Ancient May-hem Reading Challenge

ancientmayhem

My friend Sammy over at All Things Literary is running a reading challenge this month that I’m looking forward to taking part in: the Ancient May-hem Reading Challenge. Throughout the month of May I will be trying to read some of the writings of the Ancient Greek and Romans. At the moment I’m going to try and get through Appian’s The Civil Wars and Plutarch’s The Makers of Rome. If I have the time I’d like to also read Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, but for now I’ll just try for the first two.

If you’re interested in participating you should check out this post to read the rules and sign up. Everyone that participates goes in the running to win a Classics-related book of your choosing from All Things Literary. If you’re looking to challenge yourself you should definitely join me in giving this a go.

[Austen in August] Northanger Abbey

‘What have you been judging from?…Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?’

During an eventful season at Bath, young, naive Catherine Morland experiences fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who introduces Catherine to the joys of Gothic romances, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father’s house, Northanger Abbey. There, influenced by novels of horror and intrigue, Catherine comes to imagine terrible crimes committed by General Tilney, risking the loss of Henry’s affection, and has to learn the difference between fiction and reality, false friends and true. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, Northanger Abbey is the most youthful and optimistic of Jane Austen’s works.

Northanger Abbey is one of my favourite novels by Jane Austen, although it was the last of her six completed novels that I read. Reading it for my Jane Austen uni course, and for Austen in August, was the third time I’ve read it, and with every re-read I come to love Northanger Abbey more and more.

Catherine is a delightful heroine. She is bright and sparkling and addicted to her Gothic novels. If she was living in the modern world Catherine Morland would be your typical fangirl. (In many ways she is me – she devours her novels and then finds multiple ways to bring them into conversations that may or may not have originally been about nvoels.) But what I really love about her is that she makes mistakes and then learns from them. She befriends and trusts the wrong people, and she allows her imagination to run away with her. But then she learns and grows from her mistakes. She still enjoys her Gothic stories after she has been chastised by Henry for her suspicions but she doesn’t let her imagination take over the way she sees the world and the people around her anymore.

And then there’s Henry Tilney. Older readers of this blog might remember from my letter to him that I love and adore Mr Tilney. Though I think on this read what I loved most about him was, despite how much he teaches Catherine, that he learns so much from her as well by the end. And I love the sibling relationship he has with Eleanor. The love and respect they have for each other is obvious.

But past the characters (all of whom I either love or love to hate) Northanger Abbey was Austen’s big defence of the novel. She may have been parodying the Gothic genre and ironizing it and the literature of sensibility, but she does defend the novel as a whole and everything that novels can bring to people:

in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.

If you’re not sure about Austen definitely give Northanger Abbey a go. At only two volumes it is the shortest of her novels, plus with all the irony and narratorial commentary it is one of the funniest (in my opinion anyway).😀

[Austen in August] Giveaway!

So has everyone been enjoying Austen in August? I know I’ve been loving it! (Even though I haven’t had a chance to actually get any reviews up yet. I swear they are coming!)

Today, to celebrate my love of Jane Austen and to keep the good times rolling (as well as to go along with my guest post about Mr Darcy which you can find over here at Roof Beam Reader), I have a giveaway for you. Yay!

I’ll be picking one winner who will get to choose two books: one of Austen’s six completed novels and one prequel/sequel/reimagining.

Just a few examples of recent reimaginings/sequels, but you can choose whatever one you want even if it’s not shown here.🙂

It will be shipped via Book Depository so you may enter if they ship to your address. I reserve the right to ship from another bookseller depending on the location of the winner. To enter, please leave a comment including the items below. For this particular giveaway you MUST be a registered participant of Austen in August prior to August 1st to qualify.

1. Tell me your favorite Austen character.
2. Tell me the book you would select were you to win.
3. Your email address (to contact you should you win).

The giveaway begins today and will close midnight August 28th AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time). I’ll randomly select a winner the following day and will notify the winner by email. The winner will have 72 hours to respond or I will select someone else. Happy reading!

[ISBC] Round 4: Flowers from the Storm

The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans! (The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

***

This month we’re reading Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale. As chosen by Angel.

Samantha L wants you to consider:
Which person–real or fictional–do you think will consider this book one of their favourites? Why do you think this is?

Samantha R is interested in knowing:
Did you have a favourite character in the book? If so, what was it about this character that drew you to them? Or in reverse, were there any characters that you particularly disliked, and why?

Meghan is wondering:
If you could rewrite any part of the book, what would you change?

Angel would like you to think about:
Was it easy or difficult to identify with the narrator and why?

Aimee’s question for you is:
How believable were the character relationships in the book?

This month’s host, Angel, has two bonus questions to choose from:
Flowers from the Storm isn’t the quintessential romance novel, what with its focus on disabilities, religion and tolerance. What do you think the romance genre added to the discussion of these issues as Kinsale wrote them?

Or:
One major theme in this story is the loss of control and agency, e.g. Jervaulx’s stroke rendering him unable to think and speak properly and Maddy’s role as a woman in the Quaker church preventing her from making certain important decisions. How well does the novel deal with the hurdles both characters face and (if you think the problems have been solved) does it make for a satisfying conclusion?

***

Thanks for the pick Angel! I don’t normally read romance so this will be a broadening of my horizons. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks about the novel.

For those that missed our introduction post, or are just joining the book club, we’ll be reading Flowers from the Storm from now until September 15th. Don’t forget to check back this week to read everyone’s thoughts about Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye.

Aimee @ Penmanship Smitten || Angel @ Mermaid Vision Books || Meghan @ Coffee and Wizards || Samantha L @ All Things Literary

Austen in August: Sign-Up

Adam over at Roof Beam Reader is hosting an event this month that I’m extremely excited about: Austen in August.

So anyone who knows me at all, knows how ardently I admire and love Jane Austen. I’ve been reading and re-reading her novels since I was twelve, and I am always inordinately excited whenever I’m given the chance to study her work, both in high school and uni (I’m not sure I would be able to explain how excited I am to be doing a course this semester titled Jane Austen in Context). So I’m sure you can all guess how excited I was to find out about Austen in August. (I think I’ve used the word excited too many times. Right, new word!)

Throughout the month of August I will be reading and reviewing as many books related to Jane Austen as possible. I’m hoping to get through at least three of Austen’s novels (Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park), a biography, and maybe one or two of the sequels/re-imaginings. Plus! I will also be writing a guest post which will be posted over at Roof Beam Reader, and I will be hosting a giveaway. Yes, my first giveaway! Huzzah!

So if you’re a fan of Austen, or even if you have previously dismissed her and want to give her another go, you should come along and join in with us. All you have to do is sign up over here, and then start reading!

[ISBC] June 2012: Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta

The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans! (The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

***

For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mum, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter — but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the no nonsense wisdom of her mum, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past — and the year she sets herself free.

Can I just state from the get-go that I loved this book? Despite growing up on Aussie YA this is actually my first experience with Marchetta’s work. When I was in high school I read very little YA because I was too busy immersing myself in nineteenth-century literature. However, I have had Marchetta on my must read list since I was about fourteen, which is why I knew I had to pick her first novel as my first choice for our book club. Maybe it’s because I can relate so much to the characters in Aussie YA, but I’ve discovered over the years that I tend to adore Aussie YA above all over others because there is something distinctly different about them, something distinctly… well, Australian for lack of a better word. And I loved loved loved Looking for Alibrandi to pieces. (And yes, I can’t wait to finally be able to pick up the rest of her works now – I had been holding myself back until I read this one before reading any others.)

Josie reminded me so much of myself when I was in Year 12 and working towards my HSC. She is smart and spunky and stubborn, but she also whinges and whines, and fights with both her mother and grandmother, and to start with doesn’t really understand that she has responsibilities. As much as she promises herself at the beginning of the year that she’s going to be better, it can be pretty hard for any seventeen year old to really change (I know it was for me) without making some pretty big mistakes first. And I love that Marchetta lets Josie make those mistakes so that Josie can grow as a person. But even past the main character of Josie, all the other characters are so well developed. Josie’s family may be Italian, and Josie might be attending a private school (neither of which I’m familiar with: my dad’s family is Irish, my mum’s come from the bush, and I attended the local public school) but Marchetta writes her characters so well that I feel like I knew them. I could recognise the characters in different people that I’ve met my whole life.

And then there’s Josie’s relationship with both her mother and her grandmother. Marchetta handles the growth and development of these relationships so well. All three Alibrandi women are strong in their own right, and even stronger when they all finally learn to come together. I love that this book is so much about personal strength, and personal understanding, and that there are so many strong women in it, even past Josie, Christina and Katia. But I think I’ve rambled enough already and I haven’t even gotten to the discussion questions yet so I won’t go on any further (though I easily could).

Looking for Alibrandi is just brilliant. If you haven’t read it, then seriously, go find yourself a copy and read it, right now.

Onto the discussion questions! (There will probably be spoilers ahead, so be warned.)

Read the full post »

[ISBC] Round 3: Cat’s Eye

The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans! (The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

***

For July, our book choice is: Margaret Atwood – Cat’s Eye

Samantha L wants you to consider:
How do the structural features (such as narrative mode and genre) shape the meaning of the text? If ineffective, how do you think this could be improved?

Samantha R is interested in knowing:
Did the book meet your expectations, or were you disappointed? Why or why not?

Meghan is wondering:
Do you feel the cover reflected the story well? Why or why not?

Angel would like you to think about:
How well does the writing style serve the story? How does it fail to uphold the narrative?

Aimee’s question for you is:
How well does the setting contribute to the story? (Would a different setting have affected the book significantly?)

This month’s host, Meghan, has a bonus question:
Discuss some of the ways the protagonist’s identity are revealed to the reader. What role does identity and gender play in this novel?

***

Thanks for this pick Meg! I’ve had Margaret Atwood on my TBR list for years but between uni reading and various other things I’ve never gotten around to actually picking up one of her novels. I’m looking forward to reading it now that I have a reason to push me to do it.

Don’t forget to check back this week to see our reviews and discussion posts for Looking for Alibrandi.

Aimee @ Penmanship Smitten || Angel @ Mermaid Vision Books || Meghan @ Coffee and Wizards || Samantha L @ All Things Literary

[ISBC] May 2012: Mathilda, Mary Shelley

The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans! (The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

***

This tale of a father’s incestuous love for his daughter, his suicide, and the daughter’s reaction isn’t strictly autobiographical — but elements of it come from Mary Shelley’s life. The three main characters are clearly Mary Shelley herself, Godwin, and Percy Bysshe Shelley — and their relations can easily be reassorted to correspond with their lives.

So I struggled a bit with this book, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It wasn’t because of the writing style or language (I’ve read far too much 19th century literature to have issues with those) and it wasn’t because of the characters themselves or the plot. And I think I’ve worked it out. It was the sadness that ran throughout the story. Underneath every word there was a sense of melancholy and there is little reprieve from it, which is why I believe it took me so long to get through despite it being only sixty pages long (in my copy). Yet despite the struggle that I had getting through it, I’m glad I’ve read it because I found Matilda to be such an interesting character. Well, perhaps not interesting, that’s probably the wrong word. But I did find her, and the decisions that she made, intriguing. Plus, I really loved the beauty and rhythm of the language that Shelley uses.

As much as I, overall, enjoyed Matilda though, it wouldn’t be a book that I reccommend as an introduction to nineteenth century fiction. Shelley deals with big and serious issues in this novella – incest, depression and suicide – all of these are still taboo subjects (to different extents) now, never mind when Shelley wrote it in the early 1800s. However, I think anyone well-versed in nineteenth century literature, and with an interest to read more of the controversial texts which were suppressed at the time, would be interested in reading Shelley’s least well-known work.

Onto the discussion questions! (There will probably be spoilers ahead, so be warned.)

Read the full post »

[ISBC] Round 2: Looking for Alibrandi

The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans! (The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

***

This month, our book choice is: Melina Marchetta – Looking for Alibrandi

Samantha L wants you to consider:
How do the structural features (such as narrative mode and genre) shape the meaning of the text? If ineffective, how do you think this could be improved?

Samantha R is interested in knowing:
Did the book meet your expectations, or were you disappointed? Why or why not?

Meghan is wondering:
Do you feel the cover reflected the story well? Why or why not?

Angel would like you to think about:
Was there a theme that jumped out strongly in the story? Did it fit the development of the characters?

Aimee’ s question for you is:
How well does the setting contribute to the story? (Would a different setting have affected the book significantly?)

This month’s host, Samantha R, has a bonus question:
Family, culture and identity all play a large role in Looking for Alibrandi. How do you feel Marchetta dealt with these issues?

