July Highlights!

This year is flying by. I can’t believe it’s already August. Before I know it we’ll be in October and I’ll be a mom! I was a little bit busier this month so I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked, but it does feel amazing to be a bookworm again.

I read 3 books:

The Martian Anne of Avonlea Wives and Daughters

Anne of Avonlea is a well-known favorite of mine, but The Martian and Wives and Daughters are new favorites that I LOVED reading! I am now on a Classics-craze which is perfect because I need to get a move on with my Classics Club list.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Book Purchases

What I Watched

Wives and Daughters BBC Little Dorrit

I watched and loved both the Wives and Daughters and Little Dorrit BBC miniseries last month. Matthew Macfadyen is always lovely in a period drama and Andy Serkis will freak you out with his acting talents. And Wives and Daughters is a beautiful adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s unfinished last work. I watched the ending several times :)

July Highlights

  • Hanging out with friends! – We had several movie and game nights this past month. It’s been an important goal for Matt and I to hang out with friends as much as possible before the baby arrives, because then we probably won’t be able to for a while.
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    Playing Ticket to Ride for the first time :)

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    Spending a summer evening downtown with friends watching an 80s cover band (The Breakfast Club)

  • Reading! – Last month I finally felt like a bookworm again. I started a new book as soon as I finished an old one, I carried my Kindle around with me everywhere, and I had a “book hangover” for the first time in months :) I’ve really been into Classics lately and I wish I could be reading them all at once. I also finally organized the bookshelves in our living room:
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  • Surprise trip to Atlanta! – Last month I drove to Atlanta with my best friend Jae to surprise our other best friend McKenzie after she got engaged :) Her fiancé coordinated everything and he did a fantastic job. It was so thoughtful of him to ask McKenzie’s close friends to be there and I know it meant a lot to all of us.
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    After dinner selfies with my friends Caroline and Jae.

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    With my newly engaged BFF McKenzie!

July Challenges

  • Being uncomfortable – I was at the end of my second trimester in July, so things are starting to become more and more uncomfortable for me. I have such a short torso already so that doesn’t help. Bending over to put on shoes or pet the dog cuts off my circulation a bit and most nights I can’t find a good sleeping position. But as of today I have 12 weeks to go! Little Baby French Fry will be here before we know it :)

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    27 weeks & 1 day

  • Longing for autumn – I’m so tired of summer and I can’t wait for my favorite season to arrive! I’ve already seen so many autumn decorations out in the stores and last week I even bought a fall-themed monogrammed banner for our front door on sale at Joann’s :) I can’t wait for cooler weather, changing leaves, college football, Thanksgiving, and a sweet baby boy to arrive!

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    It’s hard to enjoy the lingering summer months when autumnal candles bombard me with their lovely scents.

Looking Forward To in August

  • Read-alongs – I’m participating in a read-along of Villette with my Goodreads group this month. I’m also joining a 4-month read-along of the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter) hosted by The Book Addict’s Guide. Both of these read-alongs just started so feel free to join in :)
  • Austen in August – This year I’m participating in two different Austen in August events! One is month-long and the other is a week-long. I plan on reading Sense and Sensibility as well as some modern Austen-inspired adaptations. I’ll be posting several Austen-themed blog posts, and I’m even hosting a giveaway at the end of the month :)
  • Preparing for my baby shower – It’s in just over a month from now and I can’t wait! My mom and my dear friend Robin are helping plan it and already I’m overwhelmed by all the love and support I’ve felt from them and from all my other friends during my pregnancy.
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War and Peace Read-Along: Week 3, Books 4 and 5

76051-war2band2bpeace2bread-a-longThis week’s reading was so much more interesting! There was drama, dueling, death, rejected marriage proposals! I love 19th-century drama :)

Here are my answer’s to this week’s discussion questions:

1. Are you managing to keep all the characters straight in your head?
Yes, finally. The only one I had to look up this week was Denisov, because I was confusing him with Dolokhov. And the fact that I spelled their names right without looking them up is saying something!

2. Have your tactics that we discussed in Week One changed since beginning this book?
I’m no longer reading every night. Instead, I read larger portions so I can spend other nights doing/reading other things.

