Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’ve (Shamelessly & Proudly) Written In

Happy Tuesday! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our unpopular bookish opinions. However, I thought I would hone in on one unpopular bookish opinion and share ten examples of it instead. Perhaps one of my most controversial book habits is that I often annotate and highlight my books. *Gasp!* I know this is an atrocious act to some bookworms, but I view it as the actual purpose of books. To me, books are meant to be experienced, meaning that they are not meant for just sitting prettily on a shelf (with the exception of some expensive editions). I want to get the most out of a book as I possibly can, and if that means underlining or highlighting quotes that resonate with me or writing little notes in the margins, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Plus, I think it’s fun to reread a book that I’ve annotated and see what I was thinking about the last time I read it. For me, it’s a way by which I think more deeply about what I’m reading. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do I really enjoy the process.

Now that I’ve explained a bit about this unpopular bookish opinion of mine, here are ten examples of books from my shelves that I’ve annotated or highlighted:

 

What are your thoughts on highlighting or writing in books? What’s your most controversial bookish habit or opinion? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Feminist Fridays

Feminist Fridays: Pride and Prejudice (circa 1995 BBC)

Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, along with many of her other novels, often receives criticism for depicting women as utterly dependent on men. While I wholeheartedly disagree with this criticism (look at Austen’s satire! her wit! her humor! making fun of those who depend on men!), today I’d like to discuss this perspective regarding a modern adaptation of the novel: BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. After watching this in a matter of days at the beginning of my spring break (and becoming remarkably invested in the story absurdly quickly), I’ve returned to the age-old question: is this beloved, classic story feminist, particularly in mini-series form?

Of course, it has to be recognized that the Georgian Era in which Pride and Prejudice was written and is set is highly problematic by modern standards. Not only did women have no right to property and had to rely on advantageous marriages in order to move up in the ranks of society, but they also did not have great opportunities in terms of education, occupations, and paths forward in life. The incredibly class-conscious society depicted by Jane Austen in this 1813 novel and reflected in the 1995 mini-series left no room for the freedom of expression and opinion that women now have as a right today. It is to be expected that in depicting such a sexist society, the story itself would not be a call to action for the rise of women’s rights.

However, I would argue that there is something decidedly feminist about this story, particularly in the character of Lizzie Bennet. Not only is Lizzie independent, witty, and intelligent, but she is also much more active than women were expected to be during this time period. For instance, this subversion of the passive, obedient standard for women is apparent in mini-series scene where she trudges all the way to see her sister, Jane, at the Bingley’s house and arrives covered in mud. While the other women in the house scoff at Lizzie’s disorderly appearance, Mr. Darcy admires her for her subversion of gender norms. These feminist moments may seem subtle, but I believe that they’re vital to understanding this story as a counter to sexist expectations of women during the Georgian Era.

Another admirable aspect of this novel and screen adaptation is the emphasis it places on bonds between women. While the romantic plot of this story is often highlighted as the most important element of the story, I think it can be argued that the relationships between women are equally as prevalent. The Bennet sisters rely on each other for comfort, support, and guidance in a society that stifles young women and fails to see their potential as independent citizens. The bond between Lizzie and Jane is particularly strong in the mini-series and demonstrates the importance of women lifting each other up in times of struggle, be that emotionally or physically. When it seems as though Mr. Bingley is no longer interested in Jane, Lizzie admires her emotional strength and encourages her to move on and not dwell on the past. Again, these moments may be subtle, but they nevertheless highlight the ways by which women in this society helped each other and found their own kinds of power in their lives.

Is Pride and Prejudice a flawless feminist text or television series? Of course not. However, I think it would be amiss to entirely discount this story as one that portrays women poorly without any meaningful underlying purpose. For all of its faults, I’m happy to admire this story for its feminist moments (and the binge-watching splendor of the mini-series!). If you haven’t yet watched this mini-series, I would highly recommend it!

Click here to see other Feminist Friday posts!

