Yeah.

I am an Undercover Grammar Nazi.

I'm sure there are many like me. People who silently cringe at bad grammar but don't want to look like inconsiderate snobs, so they keep it to themselves. Because, seriously, nobody's perfect, including Grammar Nazis. We make grammar mistakes too! How hypocritical.

But, because of my inner Grammar Nazi, I feel like I now need to share with you my one biggest pet peeve. This doesn't mean I condemn it, and I won't call you out on it if you make this mistake, but inwardly it makes my writer's ear cringe.

It's who vs. whom. Use who where it's replaceable with he, and use whom where it's replaceable with him. Super simple. "Who wants some cake?" "He wants some cake." "Whom do you like?" "I like him." 

I know the English language is a fluid thing, and changes through usage. There's no committee who determines what's right and what's wrong, like there is in French. So technically you could say that anything goes. But it still needs to be readable and understandable, so there have to be some rules, I guess. But certain things phase out - thou used to be common usage (it's actually the English version of the informal you, Usted, in Spanish, Vous, in French, Ви (or Vy), in Ukrainian... etc.), but they ended up just merging with the more formal you. So I have a feeling that whom will get phased out. It's being used less and less:

I actually sort of like whom (maybe just because I'm proud of knowing it's proper usage), and would be sad to see it go.

Now that I have it out of my system, you won't get any more Grammar Nazi snobbishness out of me, if I can help it!

Thanks for listening. :-)


Are you an Undercover Grammar Nazi? (Or possibly an Outspoken one?) 

Update: So shortly after I posted this, I was browsing around my favorite sites and happened to stop by the Write at Home Blog. Whaddaya know, there was a post on Grammar snobbishness (or "grammarrogance"). Spooky coincidence... 
It's also made me feel bad about my who/whom pet peeve. I try to be humble about it...

*Update (2/10/14): Just noticed my own error - it should be "whom am I kidding." Oh, the irony. See, it happens to the best of us. Down with the snobbery!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Unusual Names

Whee! My first Top Ten Tuesday!
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks topic is: Top Ten Unusual Character Names. Because I grew up reading fantasy books, what may sound unusual for others is quite normal for me. So this was actually a bit tough.

  1. Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter. This name makes me laugh every single time. The alliterative qualities, along with the duh sound make it the perfect name for the character. My dad - who has never read Harry Potter - picked up the first book once, and read the first chapter. He was in hysterics when he read Dudley's name.  
  2. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore from Harry Potter. It just sounds good on your tongue! And it's majestic - yet a little bumbling - at the same time. And so loong!
  3. Eilonwy from The Chronicles of Prydain (by Lloyd Alexander). So pretty. So queenly. So flowy. And not too girly.
  4. Gwydion from The Chronicles of Prydain. Gwydion and Aragorn will always define my epic fantasy hero. The name Gwydion has a certain strength with it, and an ancient sort of feel that seems as though he has a long line of ancestors just as awesome as he (which he does). 
  5. Lots of people from The Chronicles of Prydain. These books have lots of weird Welsh names that are hard to pronounce (weird for me, not for Welsh people necessarily). So I'm just going to make #5 cover all the people with unpronounceable names in CofP. There's a freaking pronunciation guide in the back.
  6. Daenerys from The Game of Thrones.This name is a little awkward for me for some reason, which is why in my head I just call her Dany. I have never seen the show, so I have never heard it out loud, so that might be a reason. The rest of the names in GofT are somewhat normal and pronounceable, but Daenerys throws me for a loop. Is it Dan-eries? Dan-eres? Dane-eres? Dane-iris? 
  7. Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. I love this name because it could be both a male or female name. And then you read the books and it takes on the qualities of the character and you wonder how you ever thought it could be anybody else's name. Galadriel is Galadriel.
  8. Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. It sort of makes me think of Eilonwy (#3). Also pretty, and queenly, but not too girly.
  9. Meriadoc Brandybuck from Lord of the Rings. Lets not forget all the awesome hobbit names. I would have put Pippin in too, but Peregrin is not a really unusual name, in my opinion.
  10. Sherlock Holmes. So I was trying hard to think of a good final name, and then suddenly - bam - I realized that Sherlock Holmes is a pretty weird name. Seriously, Sherlock? Where did that come from? And then their's his brother, too. Microft. What were their parents thinking?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

College Applications Are Not Fun...

