Monday, March 31, 2014

Arthurian Lit Challenge Update

Arthurian Lit Challenge

So I thought I'd give you a little update, because I'm changing my Arthurian Lit reading plan.

No, I'm not changing the books I'm reading. I'm just changing how and when I'm going to read them.

Right now, I'm nearly done with The Mabinogion, but because I posted that essay I wrote, I don't think I'm going to write another post/review on it.

I've also started Yvain (The Knight with the Lion) in Arthurian Romances, because that's my next lesson in the Arthurian lit course I'm taking. See, the thing about this course is that we don't read ALL the stories in the books. I read all the Mabinogion stories, but they weren't ALL assigned. But I need to move forward in the course, and books start piling up if I try to read them all in their entirety. So this is what I am going to do with Arthurian Romances:
I am going to just read Yvain and Lancelot, which are what we will be reading in the course, and post about them.
LATER, I will read the rest of Romances. Just not now. Because they are relatively short stories, I think I'll read them here and there throughout the summer, and write about them then, so I can truly say I have completed the Challenge.

Regarding the other books, such as Le Morte d'Arthur, I WILL read them in their entirety. It's just that reading extra to the assignments for Romances is going to be a little tough right now.

So - sometime this week or next, you can look forward to an essay on Yvain and Lancelot, and maybe some ramblings comparing Welsh literature (Romances) to Celtic literature (Mabinogion).


Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 13 (Ruth; 1Sam 1-12)

So this is our first week that we have two different books involved. And somehow - it worked, because I found a connection between them.
We're looking at family here. Those people who put the Bible together knew what they were doing when they put Ruth right before Samuel.

Ruth, in it's four chapters, is ultimately about filial fidelity. Ruth becomes the greatest daughter-in-law ever, and follows Naomi, her mother-in-law, back to Naomi's home town. By marrying Naomi's son, Ruth becomes Naomi's daughter, and does not give up that role even after her husband is dead. Ruth gives up her religion and culture entirely, because now Naomi's culture is her culture, and Naomi's God is her God.

(Chapters 1-12)

Poor Eli's sons, on the other hand, do not live up to his expectations. They're off breaking priestly rules and mooching off the townsfolk. And, in the end, God punishes them and they die in battle. Samuel becomes high priest after Eli.
But Samuel doesn't have much luck with his kids either. They take Eli's sons as examples and "sought illicit gains and accepted bribes, perverting justice." (Sam 8:3) So Samuel has to appoint a king.

So I suppose the moral here is - be good kids. :-)

Ummm, that's all I have for now.... I'm in a bit of a crunch, and I suppose I'll talk more about Samuel next week when we finish the book.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Mabinogion: The Celtic Hero

Hey there!
So I'm not done with the Mabinogion quite yet (it's taking a while because I'm not only reading it - I'm super-analyzing it for my Arthurian Lit class), but I thought I'd share with you an essay I wrote for said class on three of the stories within the book. If you didn't know, the Mabinogion is a collection of Celtic tales, and the title Mabinogion refers to the birth, naming, young adulthood, and marriage of a hero. This post is on the concept of Celtic heroism, and what exactly that entails.
Oh, and any page numbers are from the Everyman edition.


Within The Mabinogion, there are numerous characters who take up the position of Hero. The four heroes – Pwyll, Culhwch, Owein, and Arthur – within the stories “Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed,” “Culhwch and Olwen,” and “The Lady of the Fountain,” all define the concept of the Celtic Hero. Though these four characters are not identical, they all contain certain characteristics that are constant throughout the Celtic tales of heroism – primarily, the aspects of growth, fortitude, and honor.

Pwyll disguised as a beggar.
(Artist: the fabulous Alan Lee)
The character of Pwyll undergoes the most obvious growth process of all four heroes. He begins as a young, naïve lord, who does not follow the chivalric laws of hunting and permits his dogs to feast on a stag which another pack killed. Arawn scolds him: “Greater discourtesy have I not seen in man… than to drive away the pack that killed the stag and bait thine own pack upon it.” (p. 4) Pwyll apologizes, having now learned his lesson, but he can only regain his honor by exhibiting fortitude in the face of difficulty and temptation. He does so, by fighting and defeating Arawn’s enemy, and by keeping his vow of chastity with Arawn’s wife. Even after he has gained Arawn’s friendship, Pwyll continues to persist in other hardships – he must undergo many setbacks before he finally obtains Rhiannon as is wife.