***

As this month’s host I’m very excited to have picked an Australian author to showcase to the world. We’ll be reading Looking for Alibrandi from now until July 15th. If you want to find out more about who we all are make sure to go back and read our introduction posts. Our answers to last month’s questions, as well as our reviews of Matilda by Mary Shelley will be going up during the week, so make sure to stay tuned to the blogs to join in the discussion.

Aimee @ Penmanship Smitten || Angel @ Mermaid Vision Books || Meghan @ Coffee and Wizards || Samantha L @ All Things Literary

Introducing… The Inner Senshi Book Club!

Introduction

The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. The current schedule for 2012 is as follows:

May: Samantha Lin
June: Samantha Rea
July: Meghan
August: Angel
September: Aimee

We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans!

(The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

Aimee (Sailor Jupiter) is a prospective law student, hoping to conquer the world with her extensive knowledge of Harry Potter, Greek and Latin classics, YA literature, and adorkable fictional boys. Though she loves reading anything and everything, she primarily uses her books to meet complex, quirky characters and explore gorgeous, romantic locations. Her hobbies include doodling in notebooks, nerdy-fangirling, and reading to herself in (terrible) English accents. You can find her ramblings @amethysthx. She currently resides in Long Island, New York.

Angel (Sailor Venus) is an aspiring YA novelist/Nerdfighter and a fangirl of all things wonderful. She adores classical lit, romance and children’s literature. Her book choices will be eclectic and wacky at times, but there is always a theme worth discovering. The Favourites shelf in her bookcase is teeming with mermaids, Boy Masterpieces, zombies, cyborgs and spies. You can find her at Mermaid Vision Books and follow her @mermaidvisions. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Meghan (Sailor Mercury) is a full time student and overtime fangirl of tall, skinny men with accents. Though she largely reads YA, she also dabbles in classics and fantasy. Her favourite thing to do is pick apart books for feminist themes or the lack thereof. She places her books not in alphabetical order but based on which authors she thinks would get along. You can find her at Coffee and Wizards and follow her @MegTao. She lives in Windsor, Ontario.

Samantha L (Sailor Moon)’s paperwork for entrance to the loony bin gave the institution such a headache, they decided to pawn her off to the literary academics instead. She has since accepted her fate, and now sees her eventual PhD in Shakespeare as a stepping stone to becoming a professional fangirl. Her life ambition is to one day establish a Fandom University, where it is possible to obtain such degrees as a Bachelor of Science in Avoiding Victor Frankenstein’s Mistakes and Master of Arts in Improvement of the Mind by Extensive Reading. In the meantime, you can find her at All Things Literary and follow her @samanthalin. She currently lives in Durham, England.

Samantha R (Sailor Mars), also known to all and sundry as Sam, is a full time student and aspiring YA novelist. She is always willing to fangirl anything and everything, but has a particular fondness for delicious British men. She divides her reading time equally between nineteenth-century literature and YA, with occasional dabbles into the Modernist era and chick lit. The only organised areas of her bedroom are her bookshelves, which receive more love and attention and are kept more tidy than the rest of the room combined. You can find her at As Read by an Aspiring Receptionist and follow her @samanthaarea. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

***

This month, our book choice is: Mary Shelley – Mathilda (1820)

Samantha L wants you to consider:
How relevant do you think this text will be in a century? Which aspects do you think will be valued most?

Samantha R is interested in knowing:
Did you have a favourite character in the book? If so, what was it about this character that drew you to them? Or in reverse, were there any characters that you particularly disliked, and why?

Meghan is wondering:
If you had to date one of the characters, which would you pick and why?

Angel would like you to think about:
How well does the writing style serve the story? How does it fail to uphold the narrative?

Aimee’ s question for you is:
What was your favorite or most memorable passage (if any) in the book? Why did it leave such an impression?

This month’s host, Samantha L, has a bonus question:
Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, considered to be one of the first modern feminists. In Mathilda, how effectively do you think Shelley deals with the issues of women, femininity, and feminism?

***

We are all so excited to be bringing this book club to you all! These four girls are some of my absolute favourite people in the world and I’m so glad to be able to read and experience these books with them. I hope you’ll come back and check out all our posts later in the month, and if you want to read along with us you are more than welcome to! Just reply to any of our posts and let us know what you thought about that month’s book.