... but they need to get done anyway.
And that means writing a LOT of essays.

Also, I am trying to read all the Austen books as fast as I can, and will have nothing to post on them until I finish. So I'm going to post things that have nothing to do with Austen for the next two weeks or so.

Instead of writing a post today, I'll give a link to a different post.

For now, this is all you get. :-(

I ran across this nice little article about the annoyances of "Strong Female Characters."
I strongly advise you to check it out. It's very well written.

I also realized that when I made my list of Jane Austen books, I forgot Persuasion!
Here's the new list:

Love and Friendship (already read)
Lady Susan (already read)
Sense and Sensibility (reading currently)
Pride and Prejudice
Northanger Abbey
Mansfield Park


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lady Susan by Jane Austen // A Not-Very-Austen Heroine

Having previously read the more well known novels of Jane Austen, there there is one major difference I noticed comparing them and Lady Susan.

What I'm Reading

The rest of Austen's books, such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma, have for their main characters single women who are relatively kind-hearted, and - whether they know it or not - looking for a husband.

The title character of Lady Susan is a widow with a teenaged daughter. Lady Susan is also not in the least kind-hearted. The whole story is an exchange of letters between various character, and through this we see how Lady Susan is able to use her charming wiles (and excellent acting skills) to make everyone bend to her will. She's a powerful woman, and the reader begins to suspect that possibly - just possibly - the book might not have the characteristically happy Austen ending.

But of course, it does, because it is Jane Austen. It's even happy for Lady Susan, who seems to be able to make the best of things, even when her plans go awry. Most of the time you're rooting against her, but sometimes you feel just slightly sympathetic, and feel that maybe she is just a misunderstood soul after all.

But don't let that trick you. That's just Lady Susan's wiles working on you.

But if she can make you like her just by you reading a few letters, think how persuasive and charming she must be in real life. It's an intimidating thought.


Post Script: You may remember me mentioning the Classics Club - the challenge to read 50 classics in 5 years. I've decided to start it in about a week. Here's my list.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen // Going Mad is Better Than Fainting

First off, I did not misspell the title. This is Austen's original spelling, so I thought I'd keep it, even though the cover below corrects it. The edition I read (the free Kindle one) kept all of Austen's original strange spellings and sometimes lack of punctuation.

How nice to read a short book in one day, after reading the long, yet unfinished saga of Westeros!

Love and Freindship is a short novelette composed of letters from Laura to her best friend's daughter, explaining to her the "Misfortunes and Adventures" she has experienced.
It is obviously one of Austen's younger works - her writing style has clearly not yet developed. Scenes are sometimes abrupt and short, and a few of the characters are never properly developed. There are some forced scenes, but that is mostly for comedic effect, as in one where Laura, her friend Sophia, and two random fellows that just happened to walk in all happen to be the grandchildren of a random old gentleman that is there as well, by his four different daughters. WHAT??

