Friday, June 29, 2012

Lady Audley's Secret Giveaway (A Victorian Celebration).

I feel like I am way behind most of you! I am still trucking through Middlemarch and Nicholas Nickleby. I thought I would have been done with both of them by now, but no. :) Both books are wonderful-I've just had a bit less reading time than I would have liked. 

Anyway, this week's giveaway is for book I haven't read yet! It has been on my TBR for ages and is one of the titles on my Classics Club list. When I was picking out some titles from the new Penguin English Library series, I immediately put this one in my shopping cart. And then I added a second one for one of you. :) 

Here is a summary taken from

"Lady Audley's Secret (1862) was one of the most widely read novels in the Victorian period. It exemplifies "sensation fiction" in featuring a beautiful criminal heroine, an amateur detective, blackmail, arson, violence, and plenty of suspenseful action. To its contemporary readers, it also offered the thrill of uncovering blackmail and criminal violence within the homes of the upper class. The novel makes trenchant critiques of Victorian gender roles and social stereotypes, and it creates significant sympathy for the heroine, despite her criminal acts, as she suffers from the injustices of the "marriage market" and rebels against them."

Today's giveaway is for a new Penguin English Library edition of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret. To enter, read the following and comment below:
  • This giveaway will be open to any residents of the U.S. or Canada (my international participants, I have special giveaways planned for you later on).
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post and answer the following question: What post from the Master Post have you most enjoyed reading so far in the celebration? Why?
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Friday, July 6, 2012 EST.
Good luck!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Author Focus: Charles Dickens and Giveaway (A Victorian Celebration).

Welcome to this week's Author Focus on Charles Dickens! I have already featured George Eliot and Wilkie Collins.

Anyone who has read me for awhile knows that I haven't always been the biggest fan of Dickens. In fact, I used to hate him. Granted, I wasn't really being fair to him or his work, and as I have let myself explore his life and work, I've come around.

I still like to fondly refer to Mr. Dickens as my literary arch-nemesis. I don't think he would mind...but I think he would chuckle at my prejudices against some of his work. :) But I'm here to share what I've learned about Mr. Dickens in my explorations of his life-and what a life it was!

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 to John and Elizabeth Dickens as the second of eight children. When he was relatively young, Charles was sent to school and his family was doing okay. That changed in 1824 when his father, John, was sent to debtor's prison. His wife and the younger children lived with John in the prison while the older kids found homes with relatives and family friends. At only 12 years old, Charles found employment at Warren's Blacking House to help support his family. He would often work ten or twelve hour days for minimal pay. His experiences working as a child had a lasting impact on his life and writing (Oliver Twist comes to mind).

Eventually, John inherited some money from a relative and found his way out of prison. Rather than remove their son from his place of employment right away, Elizabeth Dickens waited. Like his work experiences, this lack of care for his well-being had a significant impact on Charles. You can see evidence of his feelings towards women and mothers in many of his novels.

Charles eventually found work in a law office as a clerk. Again, his experiences working in this kind of environment impacted his writing later on in life (Bleak House and Nicholas Nickleby spring to my mind!). Charles eventually turned to a journalism career, working for various magazines for a number of years.

It was during his time working for magazines and journals that Charles began to seriously start writing. His first set of periodicals was eventually collected into a book, Sketches by Boz (Boz was a pseudonym). These sketches caught the attention of publishers Chapman and Hall, who hired Dickens to write in accompaniment to a series of illustrations done by Robert Seymour. The result was The Pickwick Papers, Dickens' first novel.

In 1836, Charles married Catherine Thomson Hogarth and continued to publish new novels in episodic form. By only releasing one portion of his new novels at a time, Dickens began to master the form of writing. Readers would wait anxiously for the next installment to be published. His fame began to rise with each new publication. As he aged, his novels also began to tackle more difficult themes-namely socioeconomic issues.

Dickens was prolific even while he was alive. He was a major voice in the era and befriended many of his contemporaries, including Wilkie Collins. Together, they wrote numerous plays and short stories. It was during one of these co-written plays that Dickens met Ellen Ternan. He fell so in love that he made the decision to leave Catherine for Ellen in 1858. Since divorce was still relatively taboo, Charles and Catherine agreed on a separation, but Charles spent the rest of his life with Ellen. Yet another Victorian writer scandal (that makes us 3 for 3!).

It was after this that Dickens began a series of reading and speaking tours. He traveled throughout Europe and the United States on his tours. It was during this time that many of his "major works" were published, including Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. Many critics believe that he entered a serious mode of thinking about his writing and changes he could make in society. It what around this time that he also began some serious philanthropic work in England.

On June 9, 1865, Dickens' life took a turn. He was involved in the Staplehurst Rail Crash. It was a horrific event at the time, and Dickens was in one of the only cars that wasn't overturned. He was on board with Ellen and a few other friends when the train crashed. He spent hours attending to those who were injured or dying until further help came. He even risked going back into the train to rescue the unfinished manuscript of Our Mutual Friend.

The crash and the result changed his life. After the crash, he began to be very introspective and never seemed to fully recover to where he was before. His works took a darker turn and his health deteriorated. Charles eventually passed away on June 9, 1870-five years to the day AFTER the rail crash. He was laid to rest, against his wishes, in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Dickens is known not only for his life and legacy, but for his popularity, characters, and enduring themes. He is one of the world's most popular authors and continues to have a lasting impression on our society and popular culture (I think we all know what a "Scrooge" is). Not only did he have humor and laughter in his works, but also depth and social commentary. I know that I have begun to look past the surface of his novels to find the deeper meaning. And while I may be coming around to his novels and style of writing, I'll always think of him as my literary arch-nemesis. :)

Dickens' complete novels include, in order of publication:
  • The Pickwick Papers
  • Oliver Twist
  • Nicholas Nickleby
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Barnaby Rudge
  • Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Dombey and Son
  • David Copperfield
  • Bleak House
  • Hard Times
  • Little Dorrit
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Great Expectations
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished)
To celebrate Charles Dickens, his life, and his works, I am giving away a copy of the Dickens Bicentenary. I discussed my own copy in this post. It is a phenomenal collection, complete with inserts, photographs, and way more information about Charles than I could include in this post. To enter, read the following and comment below:
  • This giveaway is open to anyone! As long as the Book Depository delivers to your country, you can enter (I reserve the right to ship from another company if you live within the U.S.). 
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post with your answer to this question: What Dickens character do you think is the most memorable and why?
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Friday July 6, 2012 EST.
Good luck!

*Information in this post was taken from and the Dickens Bicentenary*

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reading Plans and My Nightstand Pile: June 27, 2012.

Every month or two, I stand in front of my bookshelves and pull out a pile of books to be added to my nightstand. This books are the ones that I would ideally like to get to in the near future. As I finish titles, I grab from the pile rather than my shelves. I find that when I'm just staring at my shelves, I get overwhelmed with choices. This way, I have a smaller collection of books to choose from.

This morning I decided to pull a new pile, since I hadn't created a nightstand pile for the Victorian Event and the rest of the summer. I decided to give myself until September 1 to read from the pile before creating a new one. Now, it is pretty likely I won't read all of these by then, or I may read books that aren't here, but these are the books I've been eying recently (you'll see quite a few Victorians!).