What are your thoughts on the novel Pride and Prejudice and any of its television or movie adaptations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish, Discussion

Is there more to Jane Austen than romance? (YES) | Discussion

Jane Austen’s works are often lauded as masterpieces of romantic fiction, and with good reason: her winding plots of courtships, engagements, and marriages have managed to captivate readers for centuries. Take the famous Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, for example, who seems to have been placed upon a pedestal as the ideal male love interest (though that’s a problematic topic for another day). Though Austen’s novels are multidimensional works of literature with numerous fascinating facets to consider, the majority of the discussion surrounding these texts (particularly in the online bookish community) focuses solely on the romances they contain. While there is certainly nothing wrong with highlighting the romantic relationships and how they inevitably unfold, I can’t help but feel as though we are missing out on some great discussions by not opening ourselves up to other topics.

For instance, why does no one seem to be talking about the socioeconomic divisions and hierarchies driving these plots forward?  In Emma, the protagonist initially convinces her friend Harriet to not marry Robert Martin because he is not of a sufficient social status and doesn’t possess impressive, influential social connections. Harriet’s eventual rejection of Robert Martin based on a class distinction is what allows her to later grow romantic feelings for Mr. Elton, etc. Towards the end of the novel Emma realizes that she has always thought of herself as the perfect match for Mr. Knightley—and what better way for them to be suited for each other than through their similar social statuses? From this perspective, the entire plot of the novel is in some way motivated and driven by an awareness of class. In fact, it could be argued that many of Austen’s fictional relationships are founded on the basis of class.

Another interesting topic within Austen’s works is the position of women in society. Obviously this comes into play when discussing romance, but here it is viewed from a slightly different angle. To use Emma as an example once more (can you tell which of Austen’s novels I recently read?), she makes it clear from the beginning of the story that she does not wish to be married anytime soon. I would describe Emma as an independent, strong-willed, bold, opinionated, intelligent young woman who can certainly take care of herself—that is, until she ultimately resorts to marriage like nearly every female character in the novel. I don’t mean to suggest that marriage reduces a woman’s independence, or that Austen didn’t believe in the resilience of her gender. Rather, I think these inevitable courtships, engagements, and marriages that keep happening in her novels are Austen’s way of showing us how trapped women were during her time. Even a strong character like Emma can’t make it through a novel without a ring on her finger.

This rambling post is merely my way of wishing for a broader, more varied discussion of Jane Austen’s works (and literature in general, ideally). Talking about books is so much more fun and interesting when a lot of new and different ideas are thrown into the mix. So why not start with these old favorites?

What do you think of Jane Austen’s novels? Do you have a favorite? What are some topics that you wish were more discussed in relation to literature? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

EMMA by Jane Austen | Review

Last year I saw the movie Clueless, a comedy based on Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, for the first time. My immediate reaction was: I need to read this book.

Set in Austen’s Victorian England, this novel follows Emma as she attempts to set her new friend Harriet up with a suitable man to marry. Caught up in the strict social conventions of the time, Emma goes through all the hoops necessary in order to make the perfect match… or so she believes. As each potential match flickers out before her eyes, she comes to realize that perhaps she’s been looking the wrong place all along.

It’s clear that Emma has the potential to possess all of the qualities that Austenites admire Jane’s books for having: humor, wit, charm, and a swoon-worthy romance. Unfortunately, I feel as though this novel misses the mark on these characteristics. Had the story been written with a slightly more agreeable protagonist, romantic interest, or ending, it would have made for a much more pleasurable read.

I guess my main problem with this novel is that I just couldn’t get past Emma’s annoying, oblivious, uppity personality. I’m sure this is the point of her character—we’re probably not supposed to like her—but where’s the enjoyment in that? Annoying protagonists are one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when there isn’t much going on besides their inner thoughts. Emma does undergo some character development towards the end of the story and begins to acknowledge that perhaps social classes aren’t as important in marriages as she once believed; however, this slight change was not enough to justify putting the reader through hundreds of pages to get to that point. I know this is a personal preference and is therefore really subjective, but my inability to relate with Emma ended up being a huge reason why this novel didn’t really click with me.

