Time for a Change

So it looks like I have moved blogs, to lavender tisane on blogger. I didn’t really want to let everyone know until I felt more settled in and comfortable, but I think I do like blogger more than wordpress, which has always felt too formal and intimidating for me somehow. I’m still not blogging too often, but I thought I’d rather continue to share this sense of community and friendship with you all in a more comfortable way for me than go completely off on my own. I’ve already reviewed Evelina by Fanny Burney there, as well as the first two Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig, so please stop by for some lavender tea with me!

(By the way, what is the protocol or procedure on moving blogs, do people move all their old entries to the new site or just start over and tell people to refer back to the old one for previous reviews? Can you move comments over too? I don’t know if I’d want to move all my old entries, but I have a few favourites that I feel encapsulate the type of blogging I’d like to do going forward — more of a random hodge-podge of all my favourite things than anything too disciplined really — that I wouldn’t mind moving with me. Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog and hope to see you at the new one.)

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Report from Florida

I am breaking my self-imposed no blogging while in Florida rule here to share a few of my adventures so far. As you can see, it’s lovely and sunny at the beach and I am so glad to be away from snow, but it’s not quite warm enough to do without a cardigan all the time! My husband and I have been busy hitting up all of the local bookstores at our usual holiday rate of one (and sometimes two) a day and I’m happy to be able to visit Barnes & Noble again. (We tried to find good used bookstores here last time. They were mostly in crummy old buildings full of crummy old books. We’re not going to keep that game up this year!) I’ve managed to find four Virago Modern Classics, all in other editions (mostly NYRB Classics — I am actually trying to control a new mania to collect more of those!), but still thrilling none the less. I am considering reading more American authors, and am starting to be drawn towards reading about New York in particular. (Any recommendations there?) Edith Wharton and Truman Capote are two I’m wanting to explore further and it’s nice to see more of their books in stock here beyond their most famous.

I’ve also been skipping between about eight different books so far on this trip! I don’t know why I can’t focus on any of them (I do want to finish all of them eventually), but here’s the list:

  • A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf — read a bit of this on the plane, with pencil in hand. I finished Mrs. Dalloway in the car on the way to the airport (absolutely fantastic this time around, so glad I read it a second time) and wanted to bring some more Virginia with me to keep that happy floating lyrical alive feeling inside. I love the feminist angle of this essay and have some more thoughts of my own on the topic, but it’s not quite the same thing as Mrs. Dalloway.
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf — I haven’t read this since university and have been meaning to reread it eventually. I gave it a go our first night in Florida, but even it didn’t feel quite as joyful and light as Mrs. D (although isn’t as sad either) and I couldn’t quite handle reading about the old fashioned views on being a woman, as a big mother to all men, that Mrs. Ramsey holds. (I know those ideas aren’t embraced by Woolf herself, she’s just realistically portraying people as they are, but it’s too close to the way I was brought up.)
  • Someone at a Distance, Dorothy Whipple — to my delight this was waiting for me in Florida! I won a gift certificate from last year’s You’ve Got Mail reading challenge (thank you again, Stacy!), for the American Amazon, so had this sent ahead to my in-laws to meet me here. I was delighted with the first chapter, reading it our first day on the beach, but soon found the characters — the self-sacrificing mother, the demanding mother-in-law, the scheming frenchwoman, the daughter who loves her pony and her mummy so much, the noble brother in the army — to be slightly, well… unsurprising? I know so many of you love this that I will continue with it eventually, but for now I’ve skipped on.
  • The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim!!! This was my first book bought here (my husband found it for me) and when I began reading I breathed a huge mental sigh of relief. Wisteria and sunshine, holidays, yes every virtuous woman deserves holidays, I nodded along with the characters, smiling and sharing all their feelings. The problem is… I want to savour it! Especially for colder days when I’ll need more of an escape, when I’m no longer around palm trees and sunny skies and sand myself.
  • A Game of Hide and Seek, Elizabeth Taylor — I had brought this along for the trip, a fresh new Virago, and I breathed another sigh of relief on starting it. It starts with a fresh summer evening and young love, but quickly develops into a deeper and sharper examination of everyone’s motivations, just as I’ve come to expect from Elizabeth Taylor. It’s just a bit sad since things don’t seem to quite work out for the young couple.
  • The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy — another one of my VMC finds here. For the first chapter or so I wasn’t quite sure about it, but I’ve really come to love it. It’s the story of an American girl in Paris in the ’50s and she acts like Holly Golightly while talking like Philip Marlowe, with her hilarious use of American slang and catch phrases all her own. I’ve been reading out bits to my husband and really, I think I’ll just solve my problem and come back to this one.
  • Bliss and Other Stories, Katherine Mansfield — I always want to read more of her since I always like her when I do, so this was a noble attempt the other night before bed to get on with it. Perhaps it’s just not a good mix of author and my current location at the moment and I’m better off sticking with my amusing American friend above.
  • The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton — phew! I got this one out today from the library to get into this whole New York thing, but maybe it feels a bit too slow and old fashioned for the beach, even with social schemers named Undine Spragg… Oh my bookishly wayward heart!

Speaking of New York-ish books that are ridiculously slow, this quote was in my head today:

It was New York mourning, it was New York hair, it was a New York history, confused as yet, but multitudinous, of the loss of parents, brothers, sisters, almost every human appendage, all on a scale and with a sweep that required the greater stage; it was a New York legend of affecting, of romantic isolation, and, beyond everything, it was by most accounts, in respect to the mass of money so piled on the girl’s back, a set of New York possibilities. She was alone, she was stricken, she was rich, and in particular was strange…

From The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James. (I do want to finish it and have never quite managed to. Talk about a book nemesis!)

Besides the new books, the wonderful thing about this trip is that I’ve started to write a few short stories. While thinking about feminism and what the act of reading means for women (it can be seen as a selfish act, since there are so many more useful things she could be doing — or this was how I was made to feel as a teenager when I was reading sprawled out on the soft instead of in the kitchen helping my mom and sister out. Reading Virginia Woolf’s essay earlier this week I was thinking, women need a room of their own just to read and think in privacy, just for their own peace of mind!), I came across this article from Bitch magazine a few years ago, about ‘women, writing and the problem of success.’ That women aren’t encouraged to be that ambitious as writers (let alone in math and science, etc!), that they need to downplay their creations as ‘this little thing’ so they won’t be so rejected. It challenged me to own up to something:

I want to be a writer. A Novelist. That is all I’ve wanted to be for years. I know it’s impractical, I know I need a back-up job (believe me I’ve been looking for a good one that will give me lots of free time and low stress with enough money for books and shelter), but it is all my heart longs for. And as it’s not at all harmful to anyone and will actually improve my mental health, I’m going to stop being ashamed of telling people this, as if it’s some pathetic little copycat secret.

I watched the first episode of Any Human Heart on PBS Sunday night, watched as a rather self-absorbed inexperienced British boy waltzed his way into writing a bestselling novel, thanks to timely encouragement from Hemingway and a supportive girlfriend at his side. My brother-in-law also wants to be a writer (of plays, not novels, so we’re still friends) and what has he done, oh he’s taking it seriously, he got an MFA impractical as it is and writes every morning two hours a day, plus looks everywhere for related jobs, he’s taught writing at summer camps and for juvenile delinquents. Me, I’m too terrified to even apply to a single creative writing class. (I have taken playwriting and screenwriting classes in university, but only because they were the kinds of writing I didn’t want to do, so it was fine if I failed.) I finally got up my courage to begin working on a novel a few years ago, but it began to go in scary directions (after sleeping around with various inappropriate people, my main character had a baby which was supposed to solve all her problems and her marriage, but then she didn’t want the baby after all or the happy safe ending I was determined she have and I was venturing into more realism and also postpartum depression than I was prepared to handle at that point) and I stopped. There’s another great essay by Virginia Woolf called Professions for Women (that’s a link to the whole thing, it’s quite short and definitely worth reading), where she talks about women writers and even herself, holding back their imaginations because what they have to say about their bodies and passions and experiences seems too dangerous. I could have cried when I read that.

So I am determined to write again. Even if it’s not ‘good enough.’ Maybe “telling the truth about my own experiences as a body” could have saved Virginia Woolf? There is still time for me though. As long as I’m alive, I can be ambitious, I can tell the truth of my own experiences. I don’t need to keep silent anymore, I don’t need to listen forever without speaking up. I can model myself after the many great female authors I love and revere. I began to write a short story on the beach the other day, modeling it after Elizabeth Bowen and Katherine Mansfield’s short stories (and Virginia Woolf’s novels!) and what they’ve taught me. I used to freeze up from just writing something, anything, thinking that unless I could be as stoic about it as Hemingway, a stand up soldier at the typewriter, I wouldn’t succeed. But there are as many different ways to write as there are people and I have my own voice to find and deliver.

I’ll be blogging less (only once a week) so I can focus on my writing more and I may not reply to every comment, but I do value them and all of you reading so much. In fact, I know that it’s because of my new-found confidence in writing here (via Virago reading week and Virago Press giving so many women a voice, lighting a fire in me) that I’m able to start writing other things again too. When I listen to waves on the beach, I hear Virginia Woolf describing the sea, I feel the tone of a Katherine Mansfield reverie, I remember how Elizabeth Bowen shaped her stories, and words, memory, invention, comes splashing back.

A new Persephone in my life

First off, I’m thrilled to say that my Persephone for the Secret Santa exchange finally came today! I got Miss Buncle’s Book, which I have already read and loved, but didn’t have my own copy, so I’m so happy that Selena of my heart rang like glass chose it for me! Thank you Selena and it’s nice to meet a new blogger! She also sent me some lovely chocolates (which my husband claims were clearly meant for him) and bookplates. I was so anxious I wouldn’t get it before we moved, but here it is, to brighten up a day spent cleaning the apartment. (Still. It seems endless. We’ve been slogging through wiping down the sticky fridge, greasy stove, and dusty windows, cupboards, closets and walls for days now. Our furniture is all gone now, which reduced the cat to howls of distress, and we only have a blow-up mattress to sleep or sit on now, which keeps deflating, as they always do. The wrist I sprained earlier this year is sore again, but everything is still chugging along, thanks to chocolates, Miss Buncle and gift cards to bookstores from my family for Christmas. Pictures of all my new books to follow once I have my own computer again.)

Aside from that, I’ve finished The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller and have been taking notes on it since, so obviously I’m inspired by it, especially the last third of the book where she discusses the inspirations for Narnia. I’m interested to explore some of the books mentioned and it reminded me that while C.S. Lewis loved Norse mythology, I prefer Greek mythology, especially the stories of Orpheus, Psyche and Persephone. Thanks as well for the fantasy recommendations, with those plus my Christmas books, many of which were fantasy, and a few books more found off the World Fantasy Awards list, I’ve got an stack I’m keen to get started on once the move is over! I’m also looking forward to getting back to regular blogging then too, so until then, happy reading and Happy New Year!

Short hiatus

Hello all, this is a very quick post to say I’m taking a blogging break, perhaps until the new year. I’ve already packed up and moved my computer, my husband is still in the hospital (I’m hoping he’ll be out before Christmas), my keys are frozen in my car, most of our things are moved but everything is chaos at the moment. I haven’t really settled into any reading lately either, I’ve been too busy moving and spending time with my family. Hopefully things will settle down eventually and I’ll be back online at some point. (Also hoping I get my Persephone Secret Santa thing at some point, that is still not in my mailbox yet.)

One fun Christmassy thing I’ve found: the Guardian’s Season’s Readings, where I’ve found some old favourites suggested, as well as some I’d never heard of, including Box of Delights by John Masefield, a British children’s fantasy book set at Christmas, that I started enjoying the other night at the hospital.

Well, Merry Christmas, thanks for your understanding and support and hopefully my life will return to normal at some point!

Hospital Reading

My husband is back in the hospital again — he’s had an infection and an open wound in his stomach since his surgery this summer and it’s just not healing properly, so they’re finally doing tests on him and have him in an isolation room (I have to wear a gown and gloves when I visit) because he’s got a rare hard to vanquish infection that they don’t want spreading in the hospital. He’s not feeling too bad, given the circumstances, and the room is spacious (and private, hoorah!) and even cosy in a brand new part of the hospital and it was fun to spend the day together, sitting on his bed with our hospital gowns, watching tv and talking. He’ll probably be having another surgery tomorrow for an abscess somewhere in his stomach area and we’re still not sure how big it will be or how quickly it will heal. (Something of a concern since we’ve already given our notice on the apartment!)

I started reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett yesterday (it’s the perfect book to go to after Trollope, similar British comfort blend but less of a struggle) and have been snickering on the inside ever since. I’m very glad to have found something so light-hearted and just plain fun at this time. I took it with me to Florida this April but was too busy swanning around with Proust and Virginia Woolf to really get the humour at the time. But I started thinking of some of the jokes again and thought I’d give it another go. Quite glad I did. Growing up in an extremist christian home (where of course the book of Revelation and ‘end times’ were discussed in minute detail) means I can thoroughly enjoy two such talented and playful authors make gentle fun of everything I grew up hearing about. And yes, I was reading the book with surgical rubber gloves on, which is an odd sensation (mostly clammy) and not one I recommend.

I’m quite tired now, as I wasn’t able to sleep well last night (my husband and I are very rarely apart, so when he’s in the hospital I generally have to fall asleep with a movie on), so now it’s time for a cup of hot chocolate and perhaps Sense & Sensibility. The snow has begun to fall here again and everyday I keep hoping my Persephone book from my Secret Santa will have arrived, I’ve plugged in the Christmas tree, but this is not my favourite time of year to be at the hospital. (I can’t even go book shopping to let off stress since we need to save money for our move and just visiting at the hospital is expensive, with parking and meals.) Thanks in advance to all of you whom I have never meet, in this community we create together, for taking the time to care. I don’t know when I’ll be online again, but the support you’ve given in the past means a lot to me.

Trollope & My Life in Books

I’ve been very diligent today, reading 200 pages of Trollope so far (having a part time job is very handy for these last minute reading binges!) and only have 100 pages left to go, which I’ll do my best with tonight, I love being married to a reader and cuddling and reading in bed together!

I had to walk over to a cafe (named the Purple Perk, incidentally) to read for a while, just so I didn’t feel too apartment bound and actually ended up sobbing while reading for a while, I didn’t expect that from Trollope! I don’t know that I’ll say at what point, but he creates these quiet characters that don’t seem to have much passion in them, but then they surprise you… That certainly made me enjoy the book more, the depth of character that he slowly slowly adds, and I love being immersed in a thick novel like this. At first I feel all squirmy and that it will never end, what more could he possibly have to say about these people, but then their struggles and concerns and they themselves begin to come to life, especially as I read about them hour after hour, looking up occasionally at the Christmas decorations or when someone would hold the door open too long (my table was right next to the door too) and then back to reading, feeling surrounded by a warm slow Victorian hug.

(I was also eating a delicious saskatoon berry crisp while reading, which is pretty much what was recommended here! Yum.)

In Henrietta’s War, the main character writes at one point that her husband has a ‘Trollopish expression’ on his face while reading his novels (don’t have the book to get the exact quote) — I wonder what such an expression looks like? Perhaps some form of satisfied contentment, like after eating turkey? I’m certainly enjoying this novel the further it goes along, even more than The Eustace Diamonds, after that one I bought Can You Forgive Her? to start the Palliser series from the beginning but wasn’t quite sure if I was fully sold on Trollope yet. Now I think it’s happened. (And has anyone else ever noticed how much he writes about people breaking their engagements? In both books I’ve read of his and in watching The Way We Live Now it happens repeatedly! What’s up with that, was he ever jilted? Does he just find it interesting or was it really such a pressing concern in the Victorian era?)

My enjoyment in reading this book, even in such large chunks over the last few days, has definitely further solidified my desire to read more Victorian novels, something I’m planning to do for most of the rest of this year and next year as well! I just love the thick satisfying-ness from them, like a good meal (maybe the eating turkey analogy isn’t far off then!). I’m still thinking of Villette and how much I enjoyed the richness of Charlotte Bronte’s writing style, even if I found it and Jane Eyre somewhat depressing and even harsh on occasion. In Can You Forgive Her? I like how marriage is still valued, even though it’s also acknowledged to be difficult, even when you love the person.

I’ve now been writing this without thinking it all through before as I’ve done so often in the past, planning it all out, and I’ve enjoyed it more. I’ve been wanting to blog more of my immediate thoughts on books, with less fuss over it ahead of time as to saying the perfect thing! I think I will continue to try this new style, more reflective and less boxy, with all my topics checked off a list.

Also, I saw this last night on Victorian Geek and thought I’d try it (bookish procrastination, one of my favourite things):

Using only books you have read this year (2010), cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: With Violets (Elizabeth Robards)

How do you feel: Hons & Rebels (Jessica Mitford)

Describe where you currently live: A Room With A View (E.M. Forster)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: 84 Charing Cross Road (Helene Hanff)

Your favourite form of transportation: Last Bus to Woodstock (Colin Dexter)

Your best friend is: The Other Mr. Darcy (Monica Fairview)

You and your friends are: Wives & Daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell)

What’s the weather like: Love in a Cold Climate (Nancy Mitford)

Favourite time of day: Tea With Mr. Rochester (Frances Towers)

If your life was a: Goddess at Home (Bronwyn Llewellyn)

What is life to you: The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin)

Your fear: Soulless (Gail Carriger)

What is the best advice you have to give: Sense & Sensibility (Jane Austen)

Thought for the day: It’s Hard to be Hip Over 30 (Judith Viorsk)

How I would like to die: The Body in the Library (Agatha Christie)

My soul’s present condition: The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Purple Christmas

Here is Claire (of The Captive Reader, for the first time in picture) and I at our sort of last get together before we both leave Calgary. (Sort of as in I’m still coming by this weekend to pick up a few of her bookshelves, hoorah! Also keep in mind that it’s really me in the purple scarf and then Claire in the blue but grammar required me to confuse the order.)

As usual, we had a wonderful chat (for four hours!) about books and blogging and how we will manage libraries in our respective new homes and towns. We of course had to discuss Jane Austen and why we are both fans of Miss Bates in Emma but can’t seem to get into Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, despite both having the same quite lovely black and white edition. Briefly visiting Claire’s apartment (about the bookshelves) and seeing her colourful book collection was also lovely, you need to post pictures of them soon, Claire!

Today and tomorrow are meant to be my last ditch efforts to get through about 400 pages of Trollope… we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got a cup of Earl Grey tea and a quilt made by my grandma (purple of course) to snuggle up with. The cross stitch in the photo (also purple, are you noticing the theme of my favourite colour here?) is one I made a few years ago, supposedly for someone else, but I can’t give away that little snowman! My cat was fascinated today while I hung (purple) ornaments on our tree, but this is one of the good things about small christmas trees, I can put it on the table and keep it away from velvety black paws!

Oh and also, something else that is purple: my new layout! I was so excited to find it, since I’ve been wanting a new look (and am considering moving to Blogger and/or a name change to something slightly more open ended that incorporates my other interests, we’ll see what happens there). Did you want to know that I am wearing a purple cardigan right now and that I am more likely to buy a book with a purple cover? Maybe once I’ve moved I’ll photograph all of them for a new header here. Right now on my header you can see my purple copy of The Decay of Lying and Other Essays by Oscar Wilde that I got for my birthday this year, specifically for the picture of the very dapper man in a purple suit and because well… it’s really funny. Who cares if we already have a complete edition of Wilde.

And finally, check out Rachel’s post on Virago Reading Week: it’s still coming in January!

Harry Potter & Henry Tilney

Hello all. I’ve been in a state of depression and panic lately (depressed panic or perhaps just panicked depression?) over our upcoming move to my parents’ place (they came down over the weekend with a truck and so all of our bookshelves but one and most of our books are at their place now, after much hard work on my part) and my husband’s ongoing health problems. So I’ve been avoiding blogging as one more stress while every day making up something new in my head to write about and finally decided I really might need to just talk to my friends for a bit! (that’s you)

I foolishly packed up all my books except for about 25, thinking there’s no way I can read that many in a month anyway, what do I need them for? All of their big unread faces just stress me out! Well as I am now discovering, books are for more than just reading! They are friends and now I don’t have my friend George Eliot in Middlemarch or my friend Miss Pettigrew in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day or the Mitfords or even Charlotte Bronte in Villette… I finally remembered I still have the library though, so that’s some consolation.

So without those books, I have been madly rereading (for the second time this year) the Harry Potter series. I’ve even read a short guide to the series, complete with author bio and examination of the themes in the books. And my husband and I went to see the movie in IMAX a second time… So I’ve become a bit obsessed with that lately, but I’m also wanting something more satisfying, like a 19th century novel written by a woman. I can’t handle anything too stressful right now though, so although I’ve signed up for some Trollope reading, I may not be finishing it on time. Reading that back to back with Dickens just feels like too many Victorian men all at once and very thick big chatterboxes of men too!

Finally, as my favourite Jane Austen hero is Mr. Tilney of Northanger Abbey, I quite enjoyed seeing this on AustenBlog:

Hello ladies. Look at your Mister Darcy. Now back to me. Now look at Captain Wentworth. Now back to me. Sadly, those gentlemen are not me. But if they knew enough about muslin to buy their own cravats and were more nice than wise, they could be like me.

Look down. Back up. Where are you? You’re in the Lower Rooms with the gentleman your gentleman could be like. I’m asking you to dance. Unlike some gentlemen who refuse to dance, I love to dance, and you are handsome enough to tempt me.

What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it. I’m reading that novel you love. I’m reading it to my sister.

Anything is possible when your gentleman is Henry Tilney.

Trollope, stress, Banff & a Virago list

So this is another this and that post. My husband’s wound from his stomach surgery this summer has been re-infected, or rather, didn’t heal properly in the first place and so we’ve been trying to deal with that… while he’s back at work, unable to get another sick note. We’ve also decided we will have to move because of this, to stay in a small cottage on my parent’s acreage until he can get better. (So we’ll sort of be like the Dashwoods! Except in an even snugger cottage than theirs…) We’ll probably be moving in about a month, just before Christmas, so between packing and trying to look after my husband, I may not be able to blog as often. Right now I’m feeling so emotionally overwhelmed I don’t know how to reply to everyone’s recent wonderful comments, although I want to let you all know how much they mean to me.

I’m also hoping to squeeze in a few more library reads of some Virago writers before we move to a smaller town with a sadly smaller library. I’ve put some Winifred Holtby, Elizabeth Taylor, Rosamond Lehmann, and May Sinclair on hold, so we’ll see what grabs me! Right now I’m reading Can You Forgive Her? for the Anthony Trollope Classics Circuit coming at the beginning of December. I read The Eustace Diamonds earlier this year and was eventually drawn into it enough that I wanted to go back to the beginning of the Palliser series and I’m especially interested in Can You Forgive Her? because it’s about marriages that don’t seem perfect at first, but eventually get better (I think). In my experience of marriage, we have deepened past our initial romance into an interdependence and connectedness, especially this year, through the surgery and stress. There are few books that portray marriage realistically and also positively, so I hope this is one of them. I haven’t quite settled into it completely yet, but right now, Trollope’s somewhat bland Britishness is cosy enough.

Also, I think I’ve found a complete list of all the titles published in the Virago Modern Classics series, here! I’m seeing some titles I didn’t know were published by them, like I Capture the Castle and Diary of a Provincial Lady, as well as the two Canadian Margarets: Atwood and Laurence. So it’s good to know that there are a few options for Virago week, besides my seven official green books of theirs.

And also, there are photos here. The first is of my husband and I in Banff, one beautiful sunny day about a month ago. One of the very nice things about living in Calgary is the absolutely gorgeous scenery of the Rocky Mountains so close by, we can even see them from our balcony! The second is of the Banff Springs Hotel, which looks like a castle in the mountains. I’ll have to take some snaps of my bookshelves one of these days — I feel more shy about sharing them than pictures of myself! I keep rearranging my books according to new organizational schemes, thinking they have to be just right before I can post pictures.

Finally, I’m pretty excited for the Harry Potter movie this Friday! I’ve reread all the books this year and Deathly Hallows has actually become my favourite. I love how Harry finally goes back to his parent’s home, his home, in Godric’s Hollow, on Christmas Eve…

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.