(I will apologize in advance that some of the titles are blurred out. This shelf is next to a window and I had a hard time getting the titles to be not blown out. This was the best pic of the 5 I took).

From left to right and top to bottom:
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling: I started this one last year and never finished it.
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell: Really want to get to this one for the event, but I seem to be going at a slow pace...
  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell: I've read the first 30 pages or so, but I just need to dive in.
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte: I haven't read anything by Anne, and this is the one I have on my bookshelf. It's short, so I should be able to fly through it.
  • Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: I will definitely be getting to this one soon!
  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope: I read The Warden just so I could read this one soon.
  • Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: Another Hardy title...I love this new Penguin edition.
  • The Hero of Ages  and The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson: Both of these are for group reads, so I know I'll finish them.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: LOVE TWAIN! I'll probably save this one for August.
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy: I might not get to this one, and that's okay. I might "save" it for the end of my project.
  • Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Just like above, I might "save" this one for near the end of my 250 list.
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I've never read this one and just got my copy so...yeah. Definitely going to read this one!
  • Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad: Another one I started and never finished. I'll probably read this one in August as well.
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: Yet another title I started but never finished. I really want to get to this one for the Victorian event, but not sure I'll have time.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison: I'm still discovering Morrison, so I know I need to read this one soon.
  • Light in August by William Faulkner: I meant to read this one LAST summer, so I am making it a point to get to it this year. I've also been craving some zany Faulkner!
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: I started this one in May, so I need to finish!
  • The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf: Another one I started in May and need to finish!
I'm also currently in the middle of Middlemarch and Nicholas Nickleby, so we can add those to the pile as well. Oh, and I am participating in Andrew Smith Saturdays (even though I haven't commented yet....oops), so those titles, Stick and Ghost Medicine are also going to be read.

Seems like a lot, right? I know....

I have Thursday and Friday off this week, so besides doing laundry and a few other domestic type things, I am planning on diving into some great books! I'm hoping to finish both of my current Victorian reads, as well as one other title...probably a Hardy. Feel free to join in on my reading spree if you are able!

What are your reading plans for the rest of the summer?

A Victorian Celebration Giveaway Contest.

To all Victorian Celebration participants!

There is an AMAZING contest and giveaway going on over at Roof Beam Reader starting today! The prize is your choice of any Victorian novel shipped from the Book Depository-yep, an international giveaway! :)

You can enter by clicking this link.

Good luck, and keep on reading those lovely Victorian novels!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Warbreaker Post 5: Chapters 50-END.

Welcome to the fifth and final post for the Warbreaker readalong as hosted by Amanda and Naithin. I really enjoyed this group read-the weekly questions kept it interesting and the novel was AWESOME. :)

You can see my thoughts on parts 1-4 in these lovely locations:

Post 1: Chapters 1-12
Post 2: Chapters 13-23
Post 3: Chapters 24-34
Post 4: Chapters 35-49

There will most definitely be spoilers below, but I plan on putting up a spoiler-free review in the near future.

1. There were a whole bunch of character revelations in this last section of the book. We now know who Warbreaker is, and what Blushweaver's motivations are, and who was behind the war, and the intentions of several characters we suspected. How do you feel, now that everything's out in the open?

While I didn't enjoy the revelation of what Denth and crew were up to in the last section we read, I rather enjoyed the twists and turns that the final chapters brought. I was particularly struck by the choices Lightsong made in the end, especially as he acknowledged who and what he was (more on that below). I was also struck by Blushweaver and her true intention for maintaining control of the Lifeless. It was certainly interesting.

To be honest, I really didn't think that Vasher would be Warbreaker. I kind of hoped that one of the female leads-Vivenna or Siri-would gain that role. But, I'm okay with Vasher and his turn was a bit of redemption, you know?

I also enjoyed learning a bit more about the priests and what they were really fighting for. I think I said in an earlier post that they were up to something other than what they portrayed. I also knew that there was a reason the God King was kept in the dark, so I'm glad all those questions were answered in this final section.

2. At the beginning of our group read, I asked if you thought the Returned actually were divine. We saw Lightsong change his mind on his own divinity, and learned a bit more about the Returned. Has your answer about divinity changed, then, since the beginning of the book?

I had to go back to read what I wrote, but I don't think my true opinions have really changed. Lightsong was right to question his divinity. For me, when I think of gods (modern and ancient and everything in between) I like to think that they are free from fault and questions about their own purpose. The Returned showed too much uncertainty in their decisions about going to war to be that kind of...exalted presence I expect of my own God...know what I mean?

But Lightsong really had an impact on me in the ending chapters. Once he realizes what he is and who he once was, he seems to lose faith. It is only when he is given the choice to wallow in pity, or save the God King and sacrifice himself that I think he realizes the true nature of his own divinity. I think he realized that he had a choice in who he wanted to be in this second life. And while he already gave his life once, he could do it again for a real and significant purpose. I was just...struck by that. And happy that Lightsong made that choice. It was honorable, you know?

Anyway, I do think that the Returned have the capability of being divine, but not all of them are truly gods, in that they sacrifice themselves wholly for the people who worship them. I mean, really, did they listen to the people of the city and their struggles while they were quarreling about war? I don't think so.

3. Now that we've seen Nightblood in action, firsthand, and know more about its history, what do you think about it as an object? What are your thoughts about Vasher's relationship with the sword?

It's an interesting relationship, isn't it? Vasher said he kept the sword to keep it away from others, but I like to think that he kept it for his own sake. Since Vasher is more than what he appears, he needed someone to talk to and the sword fit that. It understood who Vasher really was and had the ability to protect Vasher when Vasher needed it most.

So...just a twisted sort of relationship.... ;)

4. Lastly, what are your final thoughts on Warbreaker? How did it compare to other books you've read, and to other Sanderson, if you've read more by him?

The only other Sanderson I've read is Mistborn, which I absolutely loved, so I have little of Sanderson's work to compare this to. I will say that I enjoyed it. It was a fun story and while some of the little twists didn't quite fit for me with the storyline, I will say that I think Sanderson is a gifted writer. I'm definitely going to look into more of his books (after I finish the Mistborn readalong).

This title was definitely a decent fantasy novel. Like I said, there were little things that irked me. I think a large part of it was how the novel was originally written (serially on his website). That kind of writing, while thrilling for fans, doesn't allow for the writer to really revise and make significant changes. I think there were pieces that needed more clarification, etc.

But overall, good fantasy novel that is an entertaining and fast read!

Thanks for the great group read!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up for June 24, 2012.

I've been a little all over the place this week and haven't really had a chance to focus on reading or blogging. Matt and I went out of town on my two days off this past week, so I really haven't had a chance to enjoy my summer and days off. I've also been working at the park every yeah, super busy still!

I don't have any days off until Thursday or Friday, but I am planning on spending those two days catching up on everything-reading, cleaning, and checking in on blogs. If I haven't visited you in awhile, I will then-PROMISE.

Anyway, I have a lot going on tomorrow, so I need to cut this short to get a good night's sleep. I hope everything is going well!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reading Habits.