Harriet, on the other hand, was a character I connected with quickly and easily; it’s a shame that she doesn’t play a greater role overall. I’ve also been the girl who looks to others for relationship advice, the girl who feels heartbroken and a bit manipulated by others as they play their own twisted games. I think we can all relate with Harriet in some sense or at the very least feel sympathy for her as she is lead astray by Emma time and time and time again. Poor Harriet!

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about Emma. While I understand the point Austen is trying to make (social classes shouldn’t matter in marriages, the social conventions of the time period were ridiculous, etc.), I couldn’t get past Emma’s irritating, know-it-all personality. There were certainly moments when I laughed and admired Austen’s wit and charm, but it’s safe to say that this definitely isn’t my favorite Austen novel.

What are your thoughts on Emma? Which Jane Austen novel is your favorite? Which one should I read next? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

JUNE 2017 | Wrap-Up

Hello, hello!! Summer is now well underway and it’s time to say farewell to June. So much has happened these past few weeks that it seems like June was YEARS long. As per usual, here is what I was up to last month:

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In June I read a total of 9 books:

  1. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  3. Emma by Jane Austen
  4. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  5. Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
  6. Richard III by William Shakespeare
  7. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
  8. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  9. Big Woods by William Faulkner

It’s so hard to pick just one favorite from this list! Matilda was the most fun book to read, Timeline was the most suspenseful, and Go Down, Moses was the most thought-provoking. It was unbelievably nice to spend as much time reading as I did in June after months of only having time to read what was assigned for my courses. Recently I received one of my summer reading lists in preparation for Oxford, and it’s safe to say that my reading will have to be much more focused for the rest of the summer!

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June was a blur of working, reading, hanging with friends, and trying get my plans all squared away for studying abroad this upcoming academic year. A few weeks ago I published this post announcing that I’ll be studying at Oxford University in England for the entire next academic year and I was overwhelmed by all of the lovely comments I received. You’re all so sweet and I appreciate your well wishes, advice, and congratulations so much!! ❤ This month I finally booked my flight for September and it’s so nice to finally have a date set for when I’ll be leaving… the whole thing seems so much more real now!

Earlier this month my brother graduated high school, which made me feel SO OLD. (How has it already been two whole years since I graduated? How am I already HALF WAY through college?) Thankfully the weather cooperated and we had beautiful sunny weather for both the ceremony and our party afterwards. It was such a great day!

June was also a great month for TV and movies. I finally finished watching Twin Peaks, which I absolutely loved (though the last episode was AWFUL). Recently I started watching Freaks and Geeks and I’m already so invested. Not only is it hilarious, but the characters are also so easy to relate with. I was definitely a geek in high school, though thankfully I was never bullied to the degree that Sam, Neal, and Bill are in the show. There’s only one season of the show (*sobs*) so I should be able to finish it pretty soon. The best movies I watched in June were The Last Five Years, La La Land, and Wonder Woman (if you haven’t seen it yet, you definitely should!).

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Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month (there are so many!!):

How was your month of June? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Covers that Scream Spring

Happy Tuesday!! Now that May is officially here I think it’s safe to say that spring is here to stay as well (at least until summer rolls around!). Since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is a cover design freebie, I though I would share with you all my Top Ten Covers that Scream Spring. Who doesn’t love a colorful, happy, vibrant cover to brighten their day?

1. Not Just Jane by Shelley DeWees

I love the mix of bright blue and pink on this cover. You can’t see it from this angle, but the spine is also fluorescent pink as well. This color scheme makes me think of blooming flowers like the ones in this photo (which was taken in the garden at my home last summer). I always associate flowers with the coming of spring.

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

This gorgeous cover design makes me think of warm weather in general, so it’s perfect for both spring and summer.  I love the bold pops of orange, teal, and pink as well as the different shades of green blended together to create the background. The bird and the snake also remind me of the way animals seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere in springtime.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This Penguin English Library edition of P&P highlights flora and fauna, two things closely associated with springtime. The colors are vaguely muted, like the way spring can be viewed as a subtler, paler, muted version of summer with its hesitantly hot days and newly blossoming buds.

4. Emma by Jane Austen

The Penguin Threads edition of Emma immediately makes me think of Easter eggs and the colors surrounding this springy holiday. I especially love the polka dots in the background and the way her hair is a mix of many different colors. Easter has always been a marker of springtime for me, so it’s no surprise that this cover design would be included in this list.

5. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Green is closely associated with spring in my mind, which is why this overwhelmingly green cover always reminds me of this lush season. I also first read Willa Cather in the springtime (spring semester of my freshman year of college), so perhaps that has something to do with why I tend to link her with this time of year.

6. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

What screams spring more than a lawn of freshly cut green grass? Even though this book takes place during the summer, I can’t help but be reminded of spring whenever I look at the cover.

7. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

This is another novel that takes place during the summertime, yet its cover is much more reminiscent of spring to me. It makes me think of the feeling of waking up in the morning and realizing that the birds have finally begun to chirp again.

8. When We Collided by Emery Lord

I love how colorful, fun, and creative this cover is. Even though this novel can be emotional and intense at times, I think this cover does a great job at capturing Vivi’s lively and vibrant spirit. Definitely how I feel on a warm spring day! (Also, do these colors remind anyone else of Easter eggs?)

9. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I can’t help but add yet another beautiful Penguin English Library edition to this list. I chose this cover for its bright greens and muted blues, both of which I associate with coloring Easter eggs. (Can you tell that I’m quite a big fan of Easter eggs?) The novel itself also carries a feeling of spring, as characters find new beginnings and experiences that gradually help them grow.

10. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Even though this cover isn’t colorful, it still screams spring with its cute little bees and simplicity. These poems are also all about endings and new beginnings, both of which take place in the springtime. (Honestly, this beautiful cover can work for any season!)

What book covers remind you of spring? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had A Faster Pace

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Happy Tuesday!! Have you ever wished that a story would pick up the speed just a little bit? (Or maybe a lot?) If so, you’re not alone! In this week’s installment of Top Ten Tuesday I’m sharing ten books that I wish had a faster pace. While I do love slow-burning novels driven by character development, it can never hurt to have an exciting plot to keep readers on their toes!

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Do you ever wish that certain books were more fast-paced? What do you think of the books on my list? Any recommendations for fast-paced books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

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

Books, Received for Review

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

Tags

The Alphabet Book Tag

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I hope you’re all having a lovely day! I was tagged ages ago to do this Alphabet Book Tag, but it seems like too much fun not to do. Thanks so much to Ola @ Ola Reads Books for tagging me!

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Pick a book that is on your shelf or one that you have read in the past and fill out each letter of the Alphabet. The idea is to use books that you have either read or that are on your TBR list.

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All of the books that I have chosen are ones that I have read (except for Y!). When possible, I’ve linked my reviews of them as well.

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A – Animal Farm by George Orwell

B – Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

C – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

D – Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

E – Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

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F – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

G – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

H – Hamlet by William Shakespeare

I – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

J – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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K – King Lear by William Shakespeare

L – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

M – My Ántonia by Willa Cather

N – Noggin by John Corey Whaley

O – Our Town by Thornton Wilder

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P – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Q – (The) Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti

R – Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

S – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

T – Thrive by Arianna Huffington

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U – Ugly People Beautiful Hearts by Marlen Komar

V – Vicious by V.E. Schwab

W – When We Collided by Emery Lord

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X – Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Y – (The) Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller {I haven’t read this yet but I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot remember I single book I have ever read that starts with the letter “Y.”}

Z – Zero by Morgan Dark

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And YOU, of course!!

What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? More importantly, have you ever read a book that begins with the letter “Y”? {I’m really curious about this now!} Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY