Austen in August: Sign-Up Post!

Welcome to the sign-up post for AUSTEN IN AUGUST, a reading event taking place next month! This event was inspired by a Twitter conversation that took place with @alliedanielson and @JillIsReading.  I am especially excited about it, I think, because I own almost all of Jane Austen’s books, but I have only ever read two of them (Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice).  Also, considering that I will be finishing up with Allie’s Victorian Celebration at the end of July, it is fitting and appropriate to move on to the most famous of all pre-Victorians, Jane Austen! 

Why is she so interesting?  Pemberely explains:

Jane Austen is very resistant to being classified as part of a literary “school”, or being placed in any customarily-defined literary period — partly because none of the obvious available terms, “18th-century, “Romantic”, or “Victorian”, would appropriately describe her. Almost all of the major figures who were literarily active in the period 1800-1837, and who are currently deemed worthy of remembering (i.e. are “canonized”), fall into one of a few categories — either they launched their literary careers before 1800 (Burney, Edgeworth); or they were part of the Romantic movement (or were more or less strongly influenced by romanticism, or wrote in self-conscious reaction to romanticism); or they did most of their writing and publishing after 1837 (e.g. Dickens). Jane Austen is the conspicuous exception who does not fit into any of these categories.”

So, for this event, the goal is to read as many of Jane Austen’s novels as you want/are able, during the month of August.  Biographies and re-reads also count.  I will post throughout the month (planning for Tuesdays and Fridays) on different subjects, as well as with my own reviews of the Austen books I finish.  I will be offering giveaways and I am hoping that some participants will also be interested in writing guest posts or hosting giveaways of their own, to make this more interactive.

 If you are going to participate, you can read any of Jane Austen’s novels, a biography about her, or any contemporary re-imaginings (such as Austenland or The Jane Austen Book Club, for example). All posts will help you qualify for prizes, which I’ll explain in a later post!

In the meantime, if you would like to host a giveaway or provide a guest post, please: CLICK HERE

And if you want to sign-up for Austen in August, simply leave a comment stating such!  Maybe include some of the books you hope to read, too.  I plan to read Emma and Sense and Sensibility at the very least.  🙂 

Please also post the button somewhere on your blog (maybe an announcement post or in your blog’s side-bar) so that we can spread the word, gather excitement, and encourage participation.  The more of us reading Austen together, the better! 

Sign-ups are open throughout the month of July.  If you sign-up after July 31st, you can still participate, but may not be eligible for some of the early giveaway prizes.

 

To Share/Discuss on Twitter, Use Hashatag #AustenInAugustRBR (I added the RBR to distinguish our event from a couple of others with the same name which have coincidentally popped-up in the last couple weeks. ;P)

July Read-Along: Stick by Andrew Smith

Hello, People and Things!

Today is July 1st – Which means it is time to start reading the next book in our Andrew Smith summer read-along schedule!  Our selection for July is Stick – and I will be hosting this time around!  I absolutely loved this book – so I’m looking forward to reading it again and posting discussion questions each Saturday.  

If you haven’t already registered for the event, please check out the information below, which explains how to join!  There are Giveaways and other events associated with Andrew Smith Saturdays (as if the AWESOME books weren’t enough!) – so I do hope you’ll come along for the ride! 

Discussion Plan for July: Stick (Hosted by Roof Beam Reader)

  • 7/7: First (Part 1): Pages 2-59
  • 7/14: First (Part 2): Pages 60-103
  • 7/21: Next (Part 1): Pages 107-216
  • 7/28: Next (Part 2): Pages 216-292

Our Andrew Smith book choice for August is Ghost Medicine and there’s a Giveaway copy being offered by Not Now, I’m Reading!  One lucky participant will win a copy of the book – so be sure to register and then head over to Not Now, I’m Reading for your chance!

Registration

You must register for this event and participate in order to be eligible for prizes.

Register Here.

Where to Buy Stick:

Amazon.com

The Book Depository

Barnes and Noble

Review: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Final Verdict: 3.0 out of 4.0

YTD: 22


Plot/Story:
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

Fablehaven is book One in a 5-book series by the same name.  After a death in the family, Kendra and Seth’s parents agree to go on a long cruise, in order to satisfy the dying wishes of their relative.  The kids are going to stay with their reclusive grandparents for the same time.  Certain mystery has always shrouded the kids’ relationship with their grandparents – why do they never want visitors? Why do they only visit the family one at a time, but never together?  How come it is always so long between visits?  And where has Grandma really been for the past few months?  On their visit to Fablehaven, they soon find the answers to all these questions and more, much, much more.  Soon, Kendra and Seth are immersed in a world of dangerous fantasy – where magical creatures really do exist, but where the laws protecting mortals from certain doom are fiercely enforced and dizzyingly easy to break, mistakenly or on purpose.  When Midsummer’s Eve comes around, the mystical world comes alive and Seth and Kendra find themselves in a rapid quest to save Fablehaven, and their grandparents, from destruction.


Characterization:
3 – Characters well-developed.

There are two primary characters in Fablehaven, Kendra and Seth.  Ultimately, Kendra is allotted more page time than Seth and it is her quest near the end of the story which becomes the falling action and resolution of the story – so it is safe to say that she is the primary character, though it is hard at times to tell.  While Seth and Kendra have clearly distinct personalities and while the reader is clearly guided as to who is speaking or whose journey is being witnessed at the time, having two main characters is ultimately a bit distracting and detracts from the possibility of forming a strong bond between the reader and either of them.  Minor characters, though, such as the grandparents and the magical creatures (particularly the Witch, the Satyrs, the fairies, and the Golem) are interesting creations.  The kids, too, have recognizable characteristics: Seth is bold, rash, and eager to break the rules; Kendra is cautious, patient, and studious.  These characters could be the kind one might grow attached to, with a bit more development.


Prose/Style:
3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

For most of the book, the prose and construction are very well done.  The chapters are a bit longer than expected in a Middle Grade (MG) book, but they read fast, so younger readers probably won’t have an issue with the length.  The vocabulary is an added bonus – as it is relatively comparable to the level, but with some great and appropriate inclusions of more advanced words which help make the prose more interesting for older readers and which provide a learning opportunity for younger ones.  At times, description is somehow simultaneously over-and-underdone.  There are moments, particularly where the end, where much is being described at the same time (a plethora of magical creatures in a battle, for instance) and these descriptions are spouted-off in rapid fire, to create a sense of thrill/danger which echoes the battle, but the descriptions are ultimately many in number, but without much depth (the Bear-Octopus hybrid creature, for instance, just seemed like something thrown in because another creature had to be thrown in – not because it had an actual or believable place).  Overall, the language is enjoyable and the story is fast-paced, though a bit too thinly constructed and over-reaching near the end.


Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.

The best part of fantasy books tends to be what they say about real life, when they are immersing their readers in a fantasy world.  This particular book is primarily about growing up, learning to be responsible, and coming to terms with the fact that actions truly do have consequences.  Seth, who is adventurous to the point of being thoughtless, makes grave mistakes which put the family in peril and force him to become reflective and cautious for the first time.  Kendra, the toe-the-line loner, is left on her own to save them all after great evil is released.  She must learn to be confident and to sometimes break the rules, when its necessary, or Fablehaven will fall.  Other interesting elements include sibling relationships, discussions of good and evil, empathy/consideration of others, and family.  Death/dying and loss is also a theme, however mourning was not approached so the primary theme is muted.


Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Middle Grade
Interest: Fantasy, Child heroes, Adventure, MG Series, Siblings.

Notable Quotes:

“In their youth, mortals behave more like nymphs. Adulthood seems impossibly distant, let alone the enfeeblement of old age. But ponderously, inevitably, it overtakes you.” 

A Victorian Celebration Contest!

Greetings, Victorian Celebration Participants!

Giveaway Closed: Congratulations to the Winner:

Jean from Howling Frog Books!

Jean chose to receive a copy of the Penguin Clothbound Edition of The Mill on the Floss.

The Mill on the Floss

Welcome to A Victorian Celebration Contest!  This Contest is open ONLY to registered participants of “A Victorian Celebration,” hosted by A Literary Odyssey.  

The contest is simple!  Starting today (Wednesday, June 27th) and until 10pm on Wednesday, July 3rd, participants in the celebration can Take This Quiz on Victorian Literature.

After the deadline, I will review the answers and the person with the highest score will receive a prize!  

If there is a tie for the highest score, I will randomly select a winner from that group.  The winner will be e-mailed and will have 48-hours to respond, before a new winner is selected.

Simple Rules:

1. Be a participant in Allie’s “A Victorian Celebration”

2. Take the Quiz (You can use any available resources to help you find the answers).

The Prize:

Any Victorian novel of your choice (to be shipped from the Book Depository) up to $15 USD!

If more than 25 valid (i.e. from registered participants) entries come in, I will add a second winner!

Good Luck, Challengers!


My Victorian Celebration Reading So Far:

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Autobiography of Mark Twain

Germinal by Emile Zola (currently reading)

Review: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Final Verdict: 3.25 out of 4.0

YTD: 21


Plot/Story:
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

Cranford tells the tale of an oft-overlooked portion of Victorian population, the middle class.  Many novels of the Victorian era focus exclusively on the aristocracy or on the poor; Cranford, however, is similar to Austen’s Northanger Abbey, in that there are a few upper-middle or upper-class characters, but the primary characters are struggling just to survive in that solidly middle zone (or even in the lower middle-class). The ladies of Cranford put on airs, so as to seem far more dignified and “to do” than they really are. Part of the charm of the novel is witnessing these ladies hold fast to rules of decorum and propriety which would be best suited for lords and nobles, but seems rather out-of-place in their suburban neighborhood.  The story itself revolves around Miss Matty, a single middle-aged woman who is left to fend for herself, after her sister passes away, and their friend, Miss Deborah, who is narrating the story and who hopes to find a way to care for Miss Matty, when she is unexpectedly ruined, financially.  There are minor mysteries and slight intrigue, all of which are blown out of proportion by this community of old hens.


Characterization:
3 – Characters well developed.

The main character of this novel is not any one particular person, it is the community of Cranford.  The most interesting action takes place in coordination with various individuals or groups of individuals who come together throughout the tale – be it interactions between Miss Matty and her sisters (polar opposites in many ways) or between Miss Matty and her maid (who she has no real idea how to command), or between certain of the members of the ladies’ circle – be it Mrs Jamieson, the “Lady” of stature and leader of the group, or the poor Hogginses, who become outcasts for love (but perhaps not permanently).  The relationships between the members of this inner-circle are interesting and hilarious enough to watch, though there is very little growth or change from any of them (certain minor growths are hinted at, after Miss Matty’s fall, but nothing spectacular).  Still, this keeps the story realistic, on the whole.  The addition characters external to the group, such as the mystic-man and his family and, near the end, a long-lost family member of one of the ladies, also adds an interesting layer or two to the story, because it forces the group and individuals to react in their own (and in their collective) ways to new stimuli.


Prose/Style:
3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

While I found Gaskell’s language fluid and engaging, and her prose easy to follow and certainly well-constructed, the story itself seemed somehow rushed at times, possibly due to a disconnect or disjointedness in the narrative’s construction.  In the beginning, particularly, it was easy to get a bit lost – hard to remember, exactly, who the characters were and what their relationships were to one another.  The narration pulls itself together eventually, with minor slips here and there right through to the end, but all-in-all, the sense of humor and lightness of the story is matched in its prose, which makes for an enjoyable reading experience.


Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

What is most appealing about this novel is its close scrutiny of a segment of the population that seems relatively left-out of popular Victorian literature (particularly the Canon).  Viewing life through the eyes of the lower-middle and typical middle-classes is somehow exciting, because it is uncommon – after all, what could be interesting about the “average” class?  The town of Cranford, though, is one steeped in tradition – taken seriously, yet not quite.  The narrator, certainly, seems to find the strictly regimented rules of society rather amusing, and with good reason.  In addition to the examination of class and society, though, are explorations of family, international relations, friendships, economics and world/local trade.  For such a small and seemingly simple book, Cranford and its ladies definitely surprise.


Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School+
Interest: Victorian Literature, British Middle-Class, Family, Friendship, Love/Romance

Notable Quotes:

“I’ll not listen to reason . . . reason always means what someone else has got to say.”

“She would have despised the modern idea of women being equal to men. Equal, indeed! She knew they were superior.”


–Cranford is book #120 completed for the “1,001 Books to Read Before You Die” Challenge.

–Carnford is Book #3 completed for the Victorian Celebration.

–Cranford is Book #3 completed for The Classics Club.

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