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Reading Victorian Fairy Tales: Introduction

victalesOxford University Press kindly sent me a beautiful, hardcover copy of Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton in exchange for an honest review. I cannot wait to dig into this beautiful book!

My bookish friends will assure you that there are two literary things I love above all else, the Victorians and Fairy Tales. My love for the Victorians is not restricted to the Victorians proper. Give me an amazing novel set in the Victorian era or a book with the length and depth of a Victorian novel (I’m looking at you, Eleanor Catton) and I’m a happy bookworm. My love for fairy tales began early with an obsession for Andrew Lang’s many-hued collections of fairy tales. I was the child who hated Disney’s The Little Mermaid because the mermaid did not tragically turn to suicidal sea foam at the end. Grimm, Lang, Perrault, Anderson… I love them all. My senior creative thesis in college was a collection of poorly written fairy tale poems inspired by Anne Sexton’s Transformations and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. As you can guess, the combination of Victorians and fairy tales is enough to turn me into a simpering fan girl. This may explain why I adore Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell  and my obsession with my current read, A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book as both books are set in Victorian times and brimming with fairy tale elements. The Victorians and fairy tales have one overarching theme in common: the uncanny combination of superficial beauty, magic, and atmospheric wonder laced and tinged with violence, sex, and the darker elements of humanity.

My goal is not race through the tales in Newton’s collection. Instead I’m endeavoring to read one a week and then review that fairy tale. I picked up the book on my lunch break and read the introduction. Actually, I skimmed the introduction. I tend to skim the introductory materials, read, and then follow-up with a more thorough reading of the introduction. That allows me to have an uninfluenced first impression and then deepen my understanding of my reading afterwards. My first gander at Newton’s introduction was enlightening. He discusses the origins of the Victorians’ love for fairy tales, controversy surrounding the fairy tales’ intended audience, and the business of writing fairy tales during this era. The introduction is followed-up with a note on text selection, a bibliography for further study and a chronology of the fairy tale from 1705 to the First World War.

Next week I’ll be reading the Prologue, which consists of two “original” fairy tales and then move on to the first Victorian fairy tale in the collection, Robert Southey’s The Three Bears.

Goodbye June, Hello July!

June was one big whoosh of stuff and then done. I cannot believe it is over. This month was filled to bursting with many good things and some moments of sadness and anger. I picked some random pictures from my phone to best express this month. Not pictured is my insane workload. June ended up my second busiest month of the fiscal year for ILL. Also not pictured, reporter-boyfriend trolling (long story), a secret project I cannot yet disclose, and a win for marriage equality. I ditched vegetarianism for now and I’m taking a break from organized religion. We finally got a mini-van that works well (another long story). I saw Jurassic World and it kicked ass.

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I did a fair amount of knitting in June. I added a skein to Sam’s scarf and whipped up three dishcloths.

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We learned that it is so hard to be little.

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I got rid of all my yucky or non-fitting clothes and made plans to dress better.

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The two little ones each had a bout of 24-hour stomach flu. Still, why not wear a flower in your hair?

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Atticus survived his first filling at the dentist. This is the before picture. The after is more tearstained.

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Pretty much done with racist bullshit. Got blasted on Instagram for the above photo.

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Father’s Day. Sam looks young for 62!

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I started wearing make-up again. It does make a difference to my self-confidence!

What will July hold? A BUNCH.  I have reading and knitting to do, but I also have some major decisions to make regarding my career and where we will be living when our lease is up in August. I will be prepping the kids for school (Hope will be in 10th grade and Atticus will be in Pre-K). I may take a week’s vacation to catch my breath. Let me know what you’re up to this month!

Favorite Books in 2015

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is to pick your top 10 reads of the year so far. I’ve read 27 books so fluminariesar and I feel like picking 10 doesn’t whittle the list down enough for me. Instead I’m listing my top five books of 2015 so far.

1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: I’m cheating a little by listing this here. Technically I started this book in December,but I finished it a few days into January. This is a top ten of all time favorite book and it rightfully earned the Man Booker prize in 2013. To say it is Dickensian in size and scope is an understatement; it is huge (832 pages), with an expansive cast of characters and the novel works backwards in time.It is also a page-turning thriller.

2. It was me all along by Andie Mitchell: This memoir is not a weight-loss memoir. The author conquered a binge eating disorder and lost weight only to realize she was still unhappy. Mitchell ended up swinging towards an different eating disorder that involved food anxiety and obsessive exercise. This memoir is about how she made peace with food.

3. We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: Another Man Booker contender, this book was on the shortlist in 2014. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot, but I will say this is one of the most “real” feeling portrayals of young woman in college balancing academics and family secrets. This one got me in the feels.

4. Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders by Cole Cohen: This memoir is a fascinating account of a woman living with a lemon-sized hole in her brain. A quick read, it made me think about those with “hidden illnesses” like anxiety, lupus, or PTSD and how difficult it is to seek help when folks tend to judge others on what is outwardly visible.

5. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl: I couldn’t decide if I should list this one. I devoured this book and it was certainly a page-turner, but I guessed some of the relationships and predicted some of the resolutions. The stuff I didn’t predict, didn’t get resolved in the novel. It just had a big ole question mark on it. Sorry for the vagueness, but it is a mystery! I will check out other books by Pessl and I do recommend this book, just go for the ride and don’t try to figure everything out.

There are no classics on my reading list. I had some five star classic reads, but those were Galsworthy novels and re-reads. I’m reading through my Virago Project list, but honestly those books haven’t blown my skirts up yet. Hummmm… I don’t know what to make of that.

I wonder what the next half of 2015 will hold?

Readerly Rambles: 29 June 2015

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July marks the halfway point for the year’s reading and I thought I might take a little time to analyze my reading so far this year. My reading progress in June has been a bit slow, but that’s mostly because I’ve immersed myself in a large novel and it is taking me longer to complete. This isn’t a complaint; The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt is so lush, vibrant, and weirdly uncomfortable. It will certainly be a fun review to write when I’m done.

I’ve read 27 books so far, which puts me a little bit ahead on my goal of 52 reads completed by the end of the year. Tomorrow I’ll talk about my favorite books of 2015 so far, but today I thought I’d mention my graphic novel reads.

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Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton: I adored this series of witty comics mostly about history and literature. I’m not Canadian, so I had to look up some names and events to get the “punchline.” The literary ones were the best; I was spewing coffee out my nose when I read the one about “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: WOW. On first glance you may think this is just silliness, but it is so profound. Each “story” in this collection is witty, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. I could see this as being a text in a class on memoir and graphic novels. Okay, just thought of a syllabus in my head. Graphic Novel Memoirs should totally be a thing if it isn’t already.

Fables #20: Camelot, Fairest #1: Wide Awake, and Fables: Wolves of the Heartland all by Bill Willingham: I’m nearly caught up with the Fables series, but I may be losing a bit of steam. I loved the first volume of Fairest and will being reading all the kick-ass volumes in this series. Wolves was a one-off from Fables and provided some more background on Bigby Wolf.

Up next for graphic novels: When about to dig into Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga series and I’m anticipating I’ll want to devour that. It also reminds me that I never finish Y: The Last Man even though I enjoyed the last few volumes. Then I’ll be seeking out some more girl-power from Ms. Marvel and may even pick up some Captain Marvel too. Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire is on down the list as well. I’m tempted to scrap all my plans and devour Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes and Nimona. 

Oh yeah… I also have a stack of comics from Free Comic Book day, I could probably knock those out in July.

I can’t even handle how many great things there are to read! Let me know where I should start in my big ole’ pile of graphic novels and increase my anxiety and through more recommendations my way. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Last Week…

I’m tired, slightly cranky, and too lazy to journal this evening. I’ve had a few days of heavy writing and I’m all out of words. In lieu of words, how about a peek into what last week was like for me. Yes?

Before I dump a crap ton of pictures on you, I want you to know that I’m very aware that I have zero pictures of Hope. It honestly looks like I only have two kids. Hope gets to call the shots with her pictures going on the blog and this week she flat-out declared I was to not take her picture. She is alive and left today for a week of camp. Perhaps I’ll nab a picture when she returns.

Okay, on to last week’s highlights of pictures with no words. Seriously, make-up a story to go with each picture. It will be fun!

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On to a new week! This time I’ll scrounge up more words to share!

How to have a great Introvertcation

I’m in serious need of a vacation. Scratch that… an introvert staycation. No people, no family, no kids, no chores, no work… just me –ALONE — for the space of a day.