3. Aww, poor Pierre. Do we feel sorry for him or is it his own fault for marrying for lust?
I pitied Pierre a lot in the earlier books. I felt sorry for him and I sympathized with him, but as Books 4 and 5 progressed, I started getting fed up with him and his naivety. I mean, how many times is he going to let people take advantage of him?

4. Do you think Dolokhov will get his comeuppance – not only for sleeping with Helene, but for basically bankrupting Rostov?
But did he sleep with Helene? We don’t know! No one confirmed or denied it. And although he bankrupted Rostov, Rostov did nothing to stop it. He’s just as guilty. And I hope he follows through with his plan to reimburse his parents. I like Rostov more than some of the other characters, so I hope he does the right thing.

5. Who knew the FREEMASONS were part of War & Peace!? How do you feel about this?
Confused. The philosophical discussions go right over my head, and the induction ceremony felt so cult-like.

6. Do you think Tolstoy dislikes women as much as he seems to, or is it a form of satire?
Hmm…I think he satirizes all the characters, not just the women. Did Tolstoy dislike women? I haven’t done any research on it, so if he did, maybe I’m just not reading deeply enough into the novel.

“I am afraid my way of looking at the world is so opposed to yours that we shall not understand one another.” – Pierre

Are you reading along with us? How are you liking the book so far? I flew through Book 4; it was so intriguing!

War and Peace Read-Along: Week Two, Books Two and Three

War and Peace Read Along

Hanna from Booking In Heels is hosting a read-along of War and Peace through February, March, and half of April, and I am one of the bloggers crazy enough to join in! Honestly, it’s not as bad as I always imagined it would be, although it can be pretty daunting.

Unfortunately, I was behind in my reading for this past week! I think that can be attributed to the fact that this weekend I was busy doing Valentine’s Day festivities with my hubby (so totally more important that Tolstoy), but also…there were TONS of loooooong war chapters this week, am I right? It took me most of the week to get through Book Two because it was full of war strategies and history lessons. Book Three was much easier to get through.

[spoilers below for Books 2 and 3 of War and Peace!]

The biggest happenings in Books Two and Three are the marriage of Pierre and Helen (ugh), Marya’s rejection of Anatole (YES!), and the Battle of Austerlitz, where the Russians suffer a huge defeat.

1. Do you feel that the tone of the novel has changed this week? Has that affected your enjoyment?
Book Two was sooooo long and honestly I got pretty tired of all the war descriptions. I was longing for Book Three because they included several “gossipy” chapters (that’s what I’m calling them from now on since they feature the two-faced gossipy characters) where some more interesting plot points unfolded. But the last half of Book Three brought us back to the war front, but at least it was a tad bit more exciting.

2. Do you feel comfortable telling other people that you’re reading War & Peace?
Absolutely. I just don’t like being applauded for reading it. Yeah, it’s a big personal accomplishment for me, but I’m not reading it to be impressive. I’m reading it because I genuinely want to.

3. How do you feel about Helene and Pierre’s marriage? Happily ever after or mildly doomed?
Totally doomed. I was practically yelling at Pierre to open his eyes and realize how badly Prince Vasili was playing him. But now that they’re married, I would love for it to work out. I just don’t think it will.

4. Should Marya have married Anatole or should she have stayed at home with her father?
As much as I dislike Marya’s father, Anatole is a huge egotistical jerk. I love Marya; even though she’s naive as anything, she’s also pure of heart and completely selfless. I’m holding onto the hope that one day she’ll marry someone who is actually honorable (is that an impossible hope? DON’T TELL ME!)

“My vocation is to be happy with another kind of happiness, the happiness of love and self-sacrifice.” – Marya

5. Andrei has featured in a lot of the war-related chapters so far. Do you think he’ll ever make it to military greatness?
I am now a quarter of the way through this novel and I STILL don’t know how I feel about Andrei. I don’t necessarily like him, but I don’t dislike him either. I think he could be a great military figure, but will he succeed in that? *shrugs*

Ok, I hope this week’s chapters are more captivating than last week’s were! How are the rest of the Read-Alongers doing??

War and Peace Read-Along: Week One, Book One

I recently heard about a War and Peace read-along hosted by Hanna at Booking In Heels and since I know this novel will be much easier to read with a group of other bloggers than it would be to read it on my own, I have decided to participate!

As you can see, it is a two-and-a-half month-long event, so we only have to read 1-2 books a week (there are 15 plus 2 epilogues), which is doable.

This week we read Book 1, and since I have never read anything by Tolstoy or any other Russian novelist, it took a lot of effort to keep track of all of the characters (there are plenty), as well as figure out how to even pronounce their names.

[spoilers below for Book 1 of War and Peace]

The main plot points that take place during Book 1 are the death of Count Bezukhov, the legitimacy of his son Pierre (who is then able to receive the Count’s inheritance, much to the shock of the rest of the family), and the deployment of Prince Andrew.

  1. What pre-existing ideas did you have about War and Peace?
    I expected it to be long and boring.
  2. On that note, is it as bad as you’d expected?
    While it is long (1,000+ pages), it isn’t boring. At the same time, not much has happened either. So it’s interesting that it’s able to keep my attention.
  3. What strategies are you employing? (e.g. reading in short bursts, using your Kindle on your commute, taking notes about the characters…)
    I printed out a list of characters (8 pages long!) because there are so many and it’s hard to keep track of who is who. At this point, only a handful of the characters are familiar to me–when I see Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya (isn’t that a mouthful?) or Pierre or Prince Vicili, I know who they are. But most of the characters are completely unknown to me.
    I’m also reading a specific number of chapters per night (~4) so that helps keep me on track and the chapters are fairly short so I can take breaks.

    War and Peace

    Keeping my 8-page list of War and Peace characters handy!

  4. How are you getting along with your translation?
    The Kindle version I’m using is great. Much better than lugging around a printed book. They’ve translated the French segments, but since I speak French that wouldn’t be a problem for me. (Side note: this also aided me while reading Jane Eyre. I think every reader should learn French; you never know when you’ll need to translate book dialogue!)
  5. Most and least favorite characters?
    Favorite character: So far I like Princess Mary (I think she also goes by Maria?). She seems sweet.
    Least favorite: By far, Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya is my least favorite. She reminds me of those women who just butt into everything that doesn’t concern them. I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way?
  6. How do you feel about the way women are treated in the book?
    I feel that they are looked down upon; their opinions are condescended and they are often criticized by the male characters (and even other female characters).

“I am a woman, and you think we are all stupid;” – Princess Katishe

If you’re interested in reading along with us, it’s not too late to join! Click here for the schedule.

Wuthering Heights Chapters X-XVII

wutheringheightsI apologize for not posting this much earlier in the week. The past five days have been rather taxing on me, both mentally and emotionally, and I have been trying to keep up with all of my responsibilities as best as I can. Heureusement (as the French say), the only thing I didn’t manage to complete this week was my Wuthering Heights post, but here it is now!

[Spoilers for the first half of Wuthering Heights]

I was really immersed in this week’s chapters for some reason, and I even stayed up rather late on Saturday reading through the end of Chapter 17. For those of you who are reading along with me, or if you are very familiar with Wuthering Heights, you may be asking, “What did you find so enjoyable about all of that?” And I will borrow the words of Cleo at Classical Carousel and say that the drama in this novel is very much like a car wreck you cannot look away from.

Nelly Dean’s story continues with Heathcliff’s return. She discloses that she does not know how he spent those three years away, nor how he made his wealth, but one thing is for sure: Heathcliff and Catherine are still infatuated with each other, and they seem to take some type of sadistic pleasure in how their outwardly affections distress Catherine’s husband, Edgar.

Heathcliff, who seems to have become a gentleman in his absence, begins spending a good amount of time with Catherine and her sister-in-law, Isabella Linton. Isabella–poor, naive Isabella. Don’t we all just pity her? Blindly, she “falls in love” with Heathcliff, and is then harshly teased about it by Catherine and even Heathcliff himself (but does this change Isabella’s heart? Nope. She runs off and marries Heathcliff later on…). That teasing scene is probably my least favorite involving Catherine Linton. The only thing more cruelly selfish than exposing Isabella like that is when she maliciously decides to break her own heart in order to break Edgar and Heathcliff’s hearts. Honestly, what does Edgar see in her? Heathcliff’s obsession with her is more understandable, but why, Edgar? Why? This comic from Hark! A Vagrant sums it up perfectly:

Catherine

And Heathcliff is just as violent as Catherine, although he has the “tortured Byronic hero” thing going for him (but I have yet to discover any redeeming qualities about him–are there any?). It is clear during this entire section of the novel that Heathcliff has developed a consuming desire for revenge. All of his actions are governed by the same thought: “How can this hurt those who have hurt me?” And he doesn’t just want to hurt his former oppressors once; no, he wants to control everything about them, basically putting them in the place that adolescent Heathcliff was forced in by Hindley. This is why he marries Isabella, so he can become Edgar’s heir, and it’s clearly why he wants guardianship of Hareton. He says so himself at the end of Chapter 17, when Nelly comes to collect Hareton back to Thrushcross Grange:

“Now, my bonny lad, you are mine! And we’ll see if one tree won’t grow as crooked as another, with the same wind to twist it!” (172)

Heathcliff

Nelly, who views Heathcliff as a nightmare, described his presence perfectly back in Chapter 10:

“His visits were a continual nightmare to me; and, I suspected, to my master also. His abode at the Heights was an oppression past explaining. I felt that God had forsaken the stray sheep there to its own wicked wanderings, and an evil beast prowled between it and the fold, waiting his time to spring and destroy” (98)

‘Evil Beast’ and ‘Heathcliff’ are names I should use interchangeably from now on.

So, by the end of Chapter 17 Heathcliff has returned for a year, and in that time he ran off and eloped with Isabella, whom he then tormented until she finally flees, he fights with Edgar, which causes Catherine to became ill and later die during childbirth, and if that’s not enough, it also appears that Heathcliff is responsible for Hindley finally drinking himself to death sooner rather than later.

But this section isn’t all bad. Heathcliff speaks some of those heart-wrenching romantic lines I enjoy for some reason, like when he discloses to Nelly that he would never have harmed Edgar or “touched a single hair of his head” (136) because it would cause Catherine to suffer. Although Heathcliff would have killed Edgar the moment Catherine stopped caring for him, the fact is that Edgar physically assaulted Heathcliff, and not the other way around. Maybe this is supposed to convince us that Heathcliff genuinely and selflessly loves Catherine? I’m not going to agree with that until I finish this novel–nothing is for certain at this point except that Heathcliff is still seeking revenge!

What do you think of Heathcliff’s revenge thus far? Do you sympathize with him or do you want to chuck your book at his head? And whose story is the saddest so far: Hindley’s, Isabella’s, Edgar’s, or Catherine & Heathcliff’s?

[Also, if your edition does not include a translation for Joseph’s speeches (which I’ve stopped trying to decipher on my own), this is a great site to refer to: http://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/josephs-speech.php It also has a lot of other interesting resources to check out.]

Wuthering Heights Read Along: Chapters I-IX

wutheringheightsI was somewhat doubtful at my ability to get this post up tonight, but fortunately I got really immersed into the last few chapters of this week’s reading and was able to speed through it on my way home from Philadelphia tonight! I was in Philly today visiting my uncle and his family (whom I haven’t seen since my wedding two years ago!), and the frigid, dreary weather set the perfect atmosphere for Wuthering Heights. January’s are known to be wet and cold, and that is why I chose this month to schedule a read-along; I love seasonal reading! So, let’s get down to discussing all of the perturbing details of Wuthering Heights! [Spoiler Alert for Chapters 1-9 of Wuthering Heights]

I did not look at where Chapter 9 would leave us plot wise before I set the weekly chapter numbers; I just divided the book up equally between four weeks. But after finishing Chapter 9 I realized this was a perfect resting place. But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? I mentioned in an earlier post that the first and last time I read Wuthering Heights was ten and a half years ago, and even though I liked the novel at the time, I could not make myself relate to, sympathize with, or even like our two tragically selfish characters, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Delving into this reread, I’ve realized that, even though the characters are still unlikable for me (especially Cathy), I am actually very into the novel so far!

We follow the diary entries of a Mr. Lockwood, who just became the tenant of Heathcliff, our Byronic hero. Right away we get to meet Heathcliff and the rest of his household, and Emily Brontë immediately introduces this motif of chaos, specifically with character confusion. If you don’t pay close attention, it can be tricky figuring out who is who as well as how everyone is related to each other. If my memory serves me correctly, it will get harder later on when we have two Catherines and two Heathcliffs, on top of all the Lintons and Earnshaws that are involved. If you are already familiar with this novel, or if you don’t mind some spoiling, you can check out this character map to aid any confusion you may have :)

We take on the point of view of Mr. Lockwood as we become acquainted with Heathcliff, his daughter-in-law Catherine Heathcliff, Hareton Earnshaw (later revealed to be Catherine H.’s cousin), and the…interesting…servants. Between the hostile dogs and the eerie ghost dreams, I found myself wanting to flee Wuthering Heights nearly as much as Mr. Lockwood did.

I was much more into the next several chapters, when Ellen ‘Nelly’ Dean begins her narration of Heathcliff’s upbringing. This is the part that helps me sympathize with Heathcliff. It helps me reconcile the harsh and unfeeling land lord with the abused and ridiculed orphan boy who needs a hug at one moment and a slap the next. The only person who seems to understand or connect with him is Cathy Earnshaw, but their relationship is no picnic. It is tortured and strongly corrupted by the pitfalls of human nature. One thing I do appreciate about their relationship, however, is that it seems to be sadly realistic–something that could happen to some unfortunate couple. This is no fairy tale.

The most fundamental section of this week’s reading for me was Chapter 9, when Cathy E. reveals to Nelly her recent engagement to Edgar Linton before bluntly confessing her love for Heathcliff. Here we see an honest part of Cathy. She is a complex character: at home she acts in a mischievous and immature manner which she quickly covers up with a charming and attractive façade whenever in company with the Lintons. During this confession scene, we get to see an honest part of Cathy’s character. Unfortunately, due to her harsh delivery of words and the fact that she is unaware that Heathcliff is within earshot, she declares that it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff. At this insult, Heathcliff flees Wuthering Heights, and the most tragic part is that it is just before Cathy makes this beautifully heartfelt speech, which I will quote bits and pieces of here:

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire…My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.—My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”

I know that’s a long passage, but how beautiful and moving it is! And just after it we find that Heathcliff has disappeared and Cathy immediately goes into despair. Three years pass, Cathy marries Edgar, and Nelly’s narration comes to a pause as Chapter 9 draws to a close. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?? I honestly can’t remember, and I really want to know!

So, to wrap up this long post, let me ask you all some questions:

  • What do you think about Cathy’s engagement to Edgar? Do you think her reasons for marrying him are naive, immature/shallow, or unselfish?
  • I talked about how confusing this novel can be at times. Are there any areas that have confused you thus far?
  • What are your feelings regarding our seemingly doomed lovers, Cathy and Heathcliff?

If you are reading along with us or if you have already read Wuthering Heights, post your thoughts/blog link in the comments below! And check back in a week for my thoughts on Chapters 10-17 :)

Announcing: Wuthering Heights Read-Along

WutheringHeightsA few months ago I participated in a Jane Eyre read-along hosted by the lovely Kerry at Entomology of a Bookworm. It was my first time reading Charlotte Brontë’s beloved novel, and I came to adore it so much that I decided to give her sister Emily’s novel, Wuthering Heights, a second chance. The first and only time I read Wuthering Heights was in 2003, back when I was just a freshman in high school. At that time I enjoyed reading it, despite my dislike for the main characters. But as the years passed, I came to really despise them and I put off any desire of ever reading the novel again.

Fortunately, thanks to the skill and beauty of Charlotte Brontë’s writing, I have decided to give Wuthering Heights a well-deserved second chance. I know that Emily Brontë writes beautifully as well, and at least now that I know what to expect from the main characters, I will not be disappointed. Also, what is the new year for if not to start over fresh? ;) Now I am actually quite excited to revisit this tortured love story!

And to make it even more exciting, thanks to the encouragement of my good friend Jorie at Jorie Loves a Story, I have decided to turn this into a group read along! Whether you are like me and you want to give Wuthering Heights a second chance, or if you’ve never read it, OR (and especially) if this is your favorite novel of all time, I’d love for you to join in with me!

Here is the tentative schedule (I say tentative because we all know how hectic the holiday season can get!)

Week 1 (January 5-January 11): Chapters I-IX
Week 2 (January 12-January 18): Chapters X-XVII
Week 3 (January 19-January 25): Chapters XVIII-XXVI
Week 4 (January 26-February 1): Chapters XXVII-XXXIV (End)

Let me know in the comments if you would like to join in! I think January is going to be a wonderful time to read this novel :)