The whole book is obviously a parody of the concept of "sensibility" - the over-the-top response to any emotional influences. According to this parody, if anything unpleasingly startling occurs, the logical thing to do is to faint on the sofa (obviously). If your husband is trapped under a fallen carriage, the correct course of action is this:
1. Run up to the carriage screaming.
2. Implore him not to die, and with heartfelt words inquire how he came to be in this part of the country.
3. Choose one of two courses of action. (a) Faint (duh) or (b) go mad.
We learn by the end of the book that it is more beneficial to your health to choose (b) and go mad, because then you are actually exersizing by all that activity that being mad requires. If you faint on the cold ground (especially if you faint repeatedly), you are more liable to get a consumption and perish of it.
"Beware of fainting fits... Though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable yet belieive me they will, in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your Constitution... Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint - "
Another course of action that "sensibility" requires is that you completely, unfailingly, and utterly go against your father's wishes, whatever they may be. He quite obviously does not know what is best for you, and even if you love the girl he wants you to marry, it would be a disgrace to your "sensibility" if you did. So what you do is you "gracefully purloin" all his money (because it is rightfully yours - you need it to do grand things with!) and go off to find yourself a wife.
My Father ... insisted on my giving my hand to Lady Dorothea. No never exclaimed I. Lady Dorothea is lovely and Engaging; I prefer no woman to her; but know Sir, that I scorn to marry her in compliance with your wishes. No! Never shall it be said that I obliged my Father.
I found this short book to be a nice little adventure and extremely funny. Almost every sentence is another comment on the stupidity of sensibility. You can see how this book was the precursor to the more serious Sense and Sensibility, which is also a comment on the same topic.

To conclude, some more of my favorite quotes. If I could, I would actually post the whole book here, as One Big Favorite Quote, but it's easier to just tell you to read it.
My Father started - "What noise is that," (said he.) "It sounds like a loud rapping at the door" - (replied my mother.) "it does indeed." (cried I.) "I am of your opinion; (said my Father) it certainly does appear to proceed from some uncommon violence exerted against our unoffending door." "Yes (exclaimed I) I cannot help thinking it must be somebody who knocks for admittance." "That is another point (replied he;) We must not pretend to determine of what motive the person may knock - tho' that someone DOES rap at the door, I am partly convinced."
Convinced as you must be from what I have already told you concerning Augustus and Sophia, that there never were a happier Couple, I need not I imagine, inform you that their union had  been contrary to the inclinations of their Cruel and Mercenery Parents; who had vainly endeavored with obstinate Perseverance to force them into a Marriage with those whom they had ever abhorred; but with a Heroic fortitude worthy to be related and admired, they had both, constantly refused to submit to such despotic Power.

Postscript: I am generally not going to be writing reviews of the books I read through this Jane Austen "marathon," but for the first two I thought I would, because they are less well known. For the other six, I'll make some combined posts where I discuss Austen's works as a whole.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jane Austen and Ghost Stories

I finished A Clash of Kings yesterday, and I think it's time for a little break.
The books are good, don't get me wrong, but goodness they are intense. And gruesome sometimes. And harsh.

And I really need something calm and sweet as a refresher, as a break in the series.

So, in honor of Pride and Prejudice's 200th aniversary of publication this year, I thought I'd reread all the Austen books - and read Lady Susan and Love and Friendship for the first time as well.
I have some fun posts planned for this, so stay tuned!

I thought I'd start today, but I just couldn't get into it. Not with the characters from A Clash of Kings pounding around in my head. My mind was very much in fantasy mode, and it needed something to make the transition to Regency novels.

So, at breakfast I read some stories from a "Humorous Ghost Stories Collection" that my sister had downloaded on my Kindle a while ago, and I had never read. They were the perfect thing to get me out of the land of High Fantasy - short, sweet, and funny, and a few were set in the early 1900's, which isn't exactly Regency, but was good enough.

Here are the stories I read:

"The Rival Ghosts" by Brander Matthews

"The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall" by John Kendrick Bangs

I always love a funny ghost story. No horror for me! (Unless it's Poe)
Another good Humorous Ghost Story that I am sure is in this collection is "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde:

My favorite ghost story of all time. Funny, but sweet, with a certain depth to it.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll begin Love and Friendship, because I've decided to read Austen's books in roughly the same order as she wrote them. But, because she would write drafts of stories, abandon them to work on other drafts, and then pick up the first ones again, it's all sort of a mix up.
Here's the order I will read them in:

Love and Friendship
Lady Susan
Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
Northanger Abbey
Mansfield Park

You are welcome to read along with me and discuss your opinions and views of the books in the comments of this and the following posts.

(Also, if you have a "better" order to suggest than the one above, please let me know below!)


Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Printed Word

If you look on the right column of this blog, you will see a button, proclaiming, "I pledge to read the printed word." The interesting thing is that I inserted this button just a short while after I got a Kindle. Hypocritical, right? Yeah, sort of. I do like my Kindle. And I do like Online Newspapers. And what better place is there for research than the internet?

But before you start chastising me for my hypocritical ways, I want to declare my eternal devotion to the Printed Word. Even though I happen to enjoy my Kindle (who wouldn't?), I am definitely not going to read all my books off of it. Sure, it's cheap. Sure, it's easy. But it cannot - and I repeat, cannot - replace the glory of a giant room filled with oak bookshelves, a thick, dark carpet, and a comfy reading chair. If the world is taken over by eReaders and eBooks, the libraries will eventually disappear along with the Printed Word. And if the Printed Word disappears, I will slowly fade away and die. Even my Kindle won't be able to save me. 

So I am determined that the Printed Word shall not die, if only for selfish motives. Without a printed book, and only a Kindle, I cannot differentiate between books by their size and weight, and by the color and texture of the pages. I cannot feel the glory that comes from starting a 500-page novel, and seeing the amount of great reading that awaits me. I cannot feel the disappointment when I see I only have a few pages left, until my journey is over. I cannot gaze in satisfaction at the shelves and shelves of books that await me. There is no need to go to the library and browse through the aisles and aisles and aisles and aisles of books and books and books, and open them, and flip through them. If all my books were on a Kindle - how two-dimensional my life would become! I cannot get thoroughly lost in a book if it is not in it's physically printed form.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just my love for all things ancient. Are printed books going extinct? I hope not. I'm not absolutely condemning the Kindle; it's very useful for trips and the like. I actually have a pretty good collection of Mark Twain and Jane Austen on there. It's just that I'd rather have the option to read the Printed Word. I'd rather have my beloved Chronicles of Narnia, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Winnie the Pooh, and the rest of my current biblio-family taking up space on my bookshelf, than digitally existing on my thin little Kindle.

Something occurred that proved how little I actually use my Kindle. On my Costa Rica trip, I accidentally dropped my Kindle in a river that we were wading across (there was a suspicious sign saying, "Cuidado! Crocodiles!" but we saw no crocodiles). The instant we reached the shore, I stupidly tried to turn it on.
At the next village, I bought a bag of rice. The cashier must have though it odd - an obvious tourist comes in to the grocery store and buys just a bag of rice.
So I put the Kindle in the rice, and left it there for two weeks. Two weeks! I even packed it into my suitcase while still in the bag of rice. It didn't help. The little Kindle boy reading his book under the tree remained on my screen, no matter how many times I tried the 30-second refresh or any other tricks. So I put it on the shelf, not knowing what to do.

My dad had bought that Kindle for me on my 16th birthday, and he asked me if I wanted another one. I felt terrible, and so irresponsible. I told him I'd think about it, because I didn't use it that often.

I ended up not asking him for another one. I realized I really didn't need it.

But then, a few days ago, I was cleaning up, and I saw that the screen on my Kindle had changed. No more little boy reading under a tree - it was now screaming for a charge-up.

So I charged it.

And it resurrected.

So now I have my Kindle back. Which is nice. But nice in a no-big-deal sort of way. I would have been fine even if it hadn't resurrected.

But, if there was a fire in my house (and in all the neighboring libraries) and all the books perished - I would probably perish with them.


What do you think? Are you easily accommodating to the Digital Age and would gladly read off an eReader? Or would you die if printed books disappeared off the face of the earth?

(This post is linked up at The Fiction Conniption's Let's Discuss.)