I've seen this in a few places (not sure where it started), and since I am lacking inspiration for a real post today, I thought this would be fun to fill out. :)

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack:
I try to avoid snacking while generally leads to too much snacking. :) However, I like a small bowl of popcorn every once in awhile!

What is your favourite drink while reading?
It used to be diet coke, but since I am cutting back (and trying to quit) on drinking pop, I've been turning more and more to tea and flavored water. I have a new addiction to Mio, so I've taken to always flavoring my water.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I used to write in my books far more than I do now. Most of the books I read while in college have writing in them somewhere. Nowadays I use little post-it tags to mark passages and pages I want to come back to, or that have quotes I like (any quote that I use in a post here comes from those that I mark). I have nothing against writing in books, but if I buy a used book, I always check for writing. Other peoples' highlighting, etc bothers me.

I've also been keeping a separate journal just for thoughts on my reading. I like having everything in one place so I can flip through it.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I am huge fan of bookmarks. :) I own something like 80-90 of them, and I am constantly looking for more. I used to dog-ear pages before, but don't anymore. I'm also one of those people who tries not to break the spine of my paperbacks to make them last longer. Since I purchase pretty much everything I read, I want my books to stay in good condition. Sometimes a little abuse can't be helped, but I don't purposefully do things to hurt my book! It drives my friend Kyla crazy. She is really one of the only people I trust to lend books to, and she says she always feel pressured to keep my books perfect. :) It makes me chuckle. I know that I'm just crazy, but I figure if I am investing in building myself a library, I want my books to last until I'm 80 and want to revisit an old favorite.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
I read more fiction now, but I really like non-fiction. I'm partial to history titles, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. I miss my history books especially...

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
I prefer to stop at a chapter break, but sometimes I just get too tired to finish. :) Some books have really long chapters, so sometimes I just can't get through to the end. But really, I can stop anywhere (I do try to finish a "scene" before stopping in the middle of a chapter).

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
I've done both. :) I threw Atlas Shrugged at the wall quite a few times, as well as tossing it on the floor for my cat to sleep on. It is a rare occasion for me to throw a book, so you know something was up if I did!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Depends. I usually try and figure it out based on context and most often I figure it out. If it is something I can't figure out, then I'll look it up. :)

What are you currently reading?
I've been focusing on Middlemarch since starting it last Sunday. I've also poked back into Nicholas Nickleby a little bit (I think I have to just finish it this coming week and be done with it). Not sure what I'm going to pick up next!

What is the last book you bought?
I've actually bought quite a few in recent weeks. I discovered the new Penguin English Library series and bought quite a or 17? They've slowly been trickling in...which is driving Matt crazy, but it had been quite some time since I'd bought a bunch of books, so I don't feel bad. ;) I'll show them off once they all get here.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?
I really like reading while in bed. I know a lot of people have a hard time with that, but I feel really comforted being in bed with a good book. I especially love those opportunities and books that make me stay up all night just to know what happens. That's harder being married and having to make sure that I don't bug Matt with the light. :)

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
It depends on what kind of mood that I'm in. There is something pretty amazing about sinking into a big long series. It allows you to get to know the characters so well! But I also love a good stand-alone. Most classics ARE stand-alones, so I have been getting a good mix between those and some fantasy titles.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
I've been pushing a couple of books on people recently-The Mill on the Floss, Portrait of a Lady, and David Copperfield. And, as always, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. :)

How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.) 
The shelves that I do have are alphabetized. The only exceptions are books that are too tall to fit on the normal shelf, books belonging to a collection or set, and my Shakespeare titles. I prefer to have books in a set all together (all my Penguin clothbounds are together-they look way sweeter that way). I will also pull books out every month or so to put on my nightstand. The nightstand pile is what I hope to get through in that month. Sometimes books stay there for a month or two before being read...some stay longer...and some books never make it there! But generally speaking, once it is on the nightstand, I make it a priority.

I also have books all over the apartment-some on my desk, there is a pile on an end table in the living room, and a couple in my bag that I've been lugging to the park. :) I call it controlled chaos.

I think the only other interesting reading habits I have are these:
-I keep a written record of books read each month. They are all in a spiraled journal and I've had it since the beginning of 2008.
-I have a big printed out list of the titles on my 250 list taped to the back of our "office" door. I highlight each title as I finish it. I'm a big fan of crossing things off, so it helps me visualize my progress!

Weekly Giveaway Winners.

Last week I had two giveaways up for participants of A Victorian Celebration. One was for a copy of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda and the other was for Charlotte Bronte's Shirley. I pulled both winners after the contests closed at midnight, and here are the winners:

The winner of Daniel Deronda is Michelle from The True Book Addict!

The winner of Shirley is Adam from Roof Beam Reader!

Congratulations winners! I will be e-mailing you to get mailing information.

Remember that there is a giveaway each week. This week's giveaway is for a copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. You can enter to win at this post.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Victorian Celebration: The Mayor of Casterbridge Giveaway!

I asked Twitter on Sunday whether I should read Middlemarch or Far From the Madding Crowd next, and those who weighed in steered me toward the Eliot title. And while I am perfectly happy with that choice (because I love Eliot so much), I'm still craving some Hardy.

To get a little bit of that craving out of my system, I decided to put the second Hardy title I have sitting in my "giveaway" pile up as this week's giveaway for the event. :)

When I made my project list...I had never heard of Hardy. I don't know if that speaks to the level of my college education or my own ignorance, but he was never on a reading list and he was never brought up in one of my classes! But, I was curious so I added a slew of his titles to the 250 list, and the very first Hardy title I read was The Mayor of Casterbridge. It blew me away and made me a Hardy fan for life.

Now I would like to give one of you a new copy of the novel. To see if it strikes your fancy, here is a little summary taken from

"In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic work, tragically played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town."

To enter to win a new Barnes and Noble edition of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, read and complete the following:
  • This giveaway will be open to any residents of the U.S. or Canada (my international participants, I have special giveaways planned for you later on).
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post and answer the following question: What Victorian title should I read next for the event? Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy or Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte? (or something else-you suggest!)
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Friday, June 29, 2012 EST.
Good luck and keep up the great job reading!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Author Focus: William Wilkie Collins (A Victorian Celebration).

 This week's Author Focus in on a Victorian writer I don't have a lot of experience with. In fact, he is one of 2 writers I added to my project list after I had been working on it for a few months. I had never even heard of Wilkie Collins until I started blogging.

In any case, I added two of his works to my project list and have read one to date (The Woman in White). The second, The Moonstone, is on my pile to read for the celebration. I'm hoping I get to it! From my reading of The Woman in White, I've found that I really enjoy Collins' writing style, so that is why I'm going to push you to give him a try.

William Wilkie Collins was born in 1824 in London, England. As a boy, he traveled with his family to France and Italy, which has a huge impact on him. In 1844, he wrote his first novel, Iolani, which was never published in his lifetime. He eventually went to school to study law in honor of his father's wishes, but when his father died in 1847, he began writing on a more regular basis.

In 1851, Collins met Charles Dickens, who became a lifelong friend and mentor. I can't imagine what kind of impact Dickens had on him-Collins was a young, fledgling writer and Dickens was a force to be reckoned with. I am sure that their friendship was something to see! They collaborated on a number of things and Dickens supported Collins' writing by helping it get published in Household Words and All the Year Round-Dickens' journals and magazines. The two also traveled Europe together in the 1850s.