Since that isn’t possible at the moment, I’m going to take the time to describe my DREAM introvertcation:

STEP 1: Make sure the house is reasonably neat prior to introvertcation. The screaming to-do list of laundry, tidying, bill-paying etc… will bug you. If you cannot get everything in order then just hide it or use a helluva lot of resolve to NOT ADULT AND BE RESPONSIBLE.

introvert6STEP 2: Weather. Okay, I know you have no control over this. My favorite “introvert” weather is autumn or winter or rainy. Light a candle, turn on some background nature sounds, whatev works. Me? I’m pretending it isn’t close to 100 degrees outside and lighting a pumpkin scented candle. Summer be damned.

introvert3STEP 3: Location. Yeah, I’m in my house… but do I have a nest? Hobbit hole? Blanket fort? What is the most comfy place in the house? I’m going to spend most of my time there.

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STEP 4: Fashion or naw. Slouchy pjs, favorite cardigan, and fuzzy socks. Sexy.

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STEP 5: Coffee. Maybe tea or cocoa or another favorite beverage, but for me it is coffee. Make a big pot, break out the fancy creamers, pick your favorite mug.

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STEP 6: Books. DUH.

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STEP 7: Get Writerly. Now is the time to break out ALL THE WRITING TOOLS. Pens, notecards, journals, etc… Write a letter, journal your thoughts, or just make lists with nice pens. This is normal, right?

introvert10STEP 8: Geek out. Now is the time to binge watch as many Harry Potter movies as possible. Or put together a LEGO set. Or dream shop vintage owl cookie jars on Etsy.

introvert9STEP 9: Make something. Knit. Crochet. Draw. Embroider.

introvert2STEP 10: Try something new. Bake a new recipe. Seek out a new craft to make. Attempt teaching yourself to twerk. Just do something new and know that no one is around to judge you.

introvert4There you are, my perfect introvertcation. Other things to add would be favorite music, snackage, and possibly a nap. Let me know your introvertcation suggestions, or, not. I’ll be reading in my blanket fort.

Three Reviews: Station Eleven, The True Heart, and The White Monkey

3reviewsI’m getting behind on book reviews. How about an good old-fashioned mini-review dump?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

(PLOT SPOILERS!!!)

Thanks to the Georgia flu much of the world has been wiped out. Many died and died quickly, electricity and communication are totally gone, and those who survive have lived because of luck, wit, and violence. The novel follows several characters in their lives before the flu and what happens to those after the devastation. I especially love that this novel has gobs of Shakespeare in it. The book opens with King Lear and The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream are sprinkled through out.

I’m giving this book four stars because it was well-written and superbly plotted, BUT it read like Margaret Atwood fanfiction. When I finished the book I just wanted to go re-read the Oryx and Crake trilogy. A friend pointed out that the book also has some elements of The Blind Assassin as well.

Check this book out for sure, but be aware that Atwood fans will be hankering after more Atwood. If you’ve yet to read Atwood, then read Station Eleven first. It is a great book, but pales in comparison to Atwood. I will certainly be checking out other books by Mandel.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 13 May 2015

Finished: 23 May 2015

Pages: 336

Challenges: —

Owned/Borrowed/Library: library
Stars: 4 out of 5 stars

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The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner

I am so hesitant to review this at all as I really didn’t like it. Sukey is a simple orphan, she goes to work as a maid, fails in love with a mentally handicapped boy, they’re separated and then she fights to get him back. I loved the lush descriptions of trees and flowers, but I thought Sukey was dumber than a box of rocks. I should have read the intro, because APPARENTLY this was supposed to be a fairy tale sort of re-telling of Psyche and Cupid. I totally missed that and now I feel like I should re-read it before pronouncing a final judgement. Will I re-read it? Who knows?

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 23 May 2015

Finished: 30 May 2015

Pages: 297

Challenges: Virago Project / TBR challenge

Owned/Borrowed/Library: library
Stars: 2 out of 5 stars

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The White Monkey by John Galsworthy

For some reason this has been my least favorite of the Galsworthy books. Maybe it is because Soames is now sort of moral and that through me for a loop. I dislike Fleur. Michael Mont is likeable, but seems like a throwaway character. It seems like the books are falling into a pattern of love OR relationship –> ennui AND affairs –> some sort of crisis that is never really totally articulated or resolved. Once again, this may be because I was in a book funk after reading The True Heart. I may wait a month or two before picking up the next Galsworthy.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 24 May 2015

Finished: 13 June 2015

Pages: 352

Challenges: —

Owned/Borrowed/Library: owned
Stars: 3 out of 5 stars

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