Happy Holidays // A Quote from ‘A Christmas Carol’

Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s a heartwarming quote from A Christmas Carol, my annual Christmas read, about the true nature of the season, as well as a pic of my favorite character from The Muppet Christmas Carol, Homeless Bean Bunny:

bunny

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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Book rec // The Girl at the Lion d’Or

Hey all! A book recommendation today for anyone who loves character-driven novels with romance and history! So, that’s definitely me. I stumbled across this book called The Girl at the Lion D’Or a couple years ago at my favorite bookstore, Westsider Books. I like thrifting at secondhand bookstores because you find books that have been forgotten or lost, and you can find some true gems.

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Females in Fiction // my favorite quotes!

The female characters I love the most in fiction are a mix of the very fiesty, the very cunning or smart, and the very brave. I grew up devouring books whenever I could, and in books I found dozens of amazing female characters that felt not only like role models but like friends. I grew up admiring them and wanting to emulate them, and obviously, this all had a lot to do with how they acted and, most important, what they said. Here are some of my favorite characters in fiction ever and the quotes that made me fall in love with them. (In no particular order!)

Scarlett O’Hara

I LOVE Scarlett O’Hara despite all of her immense faults because in the face of adversity, Scarlett does anything but give up. She is constantly fighting to keep her family together, keep her house, and stay alive.

“I’ll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Elizabeth Bennet

females in fiction
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Book Rec // ‘Villette’ by Charlotte Brontë

Next on my to-read list for this year was a Charlotte Brontë novel I’ve been meaning to read since college: Villette. I’m slowly working my way through my classics shelf via my Over Drive app (yay for audiobooks!) and I’m happy to have read this amazing book.

Jane Eyre is the Charlotte Brontë novel most people are familiar with, but this one, Villette, was Charlotte’s last novel and her most autobiographical. Even though it took me forever to read, this classic is a must-read!

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Book Rec // ‘The Mistletoe and Sword’ by Anya Seton

Anyone who has read this blog before knows I am obsessed with historical fiction. It may be my favorite genre ever, and one that I have been reading since I was in eighth grade. I think that good, accurate historical fiction is the best way to learn history, and is also one of the most entertaining kind of novels because you learn more than you would from textbooks, and anyway, the romantic in me absolutely loves imagining and reading about previous eras. Who doesn’t?

And in keeping with this year’s resolution to shop a whole lot less, read more, and most important, read the books I already have, when I was given a whole, lazy Saturday at home one weekend, I reached into my shelves and drew out a book I bought in 2012, one that I hadn’t ever opened before, and one that is by one of my favorite authors: Anya Seton.

Anya Seton was a successful, bestselling historical fiction novelist in the 1950s, known best for her works Katherine and The Winthrop Woman. But she also wrote a slimmer, young-adult novel named The Mistletoe and Sword. At 250 pages, this book was the perfect size to devour in a day. Here’s what it’s about.
the mistletoe and sword
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‘Frenchman’s Creek,’ a romance novel by Daphne du Maurier

If you’re like me, then you know Daphne du Maurier from two things: her story “The Birds” and Rebecca, that freaky book you had to read in high school. But recently, I came across her romance novel!!!! in a secondhand bookstore in the city, and I had to have it. It’s called Frenchman’s Creek, and it will give you feels. I have to say, this has automatically become one of my favorite works of literature; it has almost everything I look for in a great story. Read more about this recommendation!

frenchman's creekWhat it’s about: Frenchman’s Creek is about a noblewoman named Dona St. Columb (a perfect romance-novel name, IMO), who feels stifled in her life in London. It takes place in Restoration England, and the entire narrative is a kind of flashback through the eyes of a modern-day yachtsman visiting the place in Cornwall where Dona flees to when she can’t take her life anymore. The framed narrative creates a spooky atmosphere that is definitely characteristic of du Maurier’s other works.

When Dona arrives in Cornwall at her house called Navron, with her two children in tow (but not her husband), she is consumed by a feeling of freedom she’s been craving all her life. Eventually, she meets and has an affair with a philosopher turned pirate named Jean-Benoit Aubéry, who teaches her that even though she craves escape, it’s almost impossible for a woman to have the same freedom as a man does. Their relationship becomes a metaphor for societal expectations placed on women, and the whole metaphor is couched in the language of a high romance novel with plenty of passion. Oh, and the writing is utterly breathtaking, so you don’t have to feel bad about reading romance!

Through her experiences with the pirate, she tests her strength, her courage, and finds herself outside of her constructed “proper” persona. She becomes her own person, someone whole and fulfilled in both life and love. She finds freedom and happiness.
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A new favorite book: ‘Howards End’ by E.M. Forster

howards endToday, I finished one of the books I’ve been wanting to read forever, Howards End by E.M. Forster. Forster wrote one of my top 10 favorite books of all time (A Room With A View), and it’s clear from how effing amazing this book is that this is truly Forster’s masterpiece. It’s unique, endlessly poignant, surprising, and makes you go, “OH MY GOD THAT IS SO TRUE.” A new favorite, truly! Here’s what the big deal is all about.

What it’s about: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Howards End is about, because it’s about so many things: women versus men, socialism versus capitalism, town versus country, the inner life versus the outer, and our relationship to the earth. It’s also about home, and has a touch of magic to it.

However, the actual plot centers upon two families: the cultured London sisters Margaret and Helen Schlegel, and the Wilcox family of cold and practical businessmen. These two families are complete opposites and frequently butt heads, and their meetings, fights, and unions are characterized by rich discussions about all of the Big Questions of life. It’s also an indictment of common English practices and rigid social classes.

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‘Vanity Fair,’ the novel without a hero…or heroine

Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? — Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.

vanity fairThus ends William Makepeace Thackeray’s saucy, sarcastic, insightful novel about the citizens of Vanity Fair, a place of appearances, wealth, social status, and hypocrisy. The denizens of this part of Vanity Fair are the incorrigible Becky Sharp, the naive and kind Amelia Sedley, the steadfast and honorable William Dobbin, the vain Joseph Sedley, scoundrel George Osborne, and the dim-witted gambler Rawdon Crawley—among a host of others, a whole cast of vivid characters that the narrator, himself a character in the novel, eviscerates at every turn. I’ve written briefly before about my first impressions starting this novel, and now that I’ve finished, I have to say my biggest takeaway is my varying loyalties and sympathies to the two female characters in the book, who are extreme opposites: Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley.

Rebecca Sharp is the ultimate female anti-hero: a social climber, manipulative, dishonest by default, a terrible mother, a gambler, and a cheat. Her most famous description/line is:

…Though Miss Rebecca Sharp has twice had occasion to thank Heaven, it has been, in the first place, for ridding her of some person whom she hated, and secondly, for enabling her to bring her enemies to some sort of perplexity or confusion; neither of which are very amiable motives for religious gratitude…Miss Rebecca was not, then, in the least kind or placable. All the world used her ill, said this young misanthropist…This is certain, that if the world neglected Miss Sharp, she never was known to have done a good action in behalf of anybody…”

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A poem for your Saturday // William Wordsworth

Happy Saturday, everyone. I thought I’d share a poem here today, by one of my favorite poets William Wordsworth.

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

william wordsworthI wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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My favorite quotes from ‘Great Expectations’

Earlier this month I read Great Expectations, and previously, the only other Charles Dickens books I’d read were Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. Recently, I’ve been making an effort to read the classics, and since this is where I talk about books, I thought I’d share some thoughts, highlights, and favorite moments from Great Expectations, a classic, beloved story (because clearly, “reviewing” the classics is utterly useless!).

great expectationsEven if you haven’t read Great Expectations, you probably know a little about the story: a poor little boy named Pip lives with his sister and her husband, and is set to be a blacksmith when he gets older. However, he has these wild fantasies of being a gentleman, and is ashamed of his poverty, his low status in society, and of his family, who are like him. His “great expectations” are to be a proper gentleman (and to come into money), and eventually, he gets what he wants—but not the way he thought he would.

Along the way, he meets people from all corners of society, and learns that social circles and maintaining status are difficult and superficial. There’s Miss Havisham, an old woman who has never changed out of her wedding dress (or thrown away the cake) since her groom abandoned her on her wedding day decades ago.

There’s also Estella, the adopted child of Miss Havisham, who was raised to be a weapon by which Miss Havisham can get back at men for what her groom did to her. There’s also Joe Gargery, the simple, proud, and loving father figure to Pip, whom Pip utterly abandons when he comes into money. And then there’s Pip himself, a man who has a good heart, but whose obsession with money and status makes him forsake the people who loved him unconditionally.

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