Tag Archives: readalong

Readalongs and Readathons

Hello, all! I think it says something about my current state of mind that when I feel like blogging at the moment, it’s mostly just to chat. I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about books or the state of the world or anything other than my own naval. So be it–I may need to keep my focus inward for the next little while, and that feels okay.

I’m getting ready to participate in a couple of reading/blogging events that I thought I should mention. Besides Paris in July which is going on right now (I haven’t posted anything yet, but that should change this week), I’ve decided to participate in the Estella Society’s readalong of East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which officially starts on the 21st.  The only Steinbeck I’ve read is The Red Pony, which scarred me for life at the tender age of 12. Hopefully I’m mature enough to handle this one (ahem).

EastofEdenReadalong-1024x1024

Finally, I’m going to join in the High Summer Readathon from July 21st – 27th, as I will actually be home from work that week and should have some time to read. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to read for it, but probably a combination of my reading for the other two events and some fun, spur-of-the-moment stuff.

high summer rat

But enough about me. How are you? 🙂 Are you enjoying your summer? Doing anything new and exciting? Reading anything so fabulous that you just have to tell the world all about it?

Advertisements

The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins

the-frozen-deepI’m not sure I would have picked this book up on my own, but luckily the Wilkie in Winter gang are hosting a readalong which gave me a reason to read some Wilkie in good company. The Frozen Deep is a cross between a novella and a play, and it tells the story of an Arctic expedition, a young woman with the second sight, and an embittered man seeking revenge. What’s not to like?

Because it’s so short (right around 100 pages), it’s very doable to read the book in one sitting. While I didn’t do so, I can see the advantages of it, as it would keep the reader caught up in the drama and suspense right until the last pages. There is a LOT of drama, melodrama to be more precise, and while it might not be every reader’s cup of tea I really enjoyed it. I could easily picture the actors on stage, with lots of bosom heaving and sudden exclamations and the brooding anti-hero twirling his moustachios.

I also liked the shift in setting from proper London society to the bleak landscape of the Arctic. I read elsewhere that the story was inspired by Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition of 1845, in which he attempted to traverse the Northwest Passage. While I don’t want to give away the ending of the story, suffice it to say it’s not quite as tragic as the true life tale.

If you’re looking for a few hours of escapism and some entertaining Victorian melodrama, I can definitely recommend The Frozen Deep. Thanks to Andi, Heather and Amanda for hosting this readalong for Wilkie in Winter, and I look forward to reading The Woman in White with you in a few weeks!

wilkieinwinter-1024x1024

Middlemarch Wrap-Up

middlemarchSo I missed my Book V and VI check-in post and when I sat down to write this post two days ago, I spilled my drink all over my mother-in-law’s laptop computer (doesn’t everyone blog with a beer in hand?) For some reason, the  universe really doesn’t want me to finish this readalong. Nevertheless, it’s the end of the month and our reading of Middlemarch together has come to a close.

What did you think? I have to say that the second half of the book went much more quickly for me than the first, in part because I started listening to the audio in conjunction with reading the e-book, so I increased my reading time exponentially. I actually had a three-hour stretch in which to listen while I drove to my in-law’s house on Christmas Eve. And then I just flew through the last volume because it was suspenseful and I wanted to see how everything would turn out.

Overall I was very satisfied with my reading experience, and I enjoyed the book much more than the first time I read it. Having taught Victorian literature in the interim, I definitely understood the context better and gained insights into what makes Middlemarch such a special book when seen in comparison with other Victorian novels. When I’d finished it, I had the thought that Eliot had really accomplished something unique, as in many ways it manages to be a political novel even while set in the countryside, seemingly far away from the heart of the reform movement of the cities. She made me understand the big issues of the time through the lens of a small country town, a microcosm of the Victorian world which is also a memento of an England that was fast disappearing. Middlemarch is a place caught between eras and yet out of time, and I loved getting to know and care about the characters that populate it.

Dorothea and Will. Sigh. I want to carve their initials in a tree somewhere. I even managed to care about Fred and Mary by the end, and I love that Eliot decided to end the book with them, because they remain steadfast throughout the book, even as their fortunes ebb and flow. I felt sorry for Lydgate, but I thought his and Rosamond’s story was a good counterpoint to Dorothea and Will’s.

Thanks so much to those of you who joined in the readalong and kept me company along the way–you’re the best. We’ll have to come up with another chunkster classic to read together in the new year!

Other Thoughts on Middlemarch:

Beyond the Stars

Covered in Flour

Middlemarch Check-in #2

middlemarch

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through our Middlemarch readalong! Where does the time go? I’m always amazed by how quickly I can get through an intimidatingly large book when I have friends to read along with–it makes a good reading experience that much more enjoyable.

And I’m enjoying the book itself, even more so this past week. There were parts of Book Two that lagged for me, mostly the political parts where there was a lot of exposition and no real character development, but things go going again towards the end of Book II when we are reunited with Dorothea and Casaubon in Rome. At the moment I’m still working my way through Book IV, but I hope to catch up early this week as I’ve now downloaded the audiobook to listen to on my commute and to complement my reading of the book.

Book III gives us more insight into the characters of the Vincy and Garth families, as well as Dr. Lydgate. I love the way that Eliot reveals their personalities and motivations through not only their own actions but the way they are seen by various members of the Middlemarch community. I think someone else participating in the readalong may have mentioned this, but it’s as if the town itself is a character, sitting back and commenting on the action. The narrator could almost be one of the townspeople to me, although admittedly one with a lot of insight.

By the end of Book III, we’ve had one new marriage, one engagement, and several potential relationships that are in a state of uncertainty. We’ve also had a funeral, the outcome of which event may change the course of things significantly for several of our characters. I’m thoroughly invested in the novel at this point and I’m anxious to see what happens next, although I’m starting to understand Eliot well enough to know that things will not be simple.

I didn’t make as many marks and highlights this past week, but one passage in particular struck me in a scene in which Dorothea is seen crying six weeks after her wedding.

Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wraught itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.

If you’re reading along with me, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Books Three and Four. If you’ve written a check-in post for this week and you don’t see it listed below, please let me know and I will add it to the list. And remember that we’re also chatting about Middlemarch on twitter using the hashtag #middlemarch13.

Other Thoughts on Books Three and Four:

Behold the Stars

Covered in Flour

Middlemarch Check-in #1

middlemarchWe’re one week into our Middlemarch readalong, and I’m already a little bit behind (but not by much). I actually like reading long books at a fairly fast pace, as otherwise I tend to let them drag out forever and they lose some of their impact. This is my second reading of Middlemarch, and so far I remember very little from the first time I read it.

The setting of the story is rural Victorian England and the village of Middlemarch in particular. Within the context of that village we see the typical preoccupations of country society–family and community relations, political and religious positioning, and plenty of gossip about all of the above. There are quite a few characters introduced in Book One, perhaps the most notable being Dorothea Brooke.

Dorothea is a young woman with a great thirst for knowledge and a desire to be useful. Early on, she sets her cap at Mr. Casaubon, a local minister whom she sees as being someone who can teach her and give her an outlet for her bottled up intellectual and spiritual passions. When he proposes, she accepts with alacrity and envisions a wonderful future by his side. Despite the fact that he is thirty years her senior and she is warned against the match by several friends and relations, to Dorothea he is “the most interesting man she had ever seen” and she marries him.

In the character of Dorothea, Eliot seems to be introducing the ‘woman question’. Here is a bright, young woman with so much potential, and yet her only vision of the future is one in which she basically lies at the feet of an older man and hopes to find fulfillment through whatever opportunities he may provide. It’s tragic, and yet the world of Middlemarch seems to be an accurate representation of the choices available to women in this time and place. The only options are marriage or work as a governess, companion, or servant, none of which seem particularly appealing as they are presented through the female characters in the novel.

I haven’t gotten to the part in Book Two in which we see Dorothea again as a married woman, but I’m interested (though not particularly hopeful) to see how things have turned out. I’m also looking forward to reading more about her sister, Celia, the unlucky-in-love Sir James, local lazy boy Fred and his unrequited love for Mary Garth, and the other characters who populate the world of Middlemarch.

If you’re reading along with me, I hope you’re enjoying the book so far and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Books One and Two. If you’ve written a check-in post for this week and you don’t see it listed below, please let me know and I will add it to the list. If you haven’t been reading with us so far but want to join in, it’s not too late! We’re also chatting about Middlemarch on twitter using the hashtag #middlemarch13.

Other Thoughts on Books One and Two:

Behold the Stars

Covered in Flour

Charlotte Reads Classics

The November Wrap-Up

novemberDespite the fact that I’m already starting to go into hibernation mode from the cold and I have yet to start my Christmas shopping, I’m happy that December is here. Now I just need for time to slow down a bit so I can get a few things done and enjoy the holiday season. I may have to ask Santa for some kind of magical gadget to make that happen.

November was a hectic month, with a lot going on at work (I’m will be glad when that is no longer true) and general life busy-ness.  There was also some very good stuff that happened too, though, including a weekend trip to Barcelona with some girlfriends and a Thanksgiving feast with fellow expats. My husband had some Indian colleagues visiting for work, so we took the opportunity to check out some cool local museums that we had never been to before. I’ve realized this month that as much as I have a need to get things done, I also have to allow myself time and space for spontaneous adventures and extended periods of doing nothing useful at all. I’m hoping to do more of both in December.

My reading went pretty well this month. I didn’t get to participate in all the events that I had hoped to, including a readalong of Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and Aarti’s Diversiverse weekend. I did start The Moonstone and I’m actually really enjoying it, but my attention was a bit diverted *ahem* by a certain lovably awkward detective who I can’t seem to stop reading about (Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent). I read six books in November, three of which are from this series:

Bellman and Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Fractured by Karin Slaughter

Undone by Karin Slaughter

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Honestly, I liked everything I read this month, and I’m caught up and on track to achieving my goal of reading 75 books this year. Which means it’s time for Middlemarch! My readalong of George Eliot’s classic novel officially starts today, and because it’s a long book I’m planning of spending most of the month with it. I haven’t forgotten about Wilkie, but I’ve decided to go back to the two novels I have in progress once #middlemarch13 is over and I can give them the concentration they deserve. I’m planning on taking part in The Estella Society’s Wilkie in Winter event which runs through February, so I hope to get some good Wilkie time in then.

I hope you had a good November and that your December brings all you could hope for and more.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?  is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Journey, and it’s a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well.

I have a few days until my Middlemarch readalong officially starts, so I’m trying to fit in a couple of books that are just for fun this week. I recently finished The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, which I liked. I had seen the film that is based on the book when it came out in the theater, but I have to say that I preferred the book (no big surprise). Although the movie is good, the book gives you a better understanding of the characters’ motivation and a more realistic resolution. My only gripe with the book would be that the main character, Pat, is sometimes portrayed as being a bit too childlike to be believable.

I’m now deep into the third book in Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series of crime novels, which are set in Atlanta and feature an unusual detective-hero. I have really enjoyed getting into these books as they’re a nice change of pace from my usual reads and are very well-written, with strong plotting and enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. The main character, Will,  is complicated and endearing, and I’m curious to know how he will develop over the course of the series. If I have time, I’ll probably sneak in another one of these before December.

And then, it’s Middlemarch all the way! I have a feeling this chunkster will keep me busy through the holidays, but I’m looking forward to it.

What are you reading this week?