Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can Never Remember

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is brought to the book blogging community by That Artsy Reader Girl who wants us to share books that we really liked but can’t remember much about. Honestly, there are SO MANY books that I could list here because I’m notoriously bad at remembering tiny details of books. Character names? Plot twists? Basic summaries? They all tend to vanish from my memory as soon as I finish reading the very last page. It’s a shame because these books definitely deserve to be remembered!

What books do you have a hard time remembering? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Returning to Oxford | Holly Goes Abroad

Long time, no see! Now that I’m back at Oxford for the start of Hilary Term it’s time to get back on track with chronicling my study abroad adventures. Today I’ll be talking about the strange feeling of returning to Oxford after being home for several weeks, lounging around my house in pajamas and eating mainly dessert and granola.

in some ways it feels as though I never left Oxford at all. It took no time at all for me to get back into my usual morning and night routines (showering, what time I wake up in the morning, making breakfast, etc.). The city streets felt just as familiar as they did when I left in December and I had no issues finding my way around on my first day back. I walked into the local grocery store and knew exactly where the oatmeal, apples, and Ritz crackers were located on the shelves. The accents and different vocabulary was less jolting than when I first arrived last term. All of this surprised me–  I had expected to come back to Oxford and have to readjust to everything all over again. It was comforting and reassuring to know that many things had stuck. 

Of course, I did have a bit of readjusting to do. One of the things I dislike most about traveling is changing time zones. To start, there’s the obvious inconvenience of being tired, hungry, or wide awake at times when the opposite should be true. Eating “breakfast” on the plane at seven in the morning in England felt strange when it was actually only 2 a.m. back home. I was exhausted by the end of the day (I can’t fall asleep on planes, so I had been up for about 36 hours at that point). However, time zones are also awful because they make it much more difficult to communicate with people back home. Oxford is five hours ahead of New Hampshire, so when I wake up in the morning it’s still nighttime there. I’m not sure if I’ll ever quite get used to the strange feeling of knowing that my friends and family are still sleeping (or sometimes just going to bed) as I wake up and go about my day.

All in all, I’m ecstatic to be back in Oxford with the usual routines of reading, writing, pub crawling, and exploring the city. This term my tutorials are English Literature 1910-Present and Writing Feminisms, both of which I’m really excited about. I can’t wait to spend the next six months in this breathtaking city!

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever returned to a new favorite place after a short amount of time? Does it take some getting used to or does it feel like you’ve never left? (Or both?) Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: Augusta Webster

This week I’ll be discussing one of the Victorian poets I read for the first time last term: August Webster.

Born as Julia Augusta Davies, August Webster (1837-1894) was a writer of all sorts: poems, essays, plays, translations, and even a novel. Although she started out studying Greek at home, she eventually got the opportunity to study at the Cambridge School of Art. Like many women writers of the time period, Webster published her first poetry collection using a male pseudonym: Cecil Homes. Although she is most well-known for being a sort of successor to the popular poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her work advocating for women’s rights is also remarkable. Not only did she work for the London branch of the National Committee for Women’s Suffrage, but she also was the first female writer to ever hold elective office because she was on the London School Board in 1879 and 1885.

Although her writing was quite popular during her lifetime, she unfortunately became less well-known after her death. The Webster poem I’m most familiar with is the “A Castaway,” which was first published in 1870. “A Castaway” is told from the perspective of a “fallen woman”; in other words, the poem is narrated by a prostitute who has been shunned by genteel society due to how she earns a living. However, the narrator offers a sharp and witty critique of the Victorian society in which she lives, pointing out that her work does not make her any less moral or honorable than those in other professions:

“I know of worse that are called honourable.
Our lawyers, who, with noble eloquence
and virtuous outbursts, lie to hang a man,
or lie to save him, which way goes the fee:
our preachers, gloating on your future hell
for not believing what they doubt themselves:
our doctors, who sort poisons out by chance,
and wonder how they’ll answer, and grow rich:
our journalists, whose business is to fib
and juggle truths and falsehoods to and fro:
our tradesmen, who must keep unspotted names
and cheat the least like stealing that they can:
our — all of them, the virtuous worthy men
who feed on the world’s follies, vices, wants,
and do their businesses of lies and shams
honestly, reputably, while the world
claps hands and cries “good luck,” which of their trades,
their honourable trades, barefaced like mine,
all secrets brazened out, would shew more white?”