Collins' first story, "A Terribly Strange Bed," was published in Household Words in April 1852 and it was the first of many. He also had stories published in The Leader which was run by George Lewes. Lewes might seem like a familiar name if you read last week's Author Focus, since he was George Eliot's "husband" for a number of years. Isn't that an interesting connection? Something I have found by researching these writers is how interconnected they all were. Makes me wonder what writers weren't in their "clique" and didn't get published because of it!

Keeping up with the scandalous lifestyle as done by Eliot, Collins moved in with Caroline Graves and lived with her as man and wife. The two didn't marry, but carried amidst a lot of scandal (I think the Victorians were quite fond of scandal, don't you?). During this time period (late 1850s into the 1860s), Collins published a whole slew of titles and was gaining more attention from the public.

And, keeping up with scandal, Collins met another woman, Martha Rudd, in 1867 and decided to settle down with her as well! He led a double life-living with Graves while in London, and Rudd in the countryside near London. He even used a different name when he was with Rudd to avoid being found out...but eventually Caroline discovered his affair, left him, and returned two years later. Collins lived the rest of his life taking turns between his two ladies o_O.

Later on in his life, he suffered from gout and used a lot of opium to deal with the pain. He also struggled to maintain his success after the death of Charles Dickens in 1870. Many feel that once he lost his best friend and mentor, his novels lost their passion, which is why many of his later novels aren't as acclaimed as his earlier titles. Many of his novels were deemed "sensation" novels that were meant only for entertainment and shock. They were also the precursors to later detective novels, like Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Another notable aspect of his novels is the focus on his female characters and their plights in Victorian society-something I definitely noticed in my read of The Woman in White.

Some of his more famous works include:
  • Antonina (1850)
  • The Ostler (1855)
  • The Frozen Deep (1857) Co-written with Dickens
  • The Woman in White (1860)
  • No Name (1862)
  • Armadale (1866)
  • The Moonstone (1868)
  • Poor Miss Finch (1872)
  • The Law and the Lady (1875)
Collins died in 1889 at the age of 82. He has left behind a great legacy and certainly was a large part of the surge in literature during the Victorian event. He is definitely a writer I need more exposure to and I can't wait for the opportunity to explore more of his work.

There is no giveaway with today's Author Focus, but I will be giving away one of Collins' novels later on in the celebration-so keep an eye out!

*Information taken from and*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Random Post Giveaway Winner! (A Victorian Celebration).

I decided to take a gander at the number of crazy posts you guys have made on the Master Post. Wow! You guys have been reading a TON!

In celebration of all the reading you've been doing, I pulled a random number and that person (as soon as they see this post) gets to e-mail me their choice of a Victorian Classic to be sent to them from the Book Depository.

Congratulations to number...43! Bex from An Armchair By the Sea for her review of Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Shoot me an e-mail (my e-mail is on my profile page) by Friday so I can mail you your new book of choice! :)

Keep up the great reading everyone!

(*hint* There will probably be another random giveaway once we hit 100 links on that Master Post!)

Book 146: Starting Middlemarch by George Eliot.

I've been avoiding getting back into Nicholas Nickleby, so I started a new chunkster for the Victorian Celebration instead. I've been craving some Eliot since finishing The Lifted Veil last week, and Middlemarch was calling to me off the shelf. After staring at it, Nicholas Nickleby, and Far From the Madding Crowd, the pink cover won out and I started it Sunday morning.

Needless to say, I am flying steadily through Eliot's chunkster. It has been years since I've read it, so bits of the story are "new" to me on this read. I forgot how Eliot begins the narrative in one place, introducing the reader to a character or two...then meanders to someone we met briefly, then to another, and another. It works in some odd way. And while the characters we met in chapter one disappear for 100 pages, I still remembered exactly what they were up to when the disappeared from view for a bit.

I also love the comfort of Eliot's writing as she discusses the "Miss Brookes" and their problems. She has such a warm tone to the way she describes their interactions that it brings a smile to my face as I read. I love Celia's snarky comments, and Dorothea's determination that she knows what is best. I also love the meddling neighbors, the concern over who will wed who, and the silly politics of a sleepy country town. It makes me smile and keeps me turning the pages.

And while I know I've read this before, I am still anxious for the characters and wondering what will happen to them by the end of 880 page edition of the book I have. That is the mark of a great writer-that I can still wonder at their intent. That I can still question what a character will say or do when I turn the page.

The whole thing just feels comforting and warm-just what I need right now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why I Continue to Push Myself.

I can't say it any better.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer TBR.

It has been awhile since I've done a Top Ten Tuesday post, but I couldn't pass up the chance to talk about some of the titles I'm going to be reading this summer. I have been counting down to having more reading time, so hopefully all ten of these titles are read in the summer months!

In no particular order...

  1. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: I have been craving some Hardy something fierce, which makes sense, since I've read a Hardy novel both summers that I've been working towards completing my 250 list.
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot: Technically this might be cheating since I already started it, but I knew I was going to get to this one this summer! It has been years since I last read it, so I've been loving every page. :)
  3. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope: Now that I have the much smaller The Warden under my belt and a firm grasp on Trollope's trollping style, I'm anxious to get to the title that was included on my original 250 list! I'm excited to see what's next in this little series, and to get to know another Victorian a little better.
  4. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: I'm saving this one for near the end of my Victorian celebration, but I know I will get to it this summer. It is Amanda's favorite Hardy, so I KNOW that it's going to be amazing. :)
  5. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte: My first Bronte was Wuthering Heights, which I read only 2 years ago! I haven't had a chance to read Anne, and there has been lots of talk about how awesome she is from Adam and Jillian, so even though this isn't on the 250 list, it IS on my Classics Club list and I'm going to read it soon!
  6. The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell: This one has been sitting on my nightstand for a couple of weeks, so I am sure it'll be opened as soon as the mood strikes. I'm very curious about the lives of all the Bronte sisters, so this is a great introduction I think!
  7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell: This is the last Gaskell title on my 250 list, so I kind of want to get to it to cross off Gaskell's works. :) I'm also really curious about it since it's unfinished!
  8. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: I set this one aside once the Victorian event started, but I want to get back to it. It is a curious little book, and while I had a hard time focusing on it, I think I need to get back to it and restart. I loved Forster's A Room with a View, so I'm hoping this one is just as amazing. 
  9. The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf: Another title I set aside, I got 50 pages into this one before school insanity took over. I've heard this one isn't as...complex as some of her other novels, so I'm curious to see the difference between this and her later work. 
  10. Light in August by William Faulkner: I have been craving some Faulkner something fierce, so this is a definite for August (see what I did there?). I haven't read this one in a couple of years, but I'm looking forward to a revisit with one of my favorite writers. I also blame Melissa for her review of As I Lay Dying for sparking my craving.
Bonus-3 more! :)
  1. Beloved by Toni Morrison: It has been a bit since I've read some Morrison, and this one will fulfill a challenge. :)
  2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo: This is another title that will fulfill a challenge, but since Adam reviewed it, well...I keep eying it on my shelf.
  3. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: While I would really like to get to this one during the Victorian event, I can only read so fast. :) But I'm hoping I get to this one in time for the event (and yep, it fulfills some challenges). 
What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Warbreaker Post 4: Chapters 35-49.

 Welcome to post 4 of the Warbreaker readalong. This event is hosted by Amanda and Naithin and we've been reading for four weeks! Here are my thoughts on the earlier sections:

Post 1: Chapters 1-12
Post 2: Chapters 13-23
Post 3: Chapters 24-34

I should warn you that there will be definite spoilers if you haven't read the book, and it might be better if you just go and read the book (totally worth it!).

Onward with the questions:

1) So, pretty much everything has been flipped up on its head in this section. Which particular revelation was the greatest shock to you and how has it impacted your view of the book as a whole?

I was quite surprised by the beginning of this section and the twist concerning Denth and the others. In some ways, I feel a bit cheated. I hate twists of that nature in books that I am reading. I feel like authors use that to be like "Look how I tricked you! Hahaha!" When really all it does it pull me away from the story-it puts more focus on the author than the story. End of rant.

Anyway, I was surprised to see that the mercenaries weren't what I was expecting...which means that nothing we've encountered so far has been honest. Now, I'm not sure what to believe about Denth (and Vasher and everyone else) as the story moves forward.

2) Vasher is perhaps one of those things who we’ve had flipped over on us. Turns out he may have once been a scholar, even! Vasher and Viveena have quite the conversation about Awakening and Returned and skate across the topic of ‘Type 4’ Awakened Objects, which the story implies to be objects like Nightblood. Vasher is completely unwilling to discuss it any further – any guesses as to why?

I really like Vasher. He seems to be much more honest of a character than I originally thought, and I am glad that Vivenna has teamed up with him a bit. I think it's obvious Vasher is not some run of the mill guy just out to start a revolution. He has deeper connections to the conflict and brewing war. He knows too much to be a random person and the fact that he refuses to discuss Nightblood? Oh yeah, he knows something's up! :)

 3) Siri’s conversation with Treledees perhaps indicated that for all the disregard he shows for Siri, that he may in fact still care for the God King. If true, does this clash with their idea of simply holding onto the Divine Breath until the return of another, or how could you see it being reconciled?

I think this connects with what I was getting at in the first question. Since Sanderson tossed everything around with the switcheroo concerning Denth and the others, you can't take anything we've read at face value. Sanderson has already shown us that things are not what they seem, and while it appears that Tredelees and the other priests are slimy little buggers, that might not be the case. Has it occurred to anyone else that Siri hasn't outright asked someone what is going on? She's talked around it, implied threats, and used her power as Vessel, but there hasn't been an honest conversation.

I really think Sanderson is just trying to mess with our heads and we're in for another twist related to the priests. Given the fact that he released the book serially on his website, I'm convinced we have more twists on the way.

(On that same note, I think we're going to see a lot from Lightsong as we near the end in this same regard-he won't be who we expect him to be either).

4) We’re so far through the book now, and the War has yet to come. Do you (still?) see it as inevitable, or do you think that it may yet be headed off?

From what I know of fantasy novels, if you have a standalone, the war better be early on. I doubt there will be a full-blown war at any point in the book. There just aren't enough pages left! I foresee a lot of political maneuvering ahead of all the characters!

I'm still waiting to see who "Warbreaker" is. I'm starting to doubt my belief that it is Siri or Vivenna, but I'm sure Sanderson will surprise me again. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Warden by Anthony Trollope.

"One evening call," said he, "is worth ten in the morning. It's all formality in the morning; real social talk never begins till after dinner."

In an attempt at reading Barchester Towers a year or two ago, I realized that it was the second book in a series. And while I knew that I could read it out of order, my little, orderly book-loving heart would be happier with reading the first book, well, first.

Cue the new Penguin English Library editions and their wonderful inclusion of the entire Barsetshire series (not all are published right now, just the first two). I immediately ordered both of them and waited for them to arrive on my doorstep (I am in love with the covers-they are designed by the same woman who did the clothbound covers. Yes, I have an obsession).

I dove into The Warden not really knowing what to expect. I haven't read any other Trollope, so I wasn't sure whose style he was closest to or what to expect.

Basically, The Warden is about the will of John Hiram. In Hiram's will, he left behind funds to support a warden and 12 needy men. The funds were distributed according to need and the men were supposed to be able to live and be supported by the Church and the warden. Now, years later, there is unease in the two about how much the warden, Harding, is actually being paid and how much money the 12 men are getting. Harding is caught in the middle of the kerfuffle and there is uproar against the Church for abusing funds and against Harding for being a greedy old man.

Now, while I enjoyed the story and thought it was a great introduction to Trollope, I have to complain about the amount of rambling Trollope decided to throw in. For a book of only 240 pages...well, there was too much fluff. Trollope would be discussing a conversation that was about to happen..and then, oh look, birds out the window! Or, the men would be gathering to talk about how they want more money to live off of each year and then...oh yay, a tree! A glorious tree! Look at how it has been here since the beginning, how it reminds us all of the generosity of Hiram. Don't you know that Hiram, that noble, generous man, was the one who donated the money? What a glorious man!

And on and on.

After awhile, I just accepted the fact that Trollope would, you know, trollope along (yes, I used his name as a verb). I fell into Trollope's rhythm and eventually began to enjoy it. :) So, my complaining was for naught.

I was also in love with one of the main female characters, Eleanor...

"You might pass Eleanor Harding in the street without notice, but you could hardly pass an evening with her and not lose your heart."

I loved her passion and drive, and her desire to make things better for her father when everyone began to harass him. She was a spirited little thing and I really loved her as a person. She did what she needed to do to protect her family-that's admirable.

(And on a side note, I really love the name Eleanor).

Anyway, this was a great introduction to Trollope, and while it didn't blow me away...I enjoyed it. I chuckled a few times and while Trollope got trollopy, I want to move on and read the next book in the series. :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up for June 17, 2012: Saying Goodbye.

This has been an incredibly difficult week. I have been going through a roller coaster of emotions as we finished school, said goodbye to our retirees, and dealt with the grief of losing a beloved teacher.

I don't know if I can put into words how hard it was this week. Monday was hard-the shock of knowing he passed away, telling the kids, and watching grief erupt all over the school-I don't think I have fully processed it. But Tuesday was even harder. That morning as the kids started to come into the hallways, we all noticed that the majority of them had flannel on in honor of the teacher who passed. It was so incredibly touching. I walked into my first hour to see them all in flannel and one student in tears. I immediately choked up and had to talk out for a minute. It was only after our principal came on the PA and held a moment of silence for him that I could go back in the room.

From that point forward, the week was about coping as best as we could. I comforted students as they needed comfort, and they comforted me. In many ways, the tragedy brought students and staff together. We mourned together and the tributes throughout the week kept many of us going. Students turned to his classroom door for inspiration and hope (he posted many inspirational quotes outside his classroom door. I saw many students this week stopping to read or touch his name in memory).

Thursday was also incredibly hard. In addition to funeral services and viewings, we also had our retirement luncheon for those leaving us this year-including the teacher I have been replacing since March. There were a lot of moving tributes to both of them. Both teachers that retired this year have been in the building for many years. Seeing where they used to be, hearing the stories of what they accomplished as teachers in the was incredible to see.

I also loved the student tributes to both of them. Hearing the stories of how these teachers changed their had a huge impact on me.

I've heard so many stories this week from students about teachers have changed their was inspirational...and motivational for me. Sometimes I am hard on myself about who I am and where I am in my life. I struggle to come to terms with what my dreams where and what is a reality. This week though? It has shown me that while I cannot control what life brings my way, I can control what I do about it.

I think this little blog, this piece of the internet is a testament to that. I have found a way to "teach" without a formal classroom, and no matter what happens in the future, I am grateful for this opportunity. Instead of rolling over and giving in to destructive thoughts, I decided to educate myself. I have pushed myself to continue learning so that when I am given an opportunity to teach in my own classroom, I feel more confident.

And this week, while hard and painful, has shown me all of that. Saying goodbye to my students on their exam days was about more than ending a school year. It was also about them moving on to the next stage in their lives, dealing with the sadness of the last week, and the hope that maybe I'll see them again in the future.

Yes, this has been an emotional week. And while it was sad to say goodbye on Friday, I know that I have great things ahead of me that I am ready to conquer.

Thank you again for all your well wishes this week and e-mails of support. They have helped me get through this week, as well as giving me the confidence to help my students.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Giveaway Winners (A Victorian Celebration).

There were two giveaways for A Victorian Celebration that ended last night. I'm here to announced the winners for the Thomas Hardy giveaway (a new copy of Far From the Madding Crowd) and the international giveaway for the winner's choice of classics.

The winner of the new Thomas Hardy title is...


And, I held a special giveaway for my international participants. Congrats to...

And, for kicks, I am going to tack on a second winner for the international giveaway, just because I love you guys so much. Congrats to...


Congrats to the winners. I will be e-mailing you shortly to get mailing information. 

Everyone else, there are still giveaways in progress! Go enter!
Thanks for entering everyone. Keep up that great Victorian reading!

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Victorian Celebration: Shirley Giveaway!

I have to tell you guys, you are making me feel like I'm not reading fast enough. There are so many wonderful posts on the Master post! Keep up the great work!

It's time for the weekly giveaway (have you caught on that there is at least one giveaway a week? Because there is!).

This week's giveaway is for a book I haven't had a chance to read yet, but will sometime in the future. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, is one of those books I know I'll be reading sooner, rather than later. I've loved the other titles by Charlotte that I've read, and I'm hoping someone will love this one too!

Some more information taken from

"Following the tremendous popular success of Jane Eyre, which earned her lifelong notoriety as a moral revolutionary, Charlotte Brontë vowed to write a sweeping social chronicle that focused on "something real and unromantic as Monday morning." Set in the industrializing England of the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts of 1811-12, Shirley (1849) is the story of two contrasting heroines. One is the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose bare life symbolizes the plight of single women in the nineteenth century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention.

A work that combines social commentary with the more private preoccupations of Jane Eyre, Shirley demonstrates the full range of Brontë's literary talent. "Shirley is a revolutionary novel," wrote Brontë biographer Lyndall Gordon. "Shirley follows Jane Eyre as a new exemplar but so much a forerunner of the feminist of the later twentieth century that it is hard to believe in her actual existence in 1811-12. She is a theoretic possibility: what a woman might be if she combined independence and means of her own with intellect. Charlotte Brontë imagined a new form of power, equal to that of men, in a confident young woman [whose] extraordinary freedom has accustomed her to think for herself....Shirley [is] Brontë's most feminist novel.""

I can't wait to get to this one too!

Up for grabs is a new Penguin Classics edition of Charlotte Bronte's Shirley. To enter, read the rules and comment below!

  • This giveaway will be open to any residents of the U.S. or Canada (my international participants, I have special giveaways planned for you later on).
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post and answer the following question: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Friday, June 22, 2012 EST.
Good luck and keep up the great job reading!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Author Focus: George Eliot and Giveaway (A Victorian Celebration).

I am really excited to bring you the first in a series of weekly posts highlighting some of my favorite (and soon to be favorite) authors of the Victorian Era. I am hoping that by sharing a little more information, you'll decide to pick up one of their books, or decide to read something by them in the future. Maybe it's the teacher side of me, but I love sharing information about the writers I love. :)

Some of these "Author Focus" posts will also have a corresponding giveaway, so be on the lookout for those opportunities as well.

Today's Author Focus is on a personal favorite of mine-George Eliot. Before I get into some of the details and interesting tidbits of Eliot's life, I need to tell you why I feel such a strong connection to Eliot and her novels.

A few years ago, my grandmother became very sick (she had cancer). Since I was done with college and living at home, I would sometimes take her to her weekly doctor appointments. In the car, we would talk about anything and everything we could think of. She was also a huge reader, so books often came up. She mentioned one day that she wanted something different to read, so I was trying to rack my brain to think of a suggestion.

This was the same summer that I decided to make reading more classics a necessity (I think my rule was for every 3 "fun" books, I had to read a classic). Eliot was one of the first classics writers I discovered on my own, and having just finished Silas Marner, I suggested it to her. I ended up lending her my own copy. She ended up loving it, and I gave her the rest of the Eliot novels I owned (Including The Mill on the Floss, which I hadn't read yet). She loved them all!

Later that fall, she passed away. And now, whenever I look at my bookshelves and see my Eliot novels, I think of her. So Eliot will always be a favorite of mine. She reminds me of the wonderful woman my grandmother was and those weekly trips in the car.

I have been slowly discovering Eliot on my own since that time. I've made it through most of her longer works and just finished a shorter work earlier this week (The Lifted Veil). She is a write I admire, so I'm gong to give you just a little more information about her.

George Eliot's real name was Mary Anne Evans (she also went by Marian). She was born in 1818 and lived to 1880. She was a firecracker of a woman and seemed content with living her life on her own terms. She chose to write under a pen name for a number of reasons. First, she didn't want her work to be judged based on the fact that she was female. Many of her contemporary female writers focused on romance and she felt her novels were more than that. Evans wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, so she felt a male name would help her succeed. Second, she didn't want people poking into her private life and affairs. She wanted to separate herself from society's curiosity, which actually didn't work out for her.

One of the major scandals in her life was her affair and "marriage" to George Lewes. She met Lewes in 1851. Lewes was actually already married, but had an "open marriage" with his wife. When he met Evans/Eliot, they decided to live together and carry on as a married couple. This was okay with his wife, but obviously caused some scandal! It wasn't necessarily an unusual concept, since many of the other Victorians we're reading had affairs as well! I think what surprised most people is that they didn't try to hide their affair, or the fact they were living together while Lewes was legally married to another woman.

When Lewes died in 1878, Evans/Eliot was only alone for a short time. She met John Cross in 1880 and married him (legally). This also caused a bit of a scandal since he was 20 years younger than she was. Their marriage was short lived as she died in late 1880. Because of her lifestyle, she wasn't allowed to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but instead was buried in Highgate Cemetery. However, in 1980, a memorial was placed in Poet's Corner in her honor.

Eliot is most well-known for her depictions of rural life and society, which is one of my favorite aspects of her work. She manages to capture the true nature of her characters-their dreams, desires, and intricacies. I also love that she focuses on those individuals who fall outside the "norm" of society. And while her books can be lengthy, I think they are fast reads!
  • Scenes from Clerical Life (1857)
  • Adam Bede (1859)
  • The Lifted Veil (1859) 
  • The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • Silas Marner (1861)
  • Romola (1863)
  • Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)
  • Middlemarch (1871-1872)
  • Daniel Deronda (1876)
To honor one of my favorite writers, I'm also giving away a copy of one of her novels to one lucky participant of A Victorian Celebration. To win a new Barnes and Noble edition of her last novel, Daniel Deronda, read the following and comment below:
  • This giveaway will be open to anyone who lives in the United States (My international participants-there is a giveaway just for YOU RIGHT HERE)!
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post with you intent to be entered.
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 EST.
Good luck! And tell me what Eliot novels you've read or loved!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guest Giveaway! (A Victorian Celebration).

Participants of A Victorian Celebration-

The lovely Karen over at Books and Chocolate is hosting a FANTASTIC giveaway for you! There are...22 books to choose from, so I am sure there is something that will catch your eye. ;)

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Warbreaker Post 3: Chapters 24-34.

It's time for the third post on Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker. The group read is hosted by Amanda and Naithin. You can see my thoughts for the first set of questions here, and my thoughts for the second set are here. Needless to say, I am rather enjoying the book. :)

Be advised that I don't intentionally spoil, but if you have plans to read the book, it might be better to skim!

1. Lightsong is beginning to remember his past, or at least, what he thinks is his past. Why do you think this knowledge is coming to him now, after five years as a Returned?

I am fascinated by Lightsong. While I was wary of him to begin with, I feel like we are really getting to know the real man behind the god stature. He's a funny guy, and while he seems to enjoy being irritating and a bit of a laughing-stock, I think there is a lot more to him.

I enjoy his little quests into determining who he once was. The priests say that he has to have done something to earn the right to Return, so wouldn't it be logical for someone, like a detective, to be offered that opportunity? Honestly, I think it would be too easy for Lightsong to have had that kind of a role in his past-don't those kinds of individuals do wonderful things as parts of their jobs?

Anyway, I'm curious to see what else he thinks he remembers about who he was. I also want to know why the priests won't tell the Returned who they were when they were alive. I think that's key to getting a little more information about their supposed divinity.

2. In this section, Vivenna has learned a lot about herself, and not necessarily to her liking. How do you think the new knowledge will change her going forward?

I think Vivenna is finally learning a little tolerance towards the people around her. She grew up in a society where one way of thinking was pushed as correct and everything else was wrong. As she spends more time in T'Telir, she is realizing that her own way of thinking is narrow, condescending, and close-minded.

I'm hoping she changes as the plot moves forward because characters who stay stagnant infuriate me. :)

3. From the beginning of the book, both the Idrians and Lightsong have been telling us that the Returned aren't Gods, and that the Hallendren religion is untrue. Now, though, we've had a few other different perspectives: Jewels' vehement faith in the God King, the God King's own belief in his divinity, and finally, Hoid's collection of historical stories. Given the new information, have your ideas about religion in this book changed? How do you view it now?

First of all, I really like this question. :)

I think the system of divinity and religion in the novel is an interesting one. I mean, how often do gods themselves question their own right to be worshiped? For Lightsong, who doesn't remember his past before he was Returned, he can't put the pieces together as to why anyone would worship him. He sees himself as a lazy, irritating fellow and sees no divinity within himself. He does his job as a god because it is expected, not because he believes in it.

As for the God King, he also knows nothing beyond what he has been told about himself and the Hallendren religion.  He has been told he is a god, so he sees himself as a god. Since the only people around him are priests who tell him so, and servants who wait on him, what else can he really believe?

I really like the perspective of these two because it also made me question whether they should be seen as gods. But what Hoid and Jewels confirm is that the people believe. The fact is, these people Returned for apparently no reason. They were given a second chance after proving themselves at the end of their first life. That opportunity makes them higher than the people around them. In some way, you have to respect that these were honorable men and women before they Returned. They did something to stand out. The religion, in the context of that knowledge, has to be valid, right? But there is still something underneath all of that we haven't been told yet (regarding the God King and his heir). I'm sure we'll find out by the end.

4. Denth says, "Every man is a hero in his own story." What do you make of this, especially given Denth and Vasher's apparent rivalry, and Vivenna and Siri's different perspectives of life in Hallendren and the Gods' court?

We all want to see ourselves on the right and moral side of things. If you believe in something strongly enough, maybe you do become the hero in your own story. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but Denth seems to believe in it. I just think it says a lot about tolerance the ability to change your opinion when faced with facts, but that's a tangent for another day. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

On a Somber Note.

Today has been one of the hardest days that I can remember. And I wasn't sure if I was going to write a post, but I feel like I need to get it out, so a post it is. Sometimes writing is all I have in order to deal with emotion...and I just want to forewarn those involved in my Victorian Event that you might not hear from me this week...

This morning, all of the teachers were asked to leave our third hours and meet in the media center. Our students were left in the room while we had an emergency meeting. Once we were all there, our principal informed us that a fellow teacher passed away. It caught us all off was just a huge shock. The teacher was a long-time member of the faculty, a coach...a well-loved and respected man. He taught across the hall from me. When I taught at this same school last year, he would often come down to talk and give me lesson ideas (since I was teaching history last year). He was always warm and welcoming to me...a newcomer to the building...

Once we were all told, we were sent back to our classrooms and the principal announced the loss over the PA. I have never heard such grief...there is something so heart-breaking about watching teenagers grieve. It got to me on so many levels...and watching them walk through the halls in silence? There is nothing as tense as a high school full of silence and sorrow.

I know that the rest of the week will be difficult. Today was hard enough. My afternoon classes just looked at me in silence when I came in the room-waiting for answers I don't have. I have a headache from crying and trying to hold it in. My mom was wonderful enough to listen to me this afternoon when I needed to talk it out. And I know that the kids will talk tomorrow. Today was shock. Tomorrow the real heartache will hit. And in addition to grieving, the kids have finals starting on Wednesday.

This will definitely be the hardest week....

What I keep remembering, as I am sitting here on the couch with my loving husband and animals, are the images I saw today. Big football players breaking into sobs, teachers with tears in their eyes waiting by their classroom doors, student signing the memorial banner for the teacher...

And the countless students stopping across the hall at his door, touching his name in remembrance, or reading the dozens of inspirational quotes he had by his door. Watching them just pressing their hands against those's something I will never, ever forget.

"I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen, any where, at any
time, is provided for, in the inherences of things;
I do not think Life provides for all, and for Time and Space--but I
believe Heavenly Death provides for all." (Walt Whitman "Assurances")

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (A Victorian Celebration).

 “We learn words by rote, but not their meaning; that must be paid for with our life-blood, and printed in the subtle fibres of our nerves.” 

I decided to sit down a read a book yesterday afternoon. You see, I came home from work at the park and decided to do some blogging. Then I became utterly depressed because while all the participants in my little event are speeding along with their reading, I was still floundering along back at the start waiting to begin. So, I stood and stared at my bookshelves. For a long time. Then I realized I had a volume with Silas Marner, The Lifted Veil, and Brother Jacob. "Couldn't I read one of the latter two titles? They're short, right?" So I clutched my book, sat on the couch, and told myself I couldn't leave until I finished something (except to go change over the laundry).

I decided on reading The Lifted Veil. I hadn't read it before, so I figured it was about time. I've really only read Eliot's longer works, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this super short piece of fiction (I feel I should mention that I love Eliot. All of her work is simply fabulous with The Mill on the Floss being my ultimate favorite-yes, even more so than Middlemarch). So, I sat on my couch and read.

Well, apparently Eliot had a big of courage in her to try something a little different. Maybe I was expecting the usual-pastoral setting, bickering women-folk, and a girl who doesn't quite fit the "normal" role. Nope. Instead I got a story told in first-person from a male voice, and that was vaguely science-fictiony/gothic. It was odd. And not what I was really expecting from my first Victorian piece.

But I dove in, enjoyed it, then set it aside and said, "huh." Yes, I did enjoy Eliot's voice. I feel like I can always pick her out of a crowd-the way she strings sentences together just sings of her work, and I certainly felt that in The Lifted Veil. I also felt slightly if she was trying to maintain a firm grip on what she was writing about and maybe wasn't all that sure of where her story was truly going...

The main character has the ability to see some things in the future, as well as hear the thoughts of others if he allows himself to get close enough. This has set him aside from his relations and those in his community. So when tragedy strikes and he eventually marries, it doesn't really bode well for his marriage. It is an odd story, and one that seemed all too short (my edition was only 55 pages). I felt like I was just getting into his voice when I flipped the last page. I felt like the climax was too soon and then it was over.

Looking around online, I stumbled onto a few theories on why Eliot may have written the novella in the first place. Her real name was Mary Ann Evans (a fact I already knew), but she wrote under the pen name George Eliot in hopes of her identity as a woman being protected. Her first novel, Adam Bede, was published under her pen name, and there was a search done to determine the identity of the writer. The Lifted Veil was published shortly after and her identity was leaked. I suppose there are some direct comparisons. Obviously Eliot had to feel some pressure to be under the public eye (aren't all celebrities?), and that might be reflected in her main character here. He pulls away from society so as not to hurt himself (by hearing their thoughts or getting too close), so perhaps Eliot was pointing out the need for privacy?

I'm just not sure I buy that, or whether I want to dive into thinking that about the novella.

In any case, I'm glad to have finished one Victorian piece, so now I can feel better about myself as the supposed host of the event. :) I still have Brother Jacob to read, and I might get to it later this week. I think it is supposed to be more in her usual style than this one, so I'll look forward to it. :)

Yep. This was read for A Victorian Celebration, as well as the 2012 Victorian Challenge and as a title for my Classics Club List. But was it on the original 250 list? Nope. :)

Upcoming Reading Events.

I have two reading events to talk about-mainly to let you know that I'm participating, and you should too!

(I know you would think that given the Victorian extravaganza I have enough going on, but I don't).

First up is an event taking place this Saturday-Bloomsday.

Bloomsday takes place on the 16th of June every year, and is essentially a celebration of the day in which James Joyce's Ulysses is based. This Saturday a crazy group, including yours truly, is going to try and tackle reading Joyce's ramblings in 24 hours.

I KNOW, right?

But I think it should be fun, and during my one failed attempt at tackling Ulysses, I was mad that I didn't just power through. This will give me the opportunity to do so.

If you want to join in, go and check O's post for all the details. There is also a linky there so you can sign up for the insanity. And, if you just want to read part of Ulysses, or something else by Joyce to celebrate that day, you can do that too. ;)

The second big event is the announcement of the group read for the second book in the Mistborn trilogy. I joined in on the read for the first book a little late, but I flew through the book in no time. I have been anxious to find out what happens next, so I can't even tell you how happy I am to have this on deck!

What other reading events are going on that I should know about? You know me, I'm always looking for the next big challenge! :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Victorian Celebration: International Giveaway!

Hey guys!

I've been feeling a bit bad about the lack of international giveaways on my part during the event, so I am bumping one of them up to today. :) Since I live in the U.S., it is easier for me to ship books already in my possession to folks in the States, but that always leaves you international folk out of the fun! So this giveaway is JUST for you.

That's right-only people who live outside the United States can enter.

The prize?

Your choice of a Victorian Classic. That's right-you pick the title and I'll ship off an edition of whichever Victorian you choose (up to $20) to your house. Sounds awesome, right? :)

Here are the details:
  • This giveaway will be open to anyone who resides OUTSIDE the United States. Please make sure to tell me what country you live in!
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post and answer the following question: Which Victorian would you choose if you won and why?
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Friday, June 15, 2012 EST. 
Happy Reading and Good Luck!!

Weekly Wrap-up for June 10, 2012: Only One More Week.

Well, this is it. My last week of school in my current placement. And while I am excited for summer to be here, I am apprehensive about what this summer will bring. Each summer marks the beginning of a new hiring season. It is still super competitive and all summer I will have that gnawing feeling in the back of my mind-"Will I get a permanent job this year?" I don't have an answer to that question, but I hope that I have a positive answer by the end of the summer.

And a very big part of me is sad to be sending my students on to someone else. Because even though I am just a long-term sub, I care about those kids. I hope they'll do well in the future, and do the great things I know they are capable of doing.

So, this week marks the end of insanity. I'll be working only one job come Saturday. I'll have two days off a week (what AM I going to do with all that free time? Read!). It will be an interesting change. I am looking forward to the lack of grading though. ;)

In other news, the Victorian event is going along swimmingly. There has been such a great response to it, much like the Shakespeare event in January, that I am already thinking of a new event for the late fall (I'm thinking turn of the 20th century-authors like James, Wharton, Faulkner, Woolf), but we'll have to see. Planning these and keeping up with them is a lot of work. But I enjoy the community aspect so much. I love sharing pieces of what I love with those who want to know. In many ways, I see this blog as another form of teaching. But that best part of teaching-the discussion, the community, and the sharing of knowledge.

Anyway, the event is going well. My own reading for the event isn't stellar. I'm trying to finish a few other reading obligations this week so I can fully emerge myself in Victorians for the rest of June and all of July, so you'll have to wait another week to see more from me (I really need to finish Catch-22 today, as well as some of the other things lingering-Warbreaker, Oedipus Rex, and A Passage to India). I may just milk the last two, but the other two I want to finish. I know that some people can do amazingly well in having a million books in progress. Me? It just stresses me out. ;)

But I have done a lot of reading this week. I flew through a big chunk of Catch-22 the other night. I also read all of In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith for the big readalong extravaganza. There was also a big chunk of time yesterday that I got absorbed in Warbreaker. I only have a little bit left, so I should be able to finish it today (see? Now my obligations up there don't seem so bad). I've also dabbled in Nicholas Nickleby a bit, but I've been having a hard time getting back into it. I think I need to sit down on my first day off next week and just fly through the rest. ;)

Well, I have to head in to the park for a few hours. If you're a participant in the Victorian event, enter to win the copy of Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy!

Happy Reading everyone!