Bits and bobs, as they say

Just a quick post this evening of a few bookish internet things, one I’ve been meaning to mention and another I just discovered today.

Along with various blogs devouted to Jane Austen and the Brontes, I was beginning to think there needed to be one for Elizabeth Gaskell. Well, Katherine of November’s Autumn (who also writes insightfully about Jane Austen) has already started one! So check out the Elizabeth Gaskell Blog, there’s information about her life and times with pictures of Victorian fashions and there’s a Cranford read-along starting soon too. I’ve already read Cranford this year, but if you haven’t, it is high time to do so as it’s absolutely adorable!

And today at a library staff meeting, I learned about a website called Which Book, which lets you pick a book based on the kind of experience you’re looking for: happy/sad, beautiful/disgusting, easy/demanding, etc and the books that come up are recent, but not excessively well known. I found a nice little list of new titles that I hadn’t heard of before and it’s fun to change the settings around to see what comes up next. You can also search for books by country, plot and character. I love learning about new books from book bloggers, but sometimes there starts to be a bit of repetition going on, so this site is definitely a breath of bookish fresh air.

I’ve been jumping around a lot with books this month and not finishing anything since reading The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman all in one evening a few weeks ago. I don’t tend to read a lot of new books, but it was comforting and interesting and had a great bookshop in it and a sweet romance and old books and a slight Jane Austen vibe mixed with some sensual moments, I quite enjoyed it and have since been longing to find something like it, that’s recent and somewhat literary, yet also not difficult, something that’s truly a joy to read. I keep bringing home various books from the library, tonight it’s Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, I don’t even know if I’ll try it or The Woman in Black by Susan Hill which various people have been mentioning lately as a great Halloween read or if I’ll even bother with an official Halloween read at all! It’s not really my favourite holiday so I never got around to signing up for the R.I.P. reading challenge and although I do like a good cosy mystery, I haven’t been in the mood for those lately either.

I’ve picked up Jane Eyre again despite my reservations and while it is gothic enough for the current season and I have enjoyed Mr. Rochester’s humour in a few places and I like Bronte’s writing, I’m not flying through it. Maybe it’s the old cheap edition I have, I try to read it in the bath so I can accidentally get it wet and justify getting a nicer copy (the edition I’d like to have is displayed on my sidebar) but so far my cheap self is not buying that…! I wanted to reread a few old favourites this fall as a comfort, but now I think I’m wanting the excitement of something new (and also something that’s not excessively dark or challenging to read).

My recent excitement over the Persephone Secret Santa gift exchange (I actually got a lump in my throat on thinking about all of us, without having met in most cases, still sharing this gift of beautiful books together) is making me wonder if I might have more success with Christmas themed reading and I’ve actually been thinking of perhaps hosting a small Christmas reading event/challenge. Would anyone be interested in such an idea? Is there one already? Maybe it’s a little early, but I already have books on Christmas baking and decorating out from the library and have begun complying a reading list to go along! Clearly it’s my preferred holiday.

Also, my husband has mostly recovered from his surgery now and is about to return to work soon. (He manages a bookstore at the Calgary Airport, if you’re ever passing through, and has even more books than me!) The other stress over the summer and fall was that we were planning to move by the end of the year, once he was well enough. Thankfully, we’ve decided to stay in Calgary. I tend to move around a lot, so it’s hard but also good for me to learn how to settle down in one place for a while. I’ve also been debating going back to university to get a Master’s degree in English (specializing in Victorian novels of course!) or whether to become a school teacher. Or for now I can take a university course here and there and continue working at the library, book blogging and reading in peace and maybe someday writing a novel.

Ok, so I rarely manage ‘just a quick post’ but these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. If you have any recommendations for good new books that are cosy and well written, let me know! And I’d love to know what you think about a Christmas reading challenge or something like that.

34 thoughts on “Bits and bobs, as they say

  1. Joan Hunter Dunn says:

    What a lovely round up of thoughts and finds… On a Jane Austen note I follow Daily Jane Austen on twitter which I like.
    I love that you read the book edition you’re not so keen on in the bath to justify a new one!
    I’m looking forward to Persephone Secret Santa too.
    And finally ooh a Christmas read? I would be interested in that so long as I’ve finished Dr. Zhivago by then.

    ps glad your husband is recovering and exciting to think about a new college course or career.

  2. Willa says:

    Going back to university sounds so cool! Is there a specific uni that you have in mind? I am considering doing a course on Jane Austen, that would be really interesting i think.

    • Carolyn says:

      Well, probably one of the universities nearby, like the University of Calgary or Alberta. I’d love to go to university in England though! And I’d love to take a course on Jane Austen, I foolishly never did that in my undergraduate degree and have often regretted it.

  3. Claire (Paperback Reader) says:

    Thank you for the Persephone Secret Santa link! I am incredibly excited and it really puts me in the mood for Christmas and relevant reading.

    I too am reading old favourites just now and my idea of gothic.

    I love your idea of dropping a book in the bath so you can replace it! Also your idea of a Master’s in Victorian lit (I did mine in Modern and Postmodern literature but Victorian literature is also close to my heart).

  4. Spangle says:

    I’m glad that your husband is on the mend. Also thanks for posting about the website, as it sounds very interesting. As you said that you were not sure about ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger, I’d say give it a go!

    I really enjoyed reading ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ and would like to read ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’. I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on this novel.

    • Carolyn says:

      Oh good. I’ve never hosted a challenge before, so I’m not sure how to go about it, especially when to start it. I think I’ll keep it pretty simple though, just read one book to join it, I’d rather it was fun than too much, what with everything else going on at Christmas!

  5. Caroline says:

    That was a nice post. I watched the Cranford mini series recently and will review it soon. I liked it a lot. Which Book sounds interesting will have to investigate. I read Her Fearful Symmetry at the beginning of the year. It was one of the best I read this year. I am very intrigued by the Allegra Goodman you mention. I read Intuition and even though this isn’t a topic I would normally be interested in it was so well written that I was very taken by it.

    • Carolyn says:

      Thanks, Caroline! I hope you read Cranford if you liked the miniseries, I think I liked the book better. I have started reading Her Fearful Symmetry and I’m really enjoying it, so that’s a relief. I think I’ll read more Allegra Goodman too, as you say, even when she was writing about topics I wouldn’t normally be interested in (dot-com start ups in The Cookbook Collector, among other things), I quite enjoyed it.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I’m so glad for the Elizabeth Gaskell blog recommendation. I’ve been wanting to learn more about her and this looks fantastic!

    And I’m really enjoying your blog, thanks.

  7. Katherine Cox says:

    Thank you for the mention, Carolyn!

    I’ve heard so much of Allegra Goodman’s novel and am quite intrigued.

    Christmas is one of my favorite Holidays, my other is Thanksgiving. I was doing some housework yesterday and was so tempted to pull out a few Christmas decorations but I thought I’d wait just a little longer. πŸ˜‰

    • Carolyn says:

      You’re welcome, Katherine, I’m just glad someone had already thought of a Gaskell blog before me, because I don’t know if I would have been as good at it!

      Christmas is one of my favourites too, along with Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving. I’m already listening to some Christmas music! (Partly to get it from the library before everyone else…)

  8. Stefanie says:

    Good luck with your decision whether or not to go back to university. Love Jane Eyre. Have you read Jean Rhys’s book Wide Sargasso Sea? it is a very good take on Bertha’s story and how she ended up as the mad woman in the attic.

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Stefanie, yes, I’ve read Wide Sargasso Sea years ago but don’t remember much of it. I’ve also read Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys which is really depressing…

  9. Jillian says:

    Thanks for those links!! I look forward to checking them out.

    Not sure I could do a Christmas challenge, what with the length of my current challenge (250 books!) But I think it’s an awesome idea.

    Good to meet you. πŸ™‚

  10. nymeth says:

    I love whichbook – thank you for sharing! I’m very excited about the return of the Persephone Secret Santa also πŸ™‚ If you do decide to host a Christmas-themed reading event, you can count me in for sure. I’ve been mentally compiling a list of cosy Christmas reads for a few weeks now. Also, best of luck to you whatever you decide career-wise!

    PS: I’ve just seen Stefanie’s comment and absolutely second the recommendation of Wide Sargasso Sea.

      • nymeth says:

        A belated response, but still in time for Christmas πŸ˜›

        A Winter Book by Tove Jansson
        Moomintroll Midwinter by Tove Jansson
        The Box of Delights by John Masefield
        The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien
        Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

        I’d love to hear about yours as well!

        • Carolyn says:

          Ooh, aside from the Father Christmas Letters (which I’d forgotten about and which are too cute) I’ve never read any of these! Thanks so much for sharing this, Ana. πŸ™‚

          I’ve gotten most ideas for my Christmas reading list from here, I’m thinking of reading the short story A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote and A Christmas Carol and I’d like to read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas at some point. Aside from that, I was thinking of cosy classics that include Christmas, like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. And apparently there’s already a Christmas reading challenge going on elsewhere, so now I can maybe think about a Virago Reading Week instead…

            • Carolyn says:

              Haha, Claire! Rachel and I have started to discuss it, but it will have to wait until next year as both of us are busy right now, unfortunately. It’s nice to see there’s interest though!

              (as a separate sidenote, what authors did you study in your Masters?)

          • nymeth says:

            A Christmas Memory is one of my all-time favourite short stories! And I read a lovely illustrated edition of A Child’s Christmas in Wales last year and absolutely loved it! I really like your idea of including classics with a Christmas-y feel to them.

  11. Iris says:

    I’m happy to hear your husband is recovering well from his surgery. Good luck on the decision whether or not you are going to retuirn to university.

    I picked up Jane Eyre and flew through it, I think it might’ve been because I was in a strange obsessive mood πŸ™‚

    Thank you for the link to the Elizabeth Gaskell blog!

  12. JoAnn says:

    Cranford is very near the top of my tbr pile, so I will look into the read-along. The Woman in Black is my idea of a perfect Halloween read… even though I read it on a flight from London to New York in July! Have a great week.

    • Carolyn says:

      Oh I’m so sorry I didn’t get back to you on this comment sooner, JoAnn! I would like to read The Woman in Black, but perhaps I’ll do as you did and not read it around Halloween, as I tend to get creeped out easily.

  13. Mae says:

    Ah, I wish I was going back to university although I’ve only left it last year!

    The Which Book site looks great. You should also check out Fiction Connection which works in a similar vein although I’m not sure if you have to be subscriber.

    I hope you enjoy Jane Eyre. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I’m guilty of having numerous copies of it.

    • Carolyn says:

      University is so addictive isn’t it! At least for avid learners…

      Fiction Connection does look good, but also requires a password. 😦

      I have enjoyed Jane Eyre in the past, but for some reason this year I’ve been rereading a few old favourites and not liking all of them as much anymore (including Anna Karenina too), while liking others more than I used to (like E.M. Forster). So I’ve changed, but I like having new outlooks on things.

      Thanks for stopping by, Mae!

  14. Jenny says:

    I have a gorgeous copy of Jane Eyre, but I already really liked it, so the lovely copy is just the icing on the cake. And I always fly through Jane Eyre when I reread it. I looooove Mr. Rochester and Jane – they have a good sense of humor, which can be rare for couples in books from that time period.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s