The narrator also looks back on her past as a young girl, saying that she never expected to be living such a life at this age. She explains that she’s grateful that her mother died before she could see her daughter like this:

“Oh mother, mother, did you ever dream,
you good grave simple mother, you pure soul
no evil could come nigh, did you once dream
in all your dying cares for your lone girl
left to fight out her fortune all alone
that there would be this danger? — for your girl,
taught by you, lapped in a sweet ignorance,
scarcely more wise of what things sin could be
than some young child a summer six months old
where in the north the summer makes a day,
of what is darkness … darkness that will come
to-morrow suddenly. Thank God at least
for this much of my life, that when you died,
that when you kissed me dying, not a thought
of this made sorrow for you, that I too
was pure of even fear.”

Perhaps my favorite part of the poem is when the narrator exposes the hypocritical view of women that men hold. Fathers may send their daughters to school to be educated, but what is the point if they are just going to marry them off to do mindless housework for the rest of their lives? Why must men put women in a corner like this?

“Well, well, the silly rules this silly world
makes about women! This is one of them.
Why must there be pretence of teaching them
what no one ever cares that they should know,
what, grown out of the schoolroom, they cast off
like the schoolroom pinafore, no better fit
for any use of real grown-up life,
for any use to her who seeks or waits
the husband and the home, for any use,
for any shallowest pretence of use,
to her who has them? Do I not know this,
I like my betters, that a woman’s life,
her natural life, her good life, her one life,
is in her husband, God on earth to her,
and what she knows and what she can and is
is only good as it brings good to him?”

The stigmas, prejudices, and inequalities emphasized in this poem still linger in our society today. Women are often viewed as inferior to men, particularly in the workplace. Although we have undeniably made great strides towards gender equality, the writing of poets such as Augusta Webster remind us that we nevertheless have a long road ahead of us. 

Are you familiar with Augusta Webster? Do you have a favorite poem written by her? What other writers would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE HAMLET by William Faulkner | Review

The Hamlet (1940), the first novel in William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy, tells the story of Flem Snopes’ rise to relative power and influence in Frenchman’s Bend. Yoknapatawpha County is the iconic backdrop to this slow burn of a novel, one that sets the stage for future books and stories to be written about the Snopes clan. The novel is narrated by V.K. Ratliff, creating a center to which the reader can always come back to when Faulkner’s rambling excursions stray too far from the path.

As you’ve probably noticed from my incessant discussion of Faulkner’s works on this blog, I am an avid Faulkner-file. There isn’t a specific order that I’ve read his works in, so over winter break I decided to read The Hamlet because it was one of the only books I hadn’t read yet in the Faulkner section of my local library. This novel has everything that I love about Faulkner– rambling prose, layered stories, a sprawling cast of characters, and rather haphazard plot points that somehow all make sense when put together. The Hamlet is divided into four sections, each one focusing on different characters but somehow still connecting back to Flem Snopes.

Faulkner certainly doesn’t shy away from unsettling and rather disturbing topics, particularly in this novel. One section focuses primarily on the sexual objectification of Eula Varner, a young teenage girl (around eleven to fourteen years old for much of this section) whose teacher tries to assault her. There is also domestic violence, murder, and even bestiality when Ike Snopes pursues a cow. These sections are not enjoyable to read, but they do say a lot about how Faulkner viewed the South at the time. It’s certainly not a place that I would have wanted to live in.

One of my favorite things about reading Faulkner novels is noticing how they all intertwine. For instance, one section of this novel was originally published as the short story “Spotted Horses” in 1931, which I had read over the summer as part of The Portable Faulkner, edited by Malcolm Cowley. Those horses are also mentioned as belonging to the Snopes family in Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying when Anne Bundren tries to trade for mules. While reading through Faulkner’s works one quickly realizes that they are an interconnected web of characters, places, and events.

Overall, The Hamlet is certainly not my favorite Faulkner novel but it was still enjoyable nonetheless. This novel isn’t something I’d necessarily recommend to someone who has never read Faulkner before, but it’s well worth reading if you’re looking for something besides his usual popular works (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, etc.). I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this trilogy!

What are your thoughts on The Hamlet? Do you have a favorite Faulkner novel? Let me know in the comments section below?

Yours,

HOLLY

Sunshine Blogger Award | 5

Today I’m here with the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thanks so much to Kayla @ Kayla’s Book Nook for nominating me!!

1. Where was the last place you travelled, and when was it?

To Oxford, England where I’m currently studying abroad.

2. How many physical books do you own?

Now that you mention it, I’ve never actually counted how many books I own… but I would venture to say at least fifty. I’m currently whittling my way through my physical TBR, and my goal is to read all of the unread books that I own by this summer so I can donate the ones I don’t want.