Culhwch, though he also starts out in “Culhwch and Olwen” as a young lord, is not nearly as naïve as Pwyll, and not at all dishonorable in any way. Culhwch definitely does undergo a growth process, however, and proves his mettle through physical fortitude and persistence. As he is inexperienced in the ways of war, he wisely asks the more experienced warrior Arthur for help in gaining Olwen’s hand in marriage, and, through the completion of the tasks set by Ysbaddaden the Giant, Culhwch entirely proves his worthiness for marrying the Giant’s daughter. In addition to these clear aspects of the Celtic Hero, Culhwch is also emphasized as heroic by being helped in his tasks by a majestic retinue of Arthur’s best men, including Cei, who could hold his breath for nine nights and days or grow as tall as the tallest tree, among other peculiarities. (p.90)

Young Culhwch, setting out on his quest.
The story of “The Lady of the Fountain” begins with Owein, our third example of a Celtic hero, setting out on a personal challenge – to overthrow the black knight that had defeated Cynon.  This reveals his strong sense of honor and chivalry even more than in the previous two heroes, and throughout the story, we find many more examples of Owein’s honor. After he breaks his promise to the Lady of the Fountain, and does not return for three years, Owein imposes a harsh penance on himself: “And thus he was wandering thus till his clothes perished, and till his body was nigh perished, and till long hair grew all over his body…and therewith he grew so weak….” (p. 144) This penance almost makes a mockery of the trials that Culwch had to undergo – Owein had no King’s retinue to keep him safe and alive. This also reveals a different view of marriage from that of the other two stories; Owein is not only expected to honor his liege lord, but also to devotedly and unfailingly honor his wife.

Arthur and Owein (playing Gwyddbwyl, a sort of chess)
(Artist: once again, Alan Lee)
Arthur is the final Hero portrayed within these three stories, and though he takes the position of a supporting character, his two appearances in “Culhwch and Olwen” and in “The Lady of the Fountain” are very different indeed. In “Culhwch and Olwen,” Arthur is shown as being a sort of rowdy, good-hearted leader – the kind who can never turn down a good feast. However, he is nevertheless a powerful chieftain, and has a devoted retinue which will follow his every command. But the Arthur in “The Lady of the Fountain” is not the same – in this story, he becomes more of a revered emperor, and Owein is portrayed as being stronger than he.

These four men – Pwyll, Culwch, Owein, and Arthur – all emphasize the characteristics of the Celtic Hero. Through these tales of their adventures, we can see that the Celtic Hero undergoes a period of growth, exhibits a strong fortitude in the face of adversity, and exemplifies honor and chivalry. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Liebster Award!

How pleasantly surprising to open up my email a few days ago and see that I had been nominated for the Liebster Award by Cleopatra from Classical Carousel! I am so excited and grateful.

The Rules:
  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Display the award somewhere on your blog.
  3. List 11 facts about yourself.
  4. Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated you.
  5. Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees.
  6. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000 followers. You may nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you cannot renominate the blog that nominated you.
  7. Go to their blog and inform them that they've been nominated. 

11 Facts about Me!

  1. I am 100% Ukrainian, but have never been to Ukraine (and neither have my parents).
  2. I am going to university this Fall, and am majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Creative Writing (because I just couldn't ignore that literary part of me!).
  3. I have a tree house in my backyard that my dad, my sister, and I built a few years back.
  4. I love paperwork and organizing documents and papers and shopping for school and office supplies.
  5. I am a Grammar Nazi, but I am an undercover one, because I don't want people to hate me. 
  6. I can recite Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll by memory.
  7. I will also gladly sing you the Major General song from Pirates of Penzance (I might need a quick brushing up - I haven't done it in a while), as well as a few of the other famous songs from that operetta.
  8. I wrote my first book when I was 8. It was self-illustrated, and involved a family of children who's names all started with the letter "S" visiting their Great-Great-Aunt. She was very spry for her age.
  9. I have a lot of nerdy math and science T-shirts. 
  10. I have a younger sister who is my best friend. She is awesome... though she still hasn't forgiven me for the time I basically spoiled a good many books for her when we were young, because I so desperately wanted to discuss them and she hadn't read them yet.
  11. My handwriting drastically changes depending on my mood. I have around five distinctly different handwritings.

Cleopatra's 11 Questions:

1. What book(s) are you currently reading and what do you think of it (them) so far? 

I'm actually sort of in-between books right now, having finished The Island of Doctor Moreau and not yet begun Madam Bovary. However, I am in the middle of The Mabinogion, and I do think it is an interesting book, though I am getting a little bit tired of it. This is most likely due to me taking an actual course dealing with Arthurian literature, so I've sort of analyzed it to death.

2. If you could only read books from one country, which country would you choose? 

Oooh that's a tough one! My first thought was England, because I ADORE British lit, but then I would miss out on all the great American literature, like Poe and Twain and Fitzgerald... And then what about France? And my darling Les Miserables
If pressed, though, I would probably pick England.

3. Can you name a book that you've read and expected to enjoy, but ended up hating it?

I rarely hate books, but one that I absolutely hated was Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant. I love Maupassant's short story The Necklace, but Bel Ami just bugged me. I actually wrote about it on a Top Ten Tuesday once... you can read about it HERE.
Oh, and also, Moby Dick. That book was boring. I didn't HATE it, per se, and Ahab is one of the most famous characters when discussing motivation, but I just was so BORED by it. 

4. Can you name a book that you thought you'd hate and ended up liking? 

This one's a bit harder. I'm going to have to say - no. I never enter any book with expectations of it being bad. And if it is a book I've heard SO much bad stuff about from people I know have similar reading preferences to mine (ahem, Twilight, ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey, ahem), I just don't read it.

5. Where is your favorite reading place?

I will read ANYWHERE. If I get lost in a book, I will ignore cold toes or uncomfortable seat backs. In fact, this has been made fun of so much in my family that I wrote a post on how I would die. Don't worry, it's not morbid, and does have something to do with the topic at hand.
But if I picked a spot, I do like the couch in our front room. It's very sunny in the middle of the day. And if it's warm, we have a screened in porch with a comfy wicker couch we got last summer. 

6. Do you have any "bad" habits when reading, such as dog-earing, writing in books, talking to the books, etc.? (although I'm not sure if any of those are "bad" habits! :-) )

I do dog ear, particularly because I somehow just can't use a bookmark. I have a nice collection of bookmarks, but - here's another "bad" habit - I fidget with my fingers when I read: with the edge of the page, with a strand of my hair, or with the aforementioned bookmark. I don't want to destroy them, so I end up just not using one. Which is a pity, because I have so many nice ones.

7. If you had to live as a character from a book, who would you choose and why?

I'd like to say it would be someone exciting - like Eowyn from LOTR or a character in Narnia.
BUT, I think that I'm too much of a coward for that. :-) I KNOW I live in a place where I'm never faced with much danger, and I appreciate that heartily. I read books to be able to temporarily travel into another mind, another world, with more danger sometimes - while always staying safely in my nice, safe house. Soooo, I'm a bit too scared to actually choose a character - unless I can be assured of not dying. Then, I'd probably pick Thursday Next from the series by Jasper Fforde. She has an awesome life and gets to interact with Bookworld and characters from books. She also has an adorably sweet husband that's just as much of a literary nerd as she is.

8. Would you/have you challenged yourself to read in a genre or era that you wouldn't usually choose? Which one?

My slow transition to contemporary literature (especially YA) might be considered a sort of mental challenge. I used to NEVER read books that weren't expressely recommended to me by someone with similar reading tastes, or that weren't universally popular (like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Eragon, etc.). I am now more willing to pick up a random book at the library that looks decent. It's just that I hate wasting time on a bad book.

9. Can you think of a popular writer (or two) with whom you were unimpressed?

A lot of the popular YA books that I have read (again, Hunger Games, Eragon, Divergent) are good, but not great (Harry Potter excluded). So I would say I was unimpressed because my reaction to them was just "meh" - I definitely wasn't impressed.
Also, see  Q.3.

10. If you could live somewhere other than where you live now, where would that be?

Well, I do adore Chicago, and I think it is the best city in the US, so anywhere else in that country is out of the question. But I think I would like London. I've been there before, and it's cool.
Quebec is nice, too, but a bit too small for me. But it would work.

11. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

An introvert. But an introvert that generally appears extroverted, because she isn't shy.
A word in defense of introverts worldwide: introvert does not mean shy. Introvert means that I don't mind going a day without seeing people. Or even a week, most likely. Socializing is not what drives me, like it drives extroverts. I can be social, but it requires a bit of preparation beforehand.

Questions for My Nominees:

  1. If you could meet any author - dead or alive - for dinner, who would it be, and why?
  2. What is your most prized possession?
  3. How many books do you read at once (on average)? If you read more than one - do you have a special way of managing it?
  4. What is your least favorite book and why?
  5. What book(s) are you reading right now? How do you like it (them) so far?
  6. What is your least favorite literary cliche?
  7. If your house was about to burn down in a fire, which five books would you grab immediately (assuming you had time to do so)?
  8. If you could take a vacation in any fictional world, where would you go?
  9. If you could have one fictional character as your best friend, who would it be?
  10. What book completely changed your life?
  11. Do you prefer writing with a pen or a pencil? Why?
YAY! Off to go nominate awesome people!


UPDATE: I will be linking up to the various blogs that I nominate as I nominate them. Go check them out! Remember, this list is incomplete as yet (I'll be notifying a few more nominees over the next few days or so), so feel free to check back to this post to see whom else I picked!

My Nominees So Far!
Kayla at The Thousand Lives
Elyssa at Unscripted 
Lauren at Books, Tea, and Me
Mitchii at Aeropapers
Ruth at A Great Book Study

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Bucket List

As always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Today's topic is Top Ten Things on My Bookish/Blogging Bucket List. (Some of these are more like resolutions, rather than bucket list to-dos. Oh well.)

1. Get a Twitter account for my blog. This will happen soon, don't worry!

2. Read all the Harry Potter books in one grand marathon! ...planned for this summer...

3. Give more books as gifts. I don't know why I don't give more literary gifts - this goes against my inner being.

4. Actually MAKE a TBR list. As of right now, it is only a jumbled list in my head. Not good! I need to sit down and write out a complete list, to make choosing my next book easier!

5. Make a Recommendation list - a list of my absolute favorite books, with bullet points about why. Then, if someone needs a good recommendation, I can look over my list, and think about which book would be right for them.

6. Have my own library. Right now, I share bookshelves with the rest of my family. They are not very organized, and have lots of textbooks that aren't being used anymore. When I get my own house, I'm going to devote one room to huge oak bookshelves...

7. Meet an author! I have never met an author of a book that I have read. This is probably due to the fact that I read mostly classics and am only recently branching out into more contemporary areas of literature. But now that I am reading more books written in the last couple years, there is a higher possibility of my actually meeting the author.

8. Publish a book. aka, become an author myself... :-P
Well, I suppose I AM an author already - just an unpublished one. So become a professional author, would be a better way of putting it.

9. Go to the library and get ALL THE BOOKS that happen to catch my eye or my fancy. ALL OF THEM. And then READ THEM ALL one after the other.

And, last but not least...
10. Read all the books on my Classics Club list. Which will hopefully happen somewhere within the next four and a half years.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Divergent Movie

I saw the Divergent movie last night. I'd compare it to the book, but for some reason the book is a bit of a blur for me, so here goes...

It was a decent movie, which is what you can expect from a decent book. Nothing spectacular, but neither was the book. Very entertaining for the moment I was watching it, but probably not going to stay in my mind for very long. Considering the book was the same way, I'd say the movie lived up to the book excellently. You may remember my review on Divergent a bunch of months ago - I mentioned that the book fell into the Good category, but not quite Excellent, which is reserved for books like Les Miserables and LOTR.

I thought again about this whole Faction business. It's a bit illogical to think that anyone would be anything BUT Divergent, isn't it? Shouldn't the non-Divergents be the rare ones? I don't think that there are many people who are well enough defined as one Faction. I know I'd probably be Divergent: a combo of Abnegation and Erudite, and maybe a tad bit Amity. My sister would probably be Erudite and Dauntless. My mom would be Abnegation, Candor, and Amity. NO ONE is perfectly defined. Everyone seems to think that this Faction thing is a perfect system - it's not, it's terribly flawed, and not just because Erudite went bad.

I suppose it makes sense that Erudite would be the ones to go bad - knowledge is power, and a thirst for knowledge could lead to a thirst for power, in certain individuals. And Dauntless going bad also makes sense - the concept of bravery could be convoluted to meaning taking mindless risks and harming yourself or others just because you don't want to be seen as "cowardly." I feel that this twisting of the idea of being brave isn't focused on enough in the movie. It needs to be emphasized - Four stands up for the IDEAL of an honorable, chivalrous, truly brave Dauntless faction; and Eric, his rival, is the personification of the twisted concept of bravery, which isn't true bravery at all, just bullying, which is a form of cowardice. This is an IMPORTANT MESSAGE. You don't have to be careless to be brave.

One thing I LOVED about the movie (which I'm sure the tween girls sitting a few rows down from us didn't) was that they underplayed the romance between Four and Tris. One kiss (very passionate, mind you) was all. And a lot of comfort-hugging. But comfort-hugging just comes with post-apocalyptic battles.
In the book, it seemed like Four and Tris kissed to eliminate their troubles - oh, I'm confused, and worried, and scared for my life? Let's kiss passionately on your bed. That'll make us feel better. But here, their relationship seemed secondary to more urgent matters... like survival and all that.

Oh, and talking about those tween girls a few rows down - they literally screamed and clapped when Tris and Four kissed. Like "WOO WOO WOO" and all that. Gosh. One of them was also curled up sobbing near the end when everyone was dying - which I forgive her for, because I also shed a few tears... that's just what emotional deaths in movies do to me, especially if other characters on screen are crying as well.

I AM looking forward to Insurgent, though that book is slightly even more of a blur for me than this one was (seriously, I can barely remember what happened. I think it needs a reread). I also have Allegiant on hold at the library, but I'm somewhere around number 12 on the hold list, so that might not happen for a while.


Did you see Divergent? What did you think? If not - are you going to go see it?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 12 (Judges)

Well! Judges is one big book. Big, not in the sense that there are many chapters, but big in that there is so much going on!

Ultimately, the book of Judges tells the history of the twelve "judges" (or, war leaders) of Israel. Though the deeds of half these judges are only skimmed over, the other half have very detailed narratives. We have the extremely interesting (and somewhat funny) escapade of left-handed Ehud to kill Eglon, the fat king of Moab. There's the one woman judge, the prophetess Deborah, who helped the warrior Barak overcome Jabin's army. Gideon, along with having an awesome name, is an excellent war leader who, with God's help, takes over so many lands and has his revenge on those who killed his brothers. And everyone knows the story of Sampson and Delilah.

The storytelling here is at it's finest. It's not always just "they gathered up their armies and, with the help of the Lord, defeated their enemies," (though that still comes up very often). For some reason, I really enjoyed the story of Ehud (Jud 3:15-30) - it was something new and had a kind of personality to it.
The story of Sampson and Delilah is of course also wonderful. I just wonder - Delilah asked Sampson THREE TIMES what his secret was, and he lied to her THREE TIMES, and THREE TIMES the Philistenes tried to weaken him using what Delilah told him, and THREE TIMES Sampson broke free. Why the heck did he tell Delilah his real secret the fourth time? Don't you think he would have caught on by then? He seems like a guy who is physically strong but not exactly the smartest.

After the history of the Judges, the book ends with a story of the the Levite from Ephraim, and his concubine. This is a strange story, tagged on at the end, about the reasons for 11 of the tribes of Israel banding up against the Benjaminites because of what the perverts in Gibeah did to the concubine and her husband. I'm not really sure what to say about this narrative... It's really weird and slightly gruesome. Uh...

Well, the book of Judges was definitely an enjoyable read (most of it, at least), though a bit "all over the place."

I'm looking forward to the nice, short book of Ruth!


Friday, March 21, 2014

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells // So Much Content in Such a Small Book

The Island of Doctor Moreau was my Classics Club Spin book, and I was supposed to finish it by April 1st.
Whaddaya know, I finished early! :-)
Note: there is a spoiler warning a couple paragraphs down - skip that section if you haven't read the book.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is about a shipwrecked traveler who winds up on a mysterious island, where the title character is conducting gruesome vivisections on animals, attempting to transform them into humans. I've already started and deleted five different beginnings to this post, because there's so much to talk about. Do we start with the basic plot and writing style? Do we go into characterization? Do we discuss the idea of man vs. beast, and what defines each? Or do we address the concept of religion and God (which is a very clear theme in the book)?
For a short, 130 page book, The Island of Doctor Moreau is loaded with layers and layers of meaning.

Let's work backwards, and start with the most intense of the above questions - Wells' commentary on religion and God. If we look at Doctor Moreau as a sort of human version of God, then his Man-Beasts are bestial versions of humans, God's creations. The Man-Beasts have a set of laws that they must follow them, but they don't really know why - their brains aren't human enough to understand why they shouldn't walk on all fours, or why they shouldn't attack other animals and eat them. There is a Sayer of the Law, who reminds them of the rules, but the Man-Beasts are constantly breaking them, because they forget. They still have an innate bestiality in their souls.

Wells is showing us what could potentially happen if a human tried to become God, and took it upon himself to "create" rational creatures. But Wells is also comparing us to the Man-Beasts, and commenting on following a religion, cult, or other group mindlessly, and believing everything that the self-instituted leader says.

********SPOILER WARNING!*******

After Moreau dies, Prendick takes a position of semi-leadership, and tells the Man-Beasts:
"He [Moreau] has changed his shape - he has changed his body... For a time you will not see him. He is... there" [pointing upward] "where he can watch you. You cannot see him. But he can see you. Fear the Law."
Is this not like Jesus' death and ascension?

******End of Spoiler**********

Wells is criticizing those Christians who follow blindly, and haven't given thought to why they do the things they do as Christians. But this is a good thing for those of any religion to think about. Why are the traditions in place? What is the meaning behind them? By looking into the history and reasons for the traditions and customs within our religion and culture, we can better understand it, and not just be mindless followers, following the Law just because it is the Law.

The second thing I want to talk about is the idea of man vs. beast. Though in the modern world, we think of humans as being animals as well, in Wells time, this was not the case. Vivisection of animals was an approved practice, and this just made Moreau's gruesome experiments even more of a moral dilemma. If they were animals, then of course it was fine what he was doing (in the standards of the time). But if they were humans, then his was a barbaric practice.

I, thinking about it from a 21st century perspective, feel the DEEPEST sympathy for the poor creatures. Never once did I feel that revulsion that Prendick so often experienced when in their company. The poor things don't know what they are doing. Their minds are only half as advanced as ours, and so they are confused by their new lives as (sort of ) rational beings. In my opinion, the Man-Beasts only need some love, but Prendick is disgusted and Moreau thinks of them as experiments. Their only hope lies in Montgomery, Moreau's assistant, but he is trying to figure his own life out, and isn't much help. Montgomery is, possibly, the most sympathetic character of the book - outside of the Man-Beasts themselves.

I suppose that that's touched on almost all the points brought up in the beginning. But there is just so much more that I haven't even mentioned. The Island of Doctor Moreau is much, much more than just a science fiction tale - it's a commentary on life, religion, and the definition of human-ness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring TBR

As always, hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish

This is a perfect topic for today, as yesterday I was at the library, and experienced the GREATEST INNER STRUGGLE.
I had stopped by for the one reason of seeing if Sherlock Season 3 was available on DVD, and put it on hold. BUT as I gazed around, I couldn't help picking up this book and that book and yet another book. My conscience screamed - "No Sophia! You have homework to do! You have an exam on Wednesday! You have to practice piano! PUT THE BOOKS BACK!"
I stood in front of a shelf for literally fifteen minutes, putting books back and then pulling them out again. It was such a struggle.
Ultimately, I took out only one book, because my conscience is a powerful thing, and I gave up procrastination for Lent. The book I got is a nonfiction book about books. I'll tell you about it later.
But for now, here are all the books I can't wait to read, once I get some free time. Note: many of these were on my Winter TBR, and I just didn't get to them.

1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I'm doing a readalong for this in April, so I KNOW I'll get to it!

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This is one of the books I so longingly caressed at the library.

3. Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I put this one on hold yesterday as well, but since it is in such great demand, I might not get it 'til summer. Oh well - I'm a patient person. This one and the next three are leftovers from my winter TBR.

4. The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak 

7. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. This is Slavic fantasy, right? I've wanted to read a Slavic fantasy for a while.

8. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

9. Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This is another book I saw at the library yesterday. I've never heard of it before, so I have no idea if it's good or not, but it sounds interesting...

10. Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse.

And there you have it! My TBR for this Spring (actually, make that Summer).

What about you? What are you planning to read?


Also - YAY nice weather! Finally.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Madame Bovary Readalong

Yes yes, I know I said that I would read Ender's Game next, but a Madame Bovary readalong for April popped up and I just couldn't pass on it!


Every week one of the lovely hosts - Juliana (at Cedar Station) or CJ (at ebookclassics) - will host a check-in post with thoughts and discussion questions. Here's the schedule:

Part One - April 10th
Part Two - April 20th
Part Three - April 30th

Join me, if you wish! You can sign up at CJ's master post HERE.


Here are my three posts -
Part the First
Part the Second
Part the Third

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 11 (Joshua)

Joshua is rather a different leader from Moses.

Moses was the orator. He gave the Israelites the motivation they needed to make the long journey all the way from Egypt. He gave them hope. He gave them something to strive for. Moses was the planner, the preparer.

Joshua takes it one step farther. He becomes the war leader, the one who actually conquers all the land God promised to the Israelites. Joshua is the doer - he is present for the fulfillment of God's promise.

That's my little bit for today! :-) I'm off to get ready for our final performance of Pride and Prejudice! 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beyond Books: An Update on Life

Things Going On in My Life Now:

Part the First

Sooooo, you may have noticed that I missed yesterday's Top Ten Tuesday. I also have absolutely NO posts planned for this week. Because, guess what...'s TECH WEEK! (For Pride and Prejudice - come see it!)

And as anyone who's been in any sort of theatrical production knows, nothing happens during tech week outside of rehearsal.

So I really haven't been doing any sort of fun reading at all. Even though I have a minor role, I try to squish at least a little bit of homework into all my "free" time in the dressing room.

Next week is Spring Break, so hopefully I'll get a ton of good old fiction reading in then. I really don't think you want to hear about my Anthropology textbook (though it is rather interesting, I must say).

On the bright side, Pride and Prejudice is coming along nicely! The theater is fantastic, and the costumes - oh, the costumes.

I'm sorry for my shameless advertising (never mind, I'm not sorry), but go check us out on Facebook - there are some preview pictures - and if you're in the Chicago area this weekend, come see a show!


Part the Second

April 1st is so close - so close. That is the date by which all the universities I applied to will have told me their decisions. I am SO READY to start this new part of my life, and can't wait to finally know where I'm going to be this August.
April can't come soon enough. :-)

I still have a few more interviews and scholarship apps to wrap up. Compared to the last five months, though, it's going to be a piece of cake.


Part the Third

F. Scott Fitzgerald has a spectacular way with words. I always loved The Great Gatsby, but I've recently was listening to two of his short stories in the car - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and A Diamond as Big as the Ritz - and gosh, he is a remarkable writer. The way he can describe entire scenes or emotions with just a few words - and without ever using a single cliche - makes me so happy. I get so happy when I read good writing.


Part the Fourth

It snowed today. Again. And I skidded into the curb - TWICE - on my way to rehearsal. The ice is crazy.
And it was so warm on Friday! Why, Mother Nature - WHY!?
(This is another reason why April can't come soon enough...)

This has become the defining photo for Winter 2013-14 in the Midwest:
The air hurts my face…Why am I living where the air hurts my face.

And so I leave you, my good readers, with all the random bits and pieces that make up my life right now.
Ultimately, I wrote this rather long blog post as an excuse to not write any more blog posts this week.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 10 (Deut 17-34)

(Chapters 17-34)

And so we end the Pentateuch. The basis of the Jewish religion, and the history of the Israelite people.
It was an interesting mix of story and law, and though there were some boring parts I rather skimmed over, most of it was pretty interesting.

So Moses, possibly the greatest prophet in the Bible, is dead. And he died without reaching the promised land - he only got a glimpse - and without knowing with certainty whether the Israelites would follow all he had taught them (through God).
"Why, even now, while I am alive among you, you have been rebels against the Lord! How much more, then, after I am dead!" (Deut 31:27)
But ultimately, I think he dies knowing that everything is in God's hands. He and God are quite a pair of buddies.
Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. (Deut 34:10)
 The leadership gets handed on to Joshua - he has a whole lot of responsibility on his shoulders now.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Some Exciting Gifts

Over the last few days, I have been lucky to get some great literary presents, and I thought I'd share them with you!

Firstly, a multitude of awesome pens.

Secondly, Very Good, Jeeves! by P. G. Wodehouse. This book sounds hilarious!

And thirdly, (drumroll please) the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card. Note - these books have been on my TBR for a while, and I just mentioned them in my last Top Ten Tuesday. Another note - the givers of this particular gift DID NOT KNOW this. It was pure chance that they gave me these books! Lucky me. :-)


I'm sure you can guess what I'm reading when I'm done with The Mabinogion and The Island of Doctor Moreau!
Any good books you've gotten as gifts lately?


Friday, March 7, 2014

Pride and Prejudice Performed

It's a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit outside today - and sunny! :-P It was so warm that, even though I still wore my warm coat, I rolled down the windows in the car while driving.

Spring is COMING, even after this crazy polar vortex. Have hope! My heart is about to burst.

On a completely different note, my homeschool group's theater company is putting on a performance of Pride and Prejudice!

Thin Ice Pride & Prejudice flyer_100989.indd

I am in it, but I am only a random person at the ball, so that is of little matter. 
The more important thing is that it is a rather excellent production, and that if you happen to be around the Chicago area, you should come see it! :-) 

And whether or not you are from 'round here, you should still stop by to the website and "like" the Facebook page:
On the site, you can see the trailer (which is awesome) and purchase advance tickets (though they will be available at the door as well).

My sister is playing a fantastically chatty Mrs. Bennet. Here is her cast photo. See, she will cry if you don't come!

Photo: You don't want to miss this young lady as Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are Abridged Books Bad?

Naturally, my first thought to this question is:
Of course abridged books are bad! They mess with the author's original intentions, and remove the depth and intricacy of the book. Don't mess with the original works if you're not the original author!
But, I've begun to think that this is a rather extreme view. So lets do this expository-essay style, and tackle the pros and cons of the issue.

Abridged Books Should Be Prohibited!

As I said above, the arguments against abridging books are very strong. If you wrote something, would you want someone else messing with it, and cutting out parts they thought were "unnecessary"? Of course not. You, clearly, thought those parts were very necessary, which is why you didn't delete them while editing. They are part of what you think makes the story "work."
Similarly, removing parts of the books can potentially remove some of the deeper meanings that the author intended to convey. Good authors make every word have a purpose, and even the removal of a single sentence could be a loss - a small one, but a loss nonetheless - if the book is truly written well. Classics are probably the only books that are ever abridged, and as we all know, most of those are written well in their original state. So why change them?

Abridged Books Are Great!

The purpose of abridged books is to make more difficult books accessible to lower-level readers. So, in that sense, abridged books may be introducing classics to a whole new group of readers. If The Count of Monte Cristo intimidates you, you might read one that is half the size, and then you'll be introduced to the book that you otherwise would never have read.

My View

Now, let's look at the definition of abridge:
"shorten without losing the sense."
This in itself implies that the sense will be maintained, if the abridger is an expert at his or her task. However, how can even the best abridger be sure of the author's original intent? Because of this, I tend to agree with the idea that abridged books are not the best option.

But what about the concept of broadening readership that I mentioned as a pro of abridged books?
Now, I've read a few books that I thought could benifit from some cuts - cuts that would make them flow better and eliminate unessesary rambling (Count of Monte Cristo was not one of them, fyi).
War and Peace was one. Les Miserables, as much as I adore it, was another, with its numerous digressions on slang, sewers, Waterloo, etc.
But that's just me.
Others may adore those parts that I skimmed over. A history buff may take unmeasurable pleasure in reading about Waterloo and Napoleon in Les Miserables, when I just wanted to "get to the darn story, already!" Who am I to say that those parts should be cut out?

And regarding reader intimidation with books such as the ones aforementioned - there are thousands of books that are not intimidating, and reading is definitely a growing experience. You shouldn't read War and Peace if you're not ready for it. These types of books are books that need to be read and reread every decade (or sooner), because the more you grow as a person, the more you get out of the book. I've attempted to read Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company twice, and both times couldn't get past the first few chapters. I guess I just wasn't ready for it. (It's on my Classics Club list, so we'll see how Take Three goes!)
My huge tome of Les Miserables
Sure, teens can read Les Miserables if they feel like it, but a classic education does not necessarily mean reading books like bricks. The Great Gatsby is a fine book, and it's about one sixth the length of Les Miserables. 

And what's all this talk about long books being intimidating? Are you intimidated by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? No? So why should Les Miserables, which is only a couple hundred pages longer, intimidate you? Dive in!

So I suppose that my final opinion on abridged books is: they ultimately don't matter. You, as the reader, get to decide which parts of the books to read - and which parts to skim, or even skip completely! Come back in a few years and see if you are mentally ready to finally tackle those skipped parts.

So go read that thousand page book that you've had on your list for ages but have been too intimidated by. You don't have to read every single word to get something out of a classic. Read what you are ready for, and then reread, and reread, and reread, every so often. Classics have layers of meaning that can only be excavated by numerous readings.

You are your own abridger.


What is your opinion on abridged books? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular Authors I've Never Read

Hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish.
Today's topic is: Top Ten Popular Authors I've Never Read. I'm interpreting "popular" as "contemporary," so this shouldn't be too hard for me. :-P

1. John Green.
I've heard so much good stuff about him. This guy is definitely on my TBR. Definitely.

2. Stephanie Meyer.
Twilight never sounded like my "thing," and I also doubt her writing prowess, so nope, never gonna read any of her stuff.

3. Stephen King. 
Hmm... Not sure about this guy. I know he's a good writer and all, but horror - well, horror scares me, plain and simple, and I don't like to be scared. I just don't find it entertaining. (Unless it's Poe, of course.)

4. Cassandra Claire. 
Yup. I think eventually I'm gonna pick up one of her books. Her stuff sounds neat.

5. John Grisham. 
Maybe I'll read him at some point. I'm not really sure.

6. Orson Scott Card.
He is very much so on my TBR. I rarely read sci-fi, but that's just because there's so much badly written stuff out there and I don't want to waste my time on it. But Mr. Card comes with an excellent reputation.

7. Frank Herbert.
Particularly the Dune books. See #6 above.

8. Danielle Steele.
I've heard her name countless times, but I still don't know if I'd read her books. She is one of the highest bestselling authors alive, if that counts for anything, but then again, so is Stephanie Meyer. So... anyone? Is Danielle Steele any good?

9. Dan Brown. 
His work never really drew me. Nope.

10. [Insert Contemporary Romance Author Here]
If you ask me if I've read any contemporary book that is pure romance, my answer will most likely be NO. I do like a good romance, but it generally has some other conflict involved outside of the relationship. I do like Jane Austen, though, which is basically pure romance, so...
But I suppose my reasoning behind not reading much contemporary romance is the same as my reasoning behind not reading much sci-fi (see #6). There's just so much crap out there in the genre that I don't want to waste my time looking for one of proper literary merit - of which I'm sure there are many.
I HATE wasting my time on a stupid book.

Which popular authors have you never read? 
Any recommendations of sci-fi or romance for a girl who's been raised on hard-core classics?


AND as a fun note: today (March 4th) is National Grammar Day! March Forth! :-)
And look - the president (Bush) made it official back in 2008!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 9 (Deut 1-16)

First off, let's finish talking about

(Chapters 18-36)

... because I sort of skipped Week 8, even though I don't have very much to say, anyway.
So basically these last chapters were filled with the progress of the Israelites through various territories. But I'd say the most interesting part was when they were entering Moab, and King Balak of Moab summoned Balaam, a "prophet" of sorts, so curse the Israelites. But Balaam could actually talk to God, and told Balak that - nope, God wasn't going to let him curse the Israelites. In fact, he blessed them.
Balak tried three times to get Balaam to allow him to curse the Iraelites, to no avail. He even took Balaam to different places, hoping it would work better there.
"Come, let me bring you to another place; perhaps God will approve of your cursing them from there." (Num 23:27)
Nope - no luck. Poor Balack. :-/

Okay, that's all I have for Numbers. Anything (profound or otherwise) that I missed?

Onward to

(Chapters 1-16)

Well, we have finally come to the last book of the Pentateuch.

Deuteronomy is practically a reinstatement of the laws outlined in Leviticus, and the story of the Israelites to that point. But it's major difference is that before, it was written rather narratively, whereas now, it is written in an oratorical style. Moses is giving a speech - and it definitely reads like one.

I can practically imagine Moses standing in front of all the Israelites, and telling them all that they have gone through, and what God has done for them, as well as what they need to do in return. I suppose it's somewhere along the lines of a motivational speech.

As I was writing this, I just realized that the Moses in Deuteronomy giving motivational speeches is an entirely different Moses from the one we first met in Exodus. Before his adventures, Moses was a pretty shy guy, who at first tried to talk God out of making him become the leader of the Israelites. And then when he finally resigned himself to leadership, Moses had to get Aaron to be his mouthpiece, because he himself was a stutterer!

But now, Moses has become a true leader. He can now give lengthy motivational speeches to his people without stuttering or questioning his leadership. As a Character, Moses has developed over the course of his literary existence, and learned something from his experiences. He is a truly well-rounded Character.

Any comments on Numbers or the first half of Deuteronomy? Please share them below!