readerly rambles

Readerly Rambles: 15 September 2014

readerly rambles

What I read: Earlier in the month I finished up The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was a re-read for me, but frankly I don’t remember finding the book so creepy and fascinating during the first read. I’ll hold off on my analysis until the Estella Society has their Hill House read-along discussion on October 1st. For a teaser let me just say, HOLY COW THE BELL JAR!!!

What I’m reading: I’m about halfway through Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper. The story centers around Laurel, an aging actress who is haunted by remembering a violent act concerning her mother. Almost s her mother is elderly and nearing death, Laurel feels pressure to discover the truth of what happened that day and to uncover her mother’s secretive past. The novel reminds me a bit of Sarah Water’s The Night Watch simply because it occurs during wartime and the timeline seems to move backwards and then forwards. I hope that makes sense. I’m really enjoying it for the plot and characters and but the crux of the novel focuses on the secret life of mothers and that is the most fascinating element. You know, the fact that we are completely human with passions, interests, faults, etc…. outside of being a mother even though society tends to sum up women based on their role as a mother (or lack of a role as a mother). Good Stuff.

I’m also dipping in to M R James’s Collected Ghost Stories on my Kindle. It is my lunch-break, waiting-in-line read. I adore M R James and he is a masterful storyteller. Thus far the most frightening story in the collect is “The Ash Tree” as it features my least favorite creature: SPIDERS.

What’s up Next: Once I’m done with The Secret Keeper I plan on cracking open Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. I am completely determined to finish The Chronicles of Barsetshire series this year.

Reading Challenge Update: RIP IX is coming along marvelously. I’ll post more extensively on RIP at a later date, but suffice it to say that I am all over this challenge. I’ve read one book out of four (Hill House) and the James counts as my story collection. I also watched The Haunting, which is the film version of The Haunting of Hill House for the Peril of the Screen challenge. This is certainly my favorite challenge.

I’ll write extensively on my reading challenges as I wrap up the year in December / early January, but I did want to note how I’m doing on my goals:

Back to the Classics — 7 out of 10
Victorian Reading Challenge – 8 out of 2 (winning!!!!)
Chunksters – 5 out of 5 (yay!)

Bookshelf Issues: To wrap up this week’s Readerly Rambles I’d like to share my readerly conundrum — my books are still boxed up. We moved two weeks ago and I’ve yet to unpack my books because I don’t have shelves for them. I had two cheap-y Target bookshelves that pretty much fell apart during the move. With two little kids around and knowing these shelves will be full with books I didn’t want to risk cobbling particleboard back together. On one had I want to just buy more cheap shelves as we plan on buying a home in the next three years. I’d like to put built-in shelving when we buy OR make sure that our shelves go with the style of the house. On the other hand, it seems silly to waste money on items that will be used temporarily. And if I did buy some solid shelves they could probably go somewhere in our future home. So what’s it to be?

1). Cheap shelves for now

2). Pull a little savings and get sturdier shelves

I don’t know what to do; I just know I won’t be settled until the books are unpacked!

Readerly Rambles: September TBR Pile and a Readalong


Heather has succeeded in making the creepiest button for a readalong. Hold me, I’m frightened.

I’m going to pretend that August never happened. By the time this is posted it will be the dawn of a new month, September. I can ignore the fact that I disposed of 400 books and didn’t complete a single book in August. In fact, I went most of the month WITHOUT READING. I’ve thought a great deal about reading and I miss it so much. So here it is Friday, 08/29 and I’m writing about books instead of finishing up all the packing and errands for the move tomorrow. I feel like I should point out that I’m only moving a 15 minute drive away, but the downsizing from a house to an apartment is exhausting.

But I digress…. books…. let’s talk about books.

September marks the start of my favorite challenge, Carl’s R.eader’s I.mbibing P.eril challenge (RIP) right now the challenge isn’t posted, but I know it is on the way. I’ll be choosing mostly “Gothic literature, horror, and all things that go bump in the night” in keeping with Carl’s challenge. I’ll also be participating in an Estella Society readalong of the Shirley Jackson horror classic The Haunting of Hill House. And then there’s Trollope…. I must catch up on Trollope.

Without further ado may I present to you my TBR for September:

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (audio)

The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James (Kindle)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (my Classics Club spin!)

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats


September will be an exciting month: settling into the new home, an exciting Autumn project I will be sharing soon, and the start of autumn baking season.

And books…. many, many, many books!

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: Book Vacation, Culling, and a Classics Club Spin!

readerly rambles

I’m writing a Readerly Rambles post despite NOT reading this week. I took a self-imposed one week break from reading. With too much going on at work and with potentially moving I found myself distracted. I picked up book after book and my eyes would glaze over and my brain didn’t even try to keep up with plot, character, and language. During my week of non-reading I did do some bookish things.

I culled 96 books (91 books, plus five cookbooks). I am going to force myself to cull four more. I also packed up my first box of books I’m keeping.
While I was flipping through cookbooks I started watching The Barchester Chronicles. It is perfect; absolutely perfect.

I also decided on some reading goals. If all goes well we will be moving the week of September 7th. My goal is to read The Black Count (which is a book I borrowed from a friend) and then read A Clash of Kings on my Kindle. This will be prime reading material and I can go ahead and box all of my books.

Oh yes, the Classics Club spin was also announced this morning. Book number 17 on my list is Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper and I’m excited to read that book once everything is settled on the home front. I read The House at Riverton in August of 2010 when I was pregnant with Atticus and I adored it. I’m glad to get the chance to read more Morton.

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: Trollope and an August TBR

readerly rambles

What I read: Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope rivals the very best Jane Austen has to offer. Doctor Thorne, our hero, is a good man. He is a good doctor and he really endeavors to make the right choice despite how it impacts his life. While Doctor Thorne is our hero and holds all the cards, so to speak, the plot really centers on Mary Thorne — the doctor’s niece — and Frank Gresham, Squire Gresham’s heir. Doctor Thorne has cared for the Gresham family for years and as a result Mary Thorne, who is illegitimate and poor, has grown up as a companion to the Gresham children. Of course Frank falls in love with Mary and the Gresham family is shocked and dismayed. Frank is to marry money to save the financially compromised family estate and Mary has neither money or rank. But what if Mary had money? How would things change? How important is blood and can money outweigh “bad blood?” This book was marvelous especially with the witty dialogue and the excellently drawn characters. I think I would classify Anthony Trollope’s novels as the perfect “gateway” to reading large Victorian novels. Side note, Frank and Mary reminded me of Fred Vincy and Mary Garth in Middlemarch. He is young and brash and she is all sense, but still in love. Anyone else feel that way?

What I’m reading: Tonight I plan on sinking into The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classics and I’m looking forward to learning more about the inspiration for the novel. I also think it will be nice to read something under 400 pages and non-fiction. I need a change before I dig back into Trollope and George RR Martin!

What’s up Next: Behold! My August TBR!!!


  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.
  • A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Born Reading : Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age by Jason Boog
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  • All Joy and No Fun: the Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

Let’s hope August is a readerly month, because I have many books ready to go

Happy Reading!


Readerly Rambles: On Choosing Books

readerly rambles

There is no shame in have a bounty of books at one’s disposal. None.

I constantly hear other book bloggers (and I do this as well) bemoan looming book piles. We constantly tell ourselves to limit book buying or to not check out too many library books and I — for the most part — think this is unnecessary. Now if you have a fire hazard in your home from hoarding or you aren’t paying your bills because you’re buying books then yes, too many books is a huge problem. But on the whole, having a lot of books isn’t a problem and we don’t need to make it one. I know that my kids see that I value books and part of that is from the fact that books are everywhere in our home; in fact, they notice when we go somewhere and folks don’t have books on the shelves. I know that buying from indie bookshops is vital to keeping local bookstores in our communities so for goodness sake don’t limit those purchases. As a library employee I can tell you that circulation stats can make or break a library; staff size, funding for programs and materials, and other key decisions are determined based on checkout stacks. If you love libraries then GO CRAZY. I don’t care if you turn right around and drop it back in the book return, if you see a book that you think adds value to the world then for the love of cheeses check it out. Do. Not. Hold. Back.

The problem isn’t so much the spending or the checking out. The problem, my friends, is READER’S ANXIETY. That awful feeling of panic that arises when one wants to read everything, right now, and as a result nothing clicks. I’ve tried many times to curb my reader’s anxiety. What I found most helpful is to rename it “reader’s enthusiasm” and find a way to manage that works for me.

So, how do I choose what to read when my home is filled with books, I have bookish friends lending me enticing reads, I work in a library filled with books, AND I’m the ILL manager meaning that I can request books from LIBRARIES AROUND THE GLOBE? Add to that, the ease of finding and ordering books cheaply and I’m in a bookish frenzy. Well, friends, I have half of an answer.

Yes, you read that correctly. I will be treating you to half an answer (note that this is different from a half-assed answer).

First of all I will tell you what does not work for me that seems to work for everyone else: Reading Challenges. I do really well on challenges that have plenty of wiggle room (i.e. read 5 Victorian novels or 12 books from the library or 3 mysteries). I do not, however, have luck with challenges that require a set list or that are really specific (i.e. pick 12 specific books, read from this list, or pick this one author). It doesn’t work for me. The exception would be if it is something I really love like Charles Dickens or Anthony Trollope or Harry Potter. I try my best to stick to the list, but I end up chucking it out the window.

Readalongs and “themed” months are also usually a bust. The exception would be something that I already really want to read. I did well with The Little Stranger and The Historian readalong, but floundered (pun intended) on Moby-Dick. Then there is the problem I have with needing variety in my reading. For example, I thought of participating in Austen in August, but I’m reading a lot of Trollope and I think they would be too similar. I also contemplated reading East of Eden, but I’m reading so many thick books (between George R R Martin and the Victorians I don’t think I have it in me for another thick book). I have to have some variety.

Below you’ll see my current, not very scientific system that has been working okay for the most part:


This list changes often. About every month I reassess my plans and make adjustments. Case-in-point: I will finish every book I planned to finish in July with the exception of The Black Count. When I “reset” my list in August, I’ll start with The Black Count and work my way through to my series book for the month. This works out with the goal — not always met, mind you — of reading/listening to five books a month. One on my Kindle, one through ILL or from the library, one in a series (I have many series in my TBR), one from my stacks at home, and an audiobook. Thus far, things seem to be working. I don’t get overwhelmed and I can easily participate in themed months or the Classics Club spin by picking books from my stacks or library books.

HOWEVER, there is a tiny glitch. I am still really overwhelmed when I need to choose a book from my stacks. I’ve tried many ways to narrow down choices:

  • I tried pulling from 20 to 50 books for an “immediate” TBR pile. Inevitability I end up a few days later wanting something else.
  • I tried making reading from my stacks a “reading challenge,” which meant I wanted to read nothing on my shelves.
  • I tried to use a random number generator that ends up with me looking like a crazy person trying to count out to book 206 and then not liking the book and then either picking another number (defeats the purpose) or starting from the opposite end of my shelves.
  • I tried getting drawing little slips of paper from a jar.
  • I tried determining what I want to read. Do I feel Victorian-y, Virago-y, Modern-y, Speculative Fiction-y?


What do the rest of you bibliophiles do? I know I’m weird, but I have trouble picturing folks just randomly picking the *right* book off the shelf. Let me know if you have any weird  different systems I could try. I’m thinking that I should at least *try* to pluck three to five books off the shelf and reading the first three pages of each to see which one sticks.

Happy Reading (or happy obsessing over TBR piles)



Readerly Rambles: 21 July 2014

readerly rambles

What I Read: A few weeks ago I finished my first Alice Munro collection, Dear Life. Holy cheeseballs why didn’t I pick up Munro sooner?!?! I’ve mused for weeks how to perfectly sum up this collection and there is nothing I can say that will do it justice. I will try my best to tie this collection together in a simple way. The stories are very much driven by the protagonist and his or her thoughts and interpretations of the the situations they find themselves in, their memories of the past, and the their reactions to those around them. If I had to pick some words to describe the stories — from characters to scenes to dialogue — I would pick words like: interior, close, introspective, circumspect, careful, still, introverted. The “action” doesn’t make the heart of the story so much as the fallout of those actions or the — often unvoiced — choices characters make. The characters are pulled-back, set-apart, alone and it is so very effective. For example, in a story about a woman remembering the death of her sister when they were children, the crux of the action isn’t about the actual death, but rather about the living sister being haunted by her inaction when her sister was in trouble. Another story is narrated by a man (most of the stories have female protagonists) who abruptly leaves a female companion after learning something disturbing about her childhood. The odd and traumatic childhood isn’t the focus, rather it is what drives the protagonist to keep leaving and abandoning people in emotional situations. The first 13 stories in this collection are fiction. The last section, “Dear Life,” is composed of vignettes about Alice Munro’s childhood. I found these tales of babysitters, insomnia, and memory fascinating. I will certainly be picking up more Munro in the future. She is a expert storyteller and can build troubled, sympathetic characters in the style of Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bowen, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor. I’m resisting an urge to binge purchased every Munro collection.

What I’m Reading: I’m halfway through Trollope’s Doctor Thorne and it is even better than Barchester Towers and I adored that book. Trollope just keeps getting better and better. I’m set to finish the book this week as long as my reading goes according to plan. I’m beginning to think that Trollope is a good “gateway” book for those intimidated by chunky Victorian novels. Trollope is hilarious and the dialogue rivals the rapier wit of Jane Austen.

I’m also about half-way through listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’m enjoying it, but I save my audiobooks for when I’m exercising or doing some data-entry like work that I have to do at work. Things were too chaotic to listen to an audiobook at work last week, but I hope to get back to it this week.

Lastly, I started reading the second book in George R R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series — a Clash of Kings. I’m reading it on my Kindle which means this has become my lunch break, stuck in line, up with the baby at night book. I’ve forbidden myself from reading it at other times because I know I will read too much of it. I want to savor this series and not blow through the entire thing.

What’s Up Next:  I was planning on reading another classic, but between Trollope and reading other large books I feel like I need a break. I was staring at my shelves last night trying to decide what I wanted to read: modern? kids’ book? memoir? I had no idea. Then I saw a book my friend Michelle lent to me ages ago, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This Pulitzer Prize winning piece of non-fiction is about General Alex Dumas, father to The Count of Monte Cristo author Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classic novels and I’ve read it twice. This sounds both literary AND swashbuckling. I’m 99% sure it will be my next read. Besides, I really need to return the book!

Bookish Miscellany: I’m one pound away from reaching my next weight-loss goal. That means another *new* book purchase. I’ve been only buying books as I stumble upon them at thrift stores and I’m dying to buy books off of my wishlist.  I’ve been buying a book for every five pounds lost. My goal is to lose that pound this week so I can order the Penguin Deluxe Threads edition of Black Beauty. I have all of the Penguin Threads with the exception of Black Beauty and Little Women.

That’s it for this week. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments.

Happy Reading!

Percolating Blog Ideas

This weekend the blogosphere is celebrating Bloggiesta. Bloggiesta is blog event that encourages bloggers to spruce, plan, update, and improve their blog. I’d love to gung-ho participate, but this will be a very busy weekend. This week I thought a bit about Fig and Thistle and what I would like to do in this space in the future. I am big on ideas and short on time and I really need a way to organize and maximize my posts. I usually jot down ideas in the my journal or on post-it notes, I “pre-blog” a bit in the evening and I usually end up writing the bulk of my posts on my lunch break. It feels like a scramble sometimes.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having “themes” for each day of the week. Initially I thought this might be too restrictive, but it would at least allow me to focus my thoughts. How about a trial run through the rest of July and August and if it sucks I can go back to willy-nilly blogging?

sunday scribbles


readerly rambles


list love


works in progress









Sunday — Sunday Scribbles: a place to talk about journaling, show a bit of my journal, showcase stationary, and talking about writing.

Monday — Readerly Rambles: book reviews, book hauls, book fangirling, TBRs, etc….

Tuesday — List Love: I participate in Top Ten Tuesday on occasion, but I love lists and I like the idea of making lists of non-book related things.

Wednesday — Works in Progress: On Wednesdays I’ll talk about projects including knitting, crochet, embroidery and non-crafty things like organizing, cleaning, and budgeting. Thrifted will be my back up category for when I have some thrifted goods to show off.

Thursday — Thursday Thoughts: A place to write about what’s on my mind on topics such as social media, motherhood, work, and anything else on my brain.

Friday — Photo Friday: A time to share photos or possibly participate in some of those Instagram memes I never remember to do on a daily basis

Saturdays — Other people’s themes: I may write a Celebrate 5 Things post or do a Weekend Cooking post. And, of course, Readathons and other book related events.

Whelp, there’s my wee-bitty bloggiesta contribution. Let me know what you think? Any other ideas?