3. Under what circumstances would you DNF a book?

It’s rare for me to give up on a book, but it’s definitely happened before! Usually when I DNF a book it’s because I can’t see myself taking anything meaningful away from the reading experience. The problem could also be an annoying protagonist, which is one of my biggest bookish pet peeves.

4. What was the last movie you saw in theatres? Did you enjoy it?

The last movie I saw in theatres was Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I really enjoyed it! It’s certainly not my favorite of the bunch, but it was great nonetheless.

5. Share your favorite meme or GIF!

I love any and all GIFs of this dancing pumpkin guy– no matter what season we’re currently in! I’ve always wanted to dress up as him for Halloween (maybe next year!).

6. Tell me a teaser sentence from the book you’re currently reading!

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”  ~ On Writing by Stephen King

7. What device do you use to write your blog posts (computer, phone, etc.)?

I always use my laptop because it’s the most easy and convenient to use. I’ve never actually used the WordPress app before– what are your thoughts on it if you use it?

8. Tell me a little known fact about you that no other bloggers know.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on this blog before, but I love tap dancing. I started tapping when I was in elementary school and I’ve been a member of the tap dancing group at Wheaton for the past few years. I miss it now that I’m abroad!

9. Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? If so, what is it?

Yes! I’m an ISFJ, which according to 16Personalities means:

The ISFJ personality type is quite unique, as many of their qualities defy the definition of their individual traits. Though possessing the Feeling (F) trait, ISFJs have excellent analytical abilities; though Introverted (I), they have well-developed people skills and robust social relationships; and though they are a Judging (J) type, ISFJs are often receptive to change and new ideas. As with so many things, people with the ISFJ personality type are more than the sum of their parts, and it is the way they use these strengths that defines who they are.

10. What song is stuck in your head right now? (if any)

“Son of Man” from the Tarzan soundtrack. As always.

11. Give a shoutout to 5 awesome bloggers, and spread the love like confetti!

What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: 2018 Bookish Resolutions

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (now brought to us by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our bookish resolutions for 2018. Now that the new year is well underway and I’ve done some reflecting on 2017, I think it’s time to set some new goals. I don’t like to put an exorbitant amount of pressure on myself to meet unrealistically high expectations, so these are ten relatively simple goals that I’d like to keep in mind throughout the next year.

1. Read 24 books. I’ve made this my Reading Challenge goal on Goodreads for the past few years now and it’s worked out really well. This is a number that I can meet without any added stress, which is precisely what I need from a yearly goal.

2. Balance reading for classes, reading for fun, and blogging. I absolutely LOVE studying abroad at Oxford, but when term is in session I miss blogging and reading for fun so much! I’m hoping I can figure out a way to balance all of these things better during my last two terms there.

The main library at Mansfield College, Oxford.

3. Be more engaged with the blogging community. This goal is one that I wish I had done better at in 2017… so I’m carrying it over into 2018! As with the previous resolution, I’m hoping that I can find a way to make this work while balancing everything else I have to do.

4. Read more nonfiction. I’ve read some really great nonfiction books recently, which makes me feel motivated to read even more of them in the new year. Any recommendations would definitely be appreciated!

5. Read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Now, what would a Holly resolution list be without this novel inevitably included? I vow that someday I will read this book!

6. Continue writing discussion posts regularly. This is a resolution I accomplished in 2017, but I would really love to keep it up this year as well. Creating interesting, thought-provoking content that sparks engaging discussions is something that I want to always strive towards with this blog.

7.  Keep better track of the books I want to read. More often than not I forget to write a book title down when someone recommends it to me, leaving me without a list of books I want to read whenever I go into a bookstore or decide to order books online. Putting them on a list in my phone or something similar would be so helpful!

8. Be more creative with my bookstagram posts. I love taking photos and updating my bookstagram, but in the midst of writing pages and pages of essays it’s easy to revert back to posting the same kinds of photos every single time. This year I’d like to be more creative with my books, props, scenery, etc.

9. Be more open to talking about this blog IRL. I rarely ever mention my blog to people unless they bring it up first, and even when they do I’m pretty hesitant to talk about it (as I’ve discussed in this post from a while back). In 2018, I’d like to be more open about talking about my blog if people bring it up.

10. HAVE FUN!! As always– what’s reading without a little (or a lot!!) of fun?

Happy New Year, everyone!!

What are your resolutions for 2018? What do you think of mine? Any advice on how to accomplish them? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader? | Discussion

Today I’d like to talk about a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader?

Recently I watched a video by Ariel Bissett in which she talks about the pressure in the online book community to read certain books as soon as possible to be “relevant.” She emphasizes this stress particularly in the YA genre with popular new releases at the time such as When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Ariel discusses how before joining Booktube she didn’t have this large awareness of what was recently released, current trends and topics in specific genres, book “hype, etc. While this can certainly be an advantage of being immersed in this bookish community, it also comes at a price: feeling like a bad person or that you can’t be a proper reader unless you read the books that “everyone” is currently talking about. 

Ariel emphasizes that this need to be relevant is ridiculous. As she points out, the books that are deemed “relevant” are not always the books we’re most interested in reading. Her solution is to try to not give into this competitive feeling of needing to be relevant– yet she acknowledges that this is a really difficult thing to do. How do you participate in a community that focuses on reading competitively when that isn’t what you initially signed up for? (Metaphorically speaking, of course– there aren’t any sign-up sheets to be found here…)

Shortly after watching this video I read a great blog post by Hannah @ Mortal Reader in which she discusses feeling lost in the book community when she tries to keep up with all the constant cycle of new releases being published. She explains that she often finds herself picking books to read based on what she thinks the people who read her blog will be interested in rather than simply picking up whatever book she herself would like to read in that moment. Here is yet another manifestation of the pressure many of us feel to be relevant readers when we blog, make videos, and create other bookish content online.

 I’m certainly guilty of feeding into this competitive edge of reading as well. For instance, I definitely felt pressure to read John Green’s most recent novel Turtles All the Way Down as soon as possible once it was released so I could write about it. I also really relate to something that Ariel discusses in her video: the problem of viewing rereading as not making progress towards our reading goals. I LOVE rereading books and feel no shame at all when I reread old favorites… but why is this attitude the exception rather than the rule? Why does stigma exist? Why does rereading often make people feel as though they’re not staying “relevant”?

My way to deal with this notion of “relevant” and “competitive” reading is to try my best to ignore it. You may have noticed that I love reading classics and old books, which are mainly what I talk about on this blog. Are people dying to hear my thoughts on William Faulkner or Willa Cather? Probably not. But those are the kinds of books that I love to read, so why would I read anything else? Personally, reading what I enjoy is more important to me than “staying relevant”– whatever that means.

What are your thoughts on “relevant” and “competitive” reading? Do you feel this pressure to read certain books in the online bookish community? What can we do about this? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: WOMAN AND LABOUR by Olive Schreiner

Fellow nerds, I am SO excited for today’s installment of Feminist Fridays because I have the pleasure of discussing Olive Schreiner’s fantastic work Woman and Labour. One of the many perks of being in a Writing Feminisms tutorial at Oxford is that I’m introduced to numerous writers that I had never heard of before.

Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) is a South African writer most well-known for her novel The Story of an African Farm, which she began writing when she was a teenager. In addition to being a novelist, Schreiner was also a notable suffragist, anti-war campaigner, and political activist during her time. Interestingly, her life goal was to become a medical doctor; however, she was never able to make this goal a reality due to her poor health. Schreiner eventually turned to writing as one of the few professions she could feasibly do considering her serious issues with asthma.

Woman and Labour was published in 1911, during the last decade of her life, and discusses her views on the Woman’s Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The text begins with a comprehensive history of woman’s labor since the hunter-gatherer days of humans living in the wilderness before she turns to more modern concerns. Schreiner uses this important historical context to assert that the so-called “New Woman” of the moment is not new at all; rather, she is rooted in the feminine past.

The banner which we unfurl today is not new: it is the standard of the old, free, monogamous, laboring woman, which, twenty hundred years ago, floated over the forests of Europe…

She further emphasizes that the Woman’s Movement to gain more opportunities for women in labour fields other than domestic work was for the benefit of all women, both present and future– not for the advantage of the individual. If society was to improve over time, it would only be through the simultaneous and harmonious improvement of men and women together. The alternative path– continuing on with a male-dominated labor force– would only exacerbate the problem of sex-parasitism in which women were left dependent on their husbands for wealth, property, etc. Only through the emergence of the so-called New Woman could the “New Man” develop and prosper, for “if anywhere on earth exists the perfect ideal of that which the modern woman desires to be–of a laboring and virile womanhood, free, strong, fearless and tender– it will probably be found in the heart of the New Man.”

What struck me most about Woman and Labour is how incredibly relevant it is to our modern society. Of course, women have significantly more opportunities in the workplace today than in 1911 when this book was first published; however, many of the concerns that Schreiner expressed are ones we still face now. The Center for American Progress recently released “The Women’s Leadership Gap” in which they explain that despite the fact that women make up not only the majority of the national population but also the majority of those graduating with undergraduate and master’s degrees, they still do not hold nearly as many leadership positions as do men. Their following conclusion is even more alarming:

Women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988.56 They have earned at least one-third of law degrees since 198057 and accounted for fully one-third of medical school students by 1990.58 Yet they have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that should have followed.

In a broad range of fields, their presence in top leadership positions—as equity law partners, medical school deans, and corporate executive officers—remains stuck at a mere 10 percent to 20 percent. As recently as 2012, their “share of voice”—the average proportion of their representation on op-ed pages and corporate boards; as TV pundits, Wikipedia contributors, Hollywood writers, producers, and directors; and as members of Congress—was just 18 percent.59

In fact, it has been estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in key leadership roles in the United States.60

It is undeniable that we have come a long way since the publication of Woman and Labour; yet it is also undeniable that we still have a long way to go before achieving gender equality for all. Reading works such as those of Olive Schreiner is a valuable way of reminding ourselves where we stand and why we need to continue standing up for this important cause.

What are your thoughts on Schreiner’s ideas in Woman and Labor? Have any recommendations for other works I should read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens | Review

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is one of those classic stories that everyone thinks they know– that is, until they actually sit down to read the novel in its entirety. Prior to starting this book in the middle of a flight from England back to the States, I thought this would be the simple story of an orphan boy struggling to survive in Victorian England. This novel is exactly that– and so, so much more complicated. I should have known that nothing Dickensian could ever be simple!

The first thing that struck me is how violent, unsettling, and sad this novel is compared to what I thought it would be– though I suppose this should be expected from Dickens. A constant stream of Poor Oliver! ran through my head the entire time I was reading, especially in the beginning before I realized that this would be the tone of the whole novel. Unfortunately, the unrelenting dark tone of the novel ultimately made it seem as though the plot dragged on for far too long. There are only so many unpleasant plot twists one can endure before it all seems too much. The plot itself wasn’t slow– there were plenty of surprises along the way– but the unwavering misfortunes that occur made the books seem much longer than it needed to be.

The major redeeming quality of this book for me was Dickens’ clever, witty writing. While his characters may be over-the-top at times, the exaggerated characteristics they possess all say important things about society in the Victorian Era. For instance, the fact that Mr. Bumble is willing to give Oliver away reflects the harsh reality that orphans during this time period had to face as poverty reigned in urban areas. There’s no denying that Dickens was a masterful writer and storyteller, weaving bits of everyday life into his fiction.

“But, tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble’s soul; his heart was waterproof.”

I don’t have a lot to say about Oliver Twist in general because I have rather lukewarm feelings toward the novel. I didn’t love it nearly as much as I adored Great Expectations, but I didn’t completely dislike it, either. Personally, I feel as though this might have been a timing misjudgment on my part– I tend to be a mood reader, and starting this novel on a long flight when I was tired and didn’t have the energy to focus on Dickens’ curving, swerving plots. I’d definitely be willing to give it another chance in the future!

I would recommend this to anyone who, like me before I read this novel, thinks they know the story of Oliver Twist– chances are that you’ll be at least a bit surprised!

What are your thoughts on Oliver Twist? Do you have a favorite Dickens novel? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

My Bookish Identity Tag

It’s time for another tag, and this one is particularly fun: let’s take a look at my bookish identity! I love identity/personality quizzes like these, so as soon as I realized I’d been tagged for this I was very excited. Thanks so much to Fran for tagging me!!

What dystopian/fantastical world would you live in?

This is so difficult! For me, it’s definitely a tie between Hogwarts and Middle-earth. They’re both so different from each other but still so lovely in their own ways!

Who would your partner be?

Another challenging question… I’d probably have to go with Legolas from Lord of the Rings. Think of how great we’d be at getting past any obstacles in our way!

Who would be your godly mother/father? [Percy Jackson]

Thankfully Fran included a link to a handy quiz that tells you just this bit of info! Apparently my godly parent would be Demeter (goddess of agriculture, grain, and bread). I do like bread a lot…

Would you be a downworlder or nephilim? [Shadowhunter world]

Nephilim! I want to have those fancy faux-tattoos. (Also, I think the politics within the Shadowhunter world would be incredibly interesting to witness firsthand!)

Which house would you be in? [Harry Potter]

SO CONFLICTED. Whenever I take House tests I always alternate between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. (I feel like outwardly I might be a Hufflepuff, but inwardly a Ravenclaw?) So maybe I’m a Huffleclaw? Ravenpuff? 

Which faction would you be in? [Divergent]

It’s quiz time again! Apparently I’m Divergent, even though I really though I would be placed in Erudite.

What would be your daemon [Northern Lights]

I’ve always wanted a daemon! According to this quiz, mine is a snow leopard!

Thanks again to Fran for this really fun tag!

What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY