Does Format Impact Interpretation? | Discussion

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While reading a of James Gleick’s The Information last semester for a course, one part struck me particularly hard. In discussing the transition from mailing letters and utilizing various messengers to the rise of the telegraph, Gleick points out that “a message had seemed to be a physical object. That was always an illusion; now people needed consciously to divorce their conception of the message from the paper on which it was written.” This reconceptualization of what constitutes a “message” has made me think about what we consider such communication to be today.

10728649In our modern society, the most popular and common form of communication is text messaging via cell phones, especially among the younger generations. However, there is an argument often voiced by the older generation that a text message cannot replace face-to-face communication or handwritten letters. Evidence frequently cited to bolster this argument includes the brevity, increased frequency, lack of proper grammar, and the more casual writing style used when texting. Yet I would counter this argument by emphasizing that change does not necessarily equate to degradation, though the rise of texting certainly comes with its own set of issues. Of course, face-to-face communication is an incredibly valuable aspect of a relationship, but that is not to say that it is the only way people should stay in touch with one another. For instance, without the help of the advanced communication technology we have today, people would not be able to maintain such close relationships with family members and friends who live far away. Moreover, news of current events would no longer be “current,” for it would take much longer to alert nations overseas of what was going on in another country. No matter one’s opinion on the subject, it’s clear that our fast-paced culture rooted in instant gratification could not adequately function at this point without the existence of immediate communication with anyone, at any time, and in almost any place.

Moreover, I think the core of this argument reveals even more interesting and thought-provoking questions: How much of an impact does the medium of communication have on what we are actually trying to communicate? Does it impact the sender, the receiver, or both parties? The materiality and physicality of language is something that we often forget about in our digital culture, but it is actually all around us. Perhaps it would be beneficial to reevaluate Gleick’s remark about the tangibility of messages: though we cannot physically hold language in our hands, this does not mean that it lacks all forms of materiality.

In terms of the bookish community, I think it’s particularly interesting to think about how materiality affects our interpretation and perception of what we read. Most contentiously: Does the format through which we consume a story impact our thoughts about it? Will my opinion of a book change if I listen to the audio book version instead of reading a paper copy or even in ebook form? 

What do you think? How important is materiality or format when it comes to reading or even communicating in general? Do you feel as though you perceive books differently depending on the format in which you consume them? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The Captain America Book Tag

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A while ago I saw the Captain America Book Tag on Bookmark Lit and even though I wasn’t specifically tagged I knew I would have to do it eventually. Captain America is by far my favorite Marvel Avenger and the fact that this tag blends this amazing hero with books makes me want to give Morgan @ Gone with the Words, the creator of this book tag, a standing ovation.

Without further ado, let’s start the tag!

Great ExpectationsSteve Rogers/Captain America: a book with a big character transformation

Pip from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is just one of the many characters in this classic novel that undergoes a massive amount of character development over the course of the story. They don’t call it a bildungsroman for nothing!

18405Peggy Carter: a book with a strong female protagonist

If it’s a strong, independent, determined, headstrong female protagonist you want, then look no further than Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Though she can be stubborn, rash, and melodramatic, there’s no doubting her incredible strength in the face of poverty, death, and heartbreak.

The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterBucky Barnes: a book with your ultimate BROTP

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is oozing with BROTPs galore. You can always count on Maggie Stiefvater to write adorable, relatable, and enviable friendships in general. (Honestly, just one of countless reasons to read this fantastic series!)

looking for alaskaHowling Commandos: a book with squad goals

Miles’ eclectic group of friends has always been one of the many reasons why I love Looking for Alaska by John Green. They have so much fun with their wacky adventures and it’s clear that they really care for and support one another, as all good friends should.

pride and prejudice cover 2Red Skull: a book with a cliché plot

I’m not going to lie: at this point, so many people have copied her that the plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice seems pretty cliché nowadays. Of course, we can’t really blame her for this– it has been centuries since it was written, after all!

23732096-2Natasha Romanoff: a book with a snarky side character

Nancy from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North & Erica Henderson is the ultimate snark side character. She’s smart, has a hilarious dry sense of humor, and is always ready with a quick quip or two to liven things up.

When We CollidedSam Wilson: a book with a friendship meet cute.

When We Collided by Emery Lord is filled with adorable moments, but one of the cutest is when John and Vivi first meet at the pottery shop. Their cuteness is even multiplied by the inclusion of Jonah’s little sister in the scene. It doesn’t get more adorable than that!

more than this coverWinter Soldier: a book with a great twist (plot twist or retelling)

How could I not highlight the amazing plot twist of More Than This by Patrick Ness? I still remember the shock I felt when I first read it, even though it was a few years ago now. I never saw it coming!

gone coverI’m Just A Kid from Brooklyn: a book with a memorable setting/character backstory

Nearly all of the characters in the Gone series by Michael Grant have interesting, surprising, and complex backstories. Considering how many characters are introduced throughout these six books, that’s quite a feat!

matched coverDo You Two…. Fondue?: a book with a love triangle

SO. MANY. LOVE. TRIANGLES. There are a million books to choose from, but I’ll go with Matched by Ally Condie. I’m just going to be honest with you all: this love triangle was really annoying and simply bothersome. Like with most love triangles, there’s just so much drama involved!

life after life coverYou’ve Been Asleep, Cap: a book you love with a dual timeline/time travel

I’m not really sure what to call the twisting and turning timeline of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson…. Time travel? Multiple perspectives? Rewriting history? Whatever you’d like to call it, I’ve never read a novel that plays with time quite like this one does.

jellicoe road coverTil The End Of The Line: a book with the OTP to end all OTPs

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Taylor and Jonah from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta are my favorite OTP, if I had to choose just one. If you haven’t read this book already, what are you waiting for?! ❤

IlluminaeI Had A Date: a book with a cliffhanger

I remember finishing Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and immediately wanting to read a sequel. The ending was way more intense and fast-paced than expected, especially considering the experimental format of the book itself. If you want a book that will leave you hanging, I definitely recommend this one!

fangirl coverI Understood That Reference: a book with a pop culture reference

The first book that popped into my mind when I read this prompt was predictably Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Though the pop culture reference in this book is fictional, Simon Snow resembles a popular magical series about wizards closely enough that I feel like it mirrors an actual reference.

What are your answers to these prompts? What do you think about the books I’ve mentioned? Who is your favorite superhero? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED by Gail Collins | Review

8174415When Everything Changed is an incredibly comprehensive account of how the role of women in society has changed throughout recent American history. Though I expected this book to have a certain level of detail in its research, I did not expect it to discuss this topic from such a wide variety of perspectives. Here the heterosexual white woman must share center stage with lesbians and women of color as well, piecing together a historical view that is much more holistic in its approach. For instance, Collins emphasizes the struggles of Native American women who have been further discriminated against and marginalized due to their culture. History is never one-sided; consequently, Collins has clearly made an effort to reflect as many sides of the historical dice as possible.

While reading, I found there to be both advantages and disadvantages to the way this book is organized. In general, the overarching structure of this book worked really well. It was divided into parts and chapters, with each chapter being further divided into different sections that each began and revolved around specific quotes. It was a subtle way to keep important themes alive throughout the entire text without directly stating them each time. However, at times the narrative felt a bit disjointed, mostly because Collins tended to go off on tangents about certain women or events. Though she always meandered back to the main topic eventually, these diversions made it more difficult to follow the chronological line that Collins initially seemed to be following.

One of the last topics that Collins discusses in When Everything Changed is Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. Though she was not successful in gaining the seat in office, at the time her attempt was nevertheless hailed as a political success for women. Part of me couldn’t help but wonder what remarks Collins might make about Hillary’s most recent presidential campaign and the results of the presidential election in general. (Is this me secretly hoping for the publication of an updated edition? YES.) In light of these recent events, I think that Collins’ book and the questions asks are not only relevant but vital for our society to be thinking about when moving forward.

Overall, there are so many reasons why I enjoyed reading When Everything Changed: it captivated me, educated me, and made me think. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking to gain more knowledge about the role American women have played in society in recent decades, look no further than Collins’ comprehensive, entertaining, and thought-provoking account.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! I think that this is an important topic for anyone and everyone to learn more about, regardless of gender.

Have you read this book before? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Have any other recommendations for Gail Collins’ writing or books about this topic in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gem Books

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Happy Tuesday! I’m really excited about this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme because we’re sharing our Top Ten Hidden Gem Books– who isn’t excited to talk about fantastic books that deserve more praise? There are so many amazing books out there that deserve a larger audience and that aren’t talked about or read often enough. Narrowing down this list to only ten books was not easy, but I did it! In no particular order, here are ten hidden gem books that I highly recommend:

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What are some of your favorite books that deserve more time in the spotlight? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

On Separating Women from their Work | Discussion

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Today I’m here to talk about a thought-provoking topic that I’ve been pondering a lot in recent weeks: the correlation between women and their literary work. Should the success of a women’s work be tied to her personal reputation in society? From an even broader angle, should the personal reputations of authors in general impact how successful their work sells or is perceived by readers?

Shelley DeWees hits on this topic a lot from a gendered perspective in her book Not Just Jane, an in-depth look at seven women writers who have not received nearly enough credit for their important influence on British literature. In her chapter on writer Mary Robinson, DeWees writes:

“Here is our line of demarcation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women, and thus ‘good’ and ‘bad’ books– in much the same way that, in the previous century, when chaste royalist women writers like Katherine Philips were held above more daring ones such as Aphra Behn, critics were unrelenting in their inability (or refusal) to separate an author’s literary merit from her sex.”

In other words, the details of a women’s personal relationships and sex life was imperative in determining the sales of her work. Centuries ago, a “sexually deviant” women could hardly have hoped to sell much of anything in terms of poetry, stories, or novels. But what about their personal lives changed the actual text of their work? (Answer: NOTHING). Despite the fact that absolutely no tangible changes occurred in the text of their novels or poetry, sales plummeted as the general public began to perceive certain women as immoral, improper, or uncivilized. In this context, I believe that there is no reason to connect the personal lives of women with their work. What importance does a women’s marriage, family, or alleged affair have on their work? More importantly, I believe that texts should not be denounced strictly due to the fact that the author is a women. 

However, the argument can also be made that supporting the work of an author is showing indirect support for his or her actions. In other words, money talks. Personally, I think it largely depends on what the specific “scandal” or situation regarding the author in question is. For example, I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing a book by an author who recently went through a terrible divorce. On the other hand, I would certainly hesitate before buying a book written by an openly homophobic, racist, sexist, or offensive writer.

But can we pick and choose scenarios like this? Who has the right to decide the circumstances under which an author’s personal life can and should influence the success of his or her work? Should we separate authors from their work?

I would love to hear what you have to say about this topic. Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Entertainer Blogger Award

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Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? Recently while eating my usual morning bowl of granola I discovered that I had been nominated for the Entertainer Blogger Award. Not only are these posts really fun to put together, but I also feel as though they help bring the blogging community closer through recognizing other bloggers. A big thanks to the Closet Readers for nominating me!

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  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • Nominate 12 other bloggers.

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Why did you start your blog in the first place? 

I started my blog in high school to keep a record of my thoughts on the books that I read. Initially I had no idea that such an active, enthusiastic, and bookish blogging community even existed. Now I blog not only to record my bookish thoughts but to connect with other readers as well.

What is your favorite book? 

Ah, the most difficult question of all! I don’t have a definitive, single answer to this question, but here are a few of my all time favorite books:

  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I’m sure there are others as well, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. It really depends on my mood as to what my favorite book is!

What do you dislike the most? 

People who are disrespectful, inconsiderate, or simply mean. There’s no reason not to be kind!

What is your favorite food item from the mall? 

PRETZEL BITES. They’re hot and buttery and everything wonderful in this world. ❤

What is your favorite pastime? 

Besides reading and blogging, my favorite past times are writing, knitting, and crafting. I especially love filling in Wreck This Journal pages, which I’ve shared many of on this blog in the past.

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What an interesting and kind of random assortment of questions! Nevertheless, they were a lot of fun to answer. What are your answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE TRUTH ABOUT STYLE by Stacy London | Review

13588439Stacy London has been an inspirational figure in my life for years. Back when she and Clinton Kelly starred in their TLC television show What Not to Wear, I was enthralled by her seemingly innate ability to empower others. No matter an individual’s problems with self-esteem or self-confidence, Stacy seemed to always know exactly what to say to help them stand a bit taller and smile a bit brighter. I looked forward to watching her help people improve their lives each day at lunchtime. In my eyes, her work was about far more than simply choosing the right clothing off of the rack; rather, she made it her job to help people realize their great potential, both in terms of style and personal worth.

The Truth About Style is expertly infused with this same blend of style advice and inspirational empowerment. Though the bulk of the book focuses on the style challenges of various women, it’s more about lifestyle than fashion. As Stacy says in the first few pages:

“…my book doesn’t only deal with how to dress well, and why you should, but it examines why you don’t. We all put obstacles in our own path toward personal style, myself included. If we understood why we constructed these practical and emotional obstacles, we might move beyond them to healthier, happier perceptions of ourselves and, ideally, a better sense of self-esteem.” 

As much as this book is about self-acceptance and boosting one’s self-confidence, it also addresses the importance of recognizing and understanding the reasons why doing so is often difficult for us. Stacy shines a light on numerous taboos topics, from eating disorders and illness to fearing old age and living as a single woman in a society preoccupied with romantic relationships. We all have obstacles that may prevent us from reaching our personal best if we let them. Stacy’s argument is simple: We don’t have to let them. 

What makes this book so effective? For me, it is undoubtedly the incorporation of Stacy’s own personal experiences throughout the entire book. Her path to where she is today is inspirational in and of itself and I can’t help but marvel at the adversity that she has overcome. One would likely never guess that this successful woman has struggled with psoriasis, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. When she gives advice to women about body image or accepting their own scars, it is therefore obvious that Stacy is speaking from the heart based on her personal experiences. Stacy’s personality and voice is woven into every thread of this book. It almost feels as though she is speaking directly to the reader, making me laugh with her quirky, goofy humor and lean in closer to say in her whispered wisdom.

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In this way, The Truth About Style is exactly the book I hoped it would be. As soon as I opened the first page I was instantly transported back to the days of watching her on What Not to Wear, wishing that I could somehow carry around a mini Stacy London on my shoulder in times of trouble. Perhaps that’s what this book is for me: a dose of empowerment that I can interpret and make my own.

Is this a book about a style? Yes. Is it a sort of memoir? Yes. But I think it’s meant to be as much about the reader as it is Stacy herself. As Stacy writes in her book:

“Style can change your look, certainly, but it can also change your life.”

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: OF COURSE!!

Have you ever read this book before? Are you a fan of What Not to Wear? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2016 But Didn’t Get To

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Happy Tuesday! I hope you’re all doing well after the holiday season. I know that I always feel a bit blue, but Top Ten Tuesday never fails to cheer me up. This week I’ll be sharing the Top Ten Books I Meant to Read in 2016 But Didn’t Get To. My list of books was so long that it was actually kind of difficult to narrow it down… but I managed!

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What are some books that you meant to read in 2016 but never got around to? What do you think of the books I mentioned? Which one of these should I put at the top of my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Stationary Book Tag

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Hello, hello! Today I bring you another tag, this time about one of my favorite things: stationary! I love school supplies, paper products, pens, pencils, notebooks– if it can be found in an office supplies store, then chances are that I adore it. Luckily, this lovely Stationary Book Tag exists for stationary lovers such as myself. Thanks so much to Giovanna @ Book Coma Blog for tagging me!

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  • Thank the creator: Sam @ RiverMooseReads, Thank you!
  • Answer the questions.
  • Add pictures! (If you want to)
  • Tag (about) 5 people.

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The_BFG_(Dahl_novel_-_cover_art)PENCILS: FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK.

Definitely The BFG by Roald Dahl. I reread this childhood favorite of mine this past summer for the first time since fifth grade and I absolutely adored it. How can you say no to the Big Friendly Giant’s cute, oversized ears?

the great gatsby coverPENS: A BASIC STAPLE FOR ANY READER.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, hands down. There are just so many great reasons to read this classic American novel– the beautiful writing style, the many modern references to the story, the abundant symbolism and questions and raises about the so-called “American Dream.” I think everyone should read about good ol’ Gatsby!

the hobbit coverNOTEBOOKS: BOOKS YOU OWN MULTIPLE COPIES OF.

Surprisingly enough, I think the only book I own multiple copies of is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve thought about buying different editions of the same book depending on the different covers, but I just can’t justify spending the money when I already own a copy of it.

A Darker Shade final for IreneMARKERS: BOOKS WITH BEAUTIFUL COVERS.

A Darker Shade of Magic and the other books in this fantasy series by V.E. Schwab. I love the color scheme as well as the simple but interesting use of geometric shapes. Plus, just look at that font!

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone coverGLUE: TWO CHARACTERS THAT WORK TOGETHER EVEN IF THEY AREN’T TOGETHER.

Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I’ve always wanted these two wonderful characters to end up together– they’re both quirky and kind and would be so cute as a couple!

29069989SCISSORS: WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LIKE TO DESTROY.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany.  (A bit harsh? Maybe. Do I apologize? Not in the slightest.) I was just really disappointed with this book, as you can probably tell.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne CollinsART KIT: WHAT COMPLETED SERIES YOU OWN.

From my glory days in the elementary school reading enrichment program I still own the entirety of the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. This was back before she was of Hunger Games fame… boy, that feels like ages ago!

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  1. Marta @ The Book Mermaid
  2. MC @ Blame It On The Books
  3. Emily @ Rose Read
  4. Conny @ Literati Girl
  5. Amy @ Curiouser and Curiouser

What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? What is your favorite kind of school supplies? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

NOT JUST JANE by Shelley DeWees | Review

*** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. **

28925229-2“In Not Just Jane, Shelley DeWees weaves history, biography, and critical analysis into a rip-roaring narrative of the nation’s fabulous, yet mostly forgotten, female literary heritage. As the country, and women’s roles within it, evolved, so did the publishing industry, driving legions of ladies to pick up their pens and hit the parchment. Focusing on the creative contributions and personal stories of seven astonishing women, among them pioneers of detective fiction and the modern fantasy novel, DeWees assembles a riveting, intimate, and ruthlessly unromanticized portrait of female life—and the literary landscape—during this era. In doing so, she comes closer to understanding how a society could forget so many of these women, who all enjoyed success, critical acclaim, and a fair amount of notoriety during their time, and realizes why, now more than ever, it’s vital that we remember.

Rediscover Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.”

~ Goodreads.com 

DeWees does exactly what I think modern literary scholarship and research should do: uncover and highlight little known texts and writers while putting a new twist on old favorites. She does this expertly, writing with charm and wit about several women writers have been overshadowed by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and other popular authors.

Not Just Jane offers so much more than a mere summary of these writers’ texts; instead, DeWees provides a comprehensive view of the lives of these incredible women in order to help explain their rise to (albeit temporary) success. She discusses both their familial and romantic relationships, their struggles with poverty, mental illness, and overcoming the stigma surrounding women writers at the time. Several of them turned to writing as a last resort, a way to financially support themselves in troubling times of financial need. Though many were not respected by their peers, a few of these talented women climbed the ranks of the social ladder and worked their way into impressive literary circles. For instance, who would have known that Catherine Crowe rivaled Charlotte Bronte in social prowess, was betrayed by Charles Dickens, and influenced much of Edgar Allan Poe’s work? DeWees shows us these women as human beings first and foremost before delving into their literary lives on the page.

fullsizerenderThis book also has an excellent layout and organization that contributes to the effectiveness of DeWees’ delivery. Though each chapter is dedicated to a different writer, they are all connected into a cohesive collection through smooth transitions and common threads. In this way Not Just Jane can be picked up and put down at the reader’s leisure without suffering from a lack of continuity. With that being said, my favorite aspects of this book are the themes interwoven throughout the chapters. All of these women challenged traditional gender roles in some way and faced obstacles and adversity on their road to publishing their works. Not only did were they looked down upon for entering the male-dominated world of literature, but their personal reputations often dictated the success of their work. When a scandalous affair erupted, the secrets of a marriage were uncovered, or a women’s “true” persona was exposed, these revelations ultimately had a huge influence on book sales. I think the inability to separate women’s reputations and personal lives from their work is one of the most fascinating topics discussed in this book, in part because it is also relevant in modern society.

Overall, Not Just Jane is a must-read for readers interested in British literature, the role of women throughout history, and expanding their literary horizons. While reading this book I scribbled down countless titles of interesting works to check out in the future and gained a greater appreciation for those writers whom we hear very little about in both literature classes and mainstream media nowadays. If only more writers would follow in DeWees‘ footsteps and conduct such valuable literary detective work!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, especially to someone interested in writers such as Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, etc.

Thanks so much to Harper Perennial for the review copy!

Have you read this book or any texts by the writers DeWees mentions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY