Monday, February 29, 2016

Recently Read: Frankenstein

Author: Mary Shelley
Genre: Classic- Gothic Horror
Publication Date: 1818
Page Count: 201
Rating: 5/5

Add on Goodreads

You might also like:
Literary Look: The Romantics
Literary Look: The Gothic Novel

I recently read Frankenstein for the first time for my British Literature class and I really enjoyed it. I had read Gris Grimly's graphic novel adaptation of it last year and absolutely loved it (his art style matches the story and tone perfectly) but this was my first time reading the original. I will be writing a paper about this and making a unit plan of lessons for a high school classroom based on this one so I will be working with it quite a bit this semester. Any thoughts or insights about this novel are welcome as usual! 

I'm fascinated by the origin story of this novel, and I would love to read more about Shelley and the Romantics in her circle. Shelley started writing this story when she was only 18 years old when she was stuck in Switzerland due to weather with a number of other Romantic writers. She says the idea for the story came to her in a waking dream and she composed the story as part of a bet the authors made to see who could write the best piece while stuck. At the time, Shelley was married to the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (who was still married to his first wife when they began their romance, they did not wed until his first wife had committed suicide) with whom she had a rather tremulous marriage; Shelley gave birth to four children, but only one survived. Shelley was not faithful to her, and he died in a drowning accident when Shelley was only twenty four. After his death, Shelley wrote to support herself and her son and worked to preserve her husband's work and place in literary history. She died of brain cancer at the age of fifty three.  

She first published Frankenstein under anonymous, and many thought that her husband had wrote it. Additionally, Mary Shelley's mother is the famous early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote A Vindication for the Rights of Women.   

Mary Shelley 

This novel has so many themes and ideas to explore. There is the idea of dangerous knowledge and science, ostracizing people for their appearance, responsibility of the creator, and man attempting to act as God. This is not a long novel, my copy is two hundred pages, but it is such a meaningful and thought provoking work that has fascinated and horrified readers for almost two hundred years. This novel is still extremely reliant as we are still grappling with the idea of dangerous knowledge and scientific advances to this day. 

Victor Frankenstein is horribly whiny, and in Shelley's eyes, an irresponsible creator (that idea can be applied to a creator of art or knowledge.) I really loved the contrast between the monster's "monsterly appearance" and eloquent language use and human emotions. In short, this novel is quite brilliant and something that you should experience. It is often considered one of the first science fiction works (if not the first) which is now a genre dominated by male authors, but started by a female author.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Women Codebreakers Bletchley Park: Interesting Links

As you guys may remember, I am working on a rather large research paper for my history class on the women codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII in England. I know a few people expressed interest in this topic as well, so I have rounded up some really great links I have come across for you to check out if you are interested. I'm also planning on doing a post on books to read on this topic as well.

The employees at BP were 75% women. They held a variety of positions and made huge contributions to the war efforts, but in many cases, they were unaware of the importance of the work they were doing. Operations at BP remained secret until 1974 when the first novel by a BP employee was published. Many of these women never told their families of the work they did during the war.

Interview with Jean Valentine, cryptologist at BP

Interview with Mavis Batey, cryptologist (scroll down a bit for the audio interview) the site also has interesting biographies of some of the women working at BP.

I love hearing from the actual women who worked at the park! They are amazing women. They were doing advanced work in science, math, and language at a time when many universities would not even grant degrees to women.

Joan Clarke is a great woman to research (she is played by Keira Knighly in The Imitation Game) as she was the only women to hold the title of Head-Cryptologitst. She has not done very many interviews unfortunately, and the ones she has done focus mostly on her brief engagement to Turning, again unfortunately. But there is some of her writings out there and research done on her.

Google Cultural Institute

Google put together three really great cultural institute galleries about Bletchley Park, one about the work done there in general, one about the women at BP, and one about the recent restoration of the park to turn it into a museum. These presentations contains primary source pictures and quotes, video interviews, and historical documents. These are really cool and I highly recommend checking them out.

This is the official site of BP. You can find a short history here and information on visiting, which I'm totally jealous if you live close enough to visit!

Smithsonian Magazine Article 

Lifting the Veil: CNN Article

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, or any links that you know of about these incredible women. Happy researching!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Breaking out of my Comfort Zone!

This week's topic is a bit tricky because I read a lot of genres, so I will comfortable in most of them. I have read a few books outside of my usual genres in the past year or so that I really loved. I also have some on my TBR that I'm hoping to get to really soon! The read section links to reviews, and the TBR section links to goodreads!


1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Memoirs aren't something I read too often, but I really enjoyed this one. I want to make it a point to read more nonfiction this year, including memoir so hopefully this genre will move into my comfort zone this year. 

I don't read a lot of nonfiction in general either, and if I do they are often biographies. This is a look at the lives and challenges faced by women around the world. It was informative, horrifying, and hopeful all at once. I highly recommend this one.

I've read quite a few graphic novels in the past two years, but this one was something I wouldn't normally pick up. It's a space/Apocalypse type story that is totally confusing, but really interesting at the same time.

YA contemporary is far from my favorite genre, and I read it pretty sparingly. This one is written in verse though so it was such a quick read. The topic of Siamese twins was fascinating and I flew through this in one sitting.
5. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
I read this one for my American lit class, and I'm so glad I was introduced to it. I would have never even heard of or picked this up without that class. It's about Native Americans and has stunning magical realism. I need to pick up some more Erdrich in the very near future. 
To Be Read

6. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Stittenfeld
I LOVE P&P, but contemporary romance is not my favorite genre! I hardly ever feel motivated to pick anything in this genre up, but I really want to read the Austen Project because I love Austen. This one has gotten really good reviews, so I'm willing to give it a try. 

7. Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer
Another one that falls in the adult contemporary genre, this one has been floating around and caught my eye. It looks like a light, pick-me-up read that could be a lot of fun. 

8. Hold your Own by Kate Tempest
I LOVE poetry! (See my top ten favorite poems here) but I have not read a lot of contemporary poets. To me, the feel is very different and I can't quite get into the current poets I have tried. I have heard great things about Tempest though, so I am really eager to read her work and give current poetry a shot. 

9. Illumiane by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman 
I don't read a lot of science fiction, but this one looks amazing! I have been trying to find the time to get to it forever, but I haven't yet. I will be reading this one for sure this year. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Recently Read: The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Adult historical fiction- WWII
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 440
Rating: 4/5

Add on Goodreads 

Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale was a Goodreads Choice 2015 winner, and a great piece of historical fiction. I have been in the mood for historical fiction lately, and WWII is my favorite time period to read historical fiction about. I love how women come to the forefront of these stories and run the world while the men are gone. Today, I thought I would do something a little different and instead of a traditional review I would give you five reasons why you should read The Nightingale

1. It takes place in occupied France.
I have never read a WWII novel that took place in occupied France. Plenty take place in the U.S. or England, but this was a new setting for me. I loved seeing a new view of the war. The things that went on in occupied France were horrifying, but don't seem to be recounted as much as the experiences of other countries.  

2. It follows two really strong and different female protagonists.
Isabelle and Vianne are sisters who have a difficult relationship with each other. I loved both of these characters, they were both frustrating and brave in multiple ways throughout the story. I loved seeing the growth and resilience of both characters as well as seeing changes in their relationship with each other.

3. The second half is impossible to put down.
The first half of this novel does a really great job of setting up the characters, and the pacing of the novel imitates the pacing and progress of the occupation, but the second half of this novel is impossible to put down. I couldn't stop reading when the horrors started escalating. I felt that the novel was a bit rushed towards the end, but I needed to know how it ended.  

4.  It's an emotional roller coaster.
So much happens in this novel, just when you start to get comfortable, the Nazi's throw a wrench in the lives of the characters, This novel highlights all of the tragedies of war and hate, but is also so full of love and bravery. And the end, oh my gosh. 

5. This quote:
"Men tell stories, I say... Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in the history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over."  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Recently Reread: Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding
Genre: Classic/ Fiction
Publication Date: 1954
Page Count: 201
Rating: 4/5

Add on Goodreads

A plane full of young boys crashes on an island while the rest of the world is fighting in WWII. They must learn to survive on their own and create their own civilization in order to survive and get rescued, but things quickly fall apart when fear of a beast spreads through the boys.

I read this book for the first time in my tenth grade English class; I had pretty meh feelings about it. But as I reread it seven years later, I found it brilliant. This book is so full of symbolism and depth that I just wasn't able to see as a high schooler. The connection between what is happening to the boys on the island and what is happening to the rest of the world is brilliant. The descent into savagery of the boys is terrifying and perfectly paced. 

I read this book for my class about teaching literature in a high school classroom and I am really glad we looked at this book again. This is definitely a great book to study in high school, and if you did study it in high school, I highly recommend you revisit it now so you can see everything you missed. I was particularly interested this time in Simon and his truth-seeing abilities; that is a subject I would love to do some research on see what scholars are saying about it. 

Because I read this book for school and have already done a fair amount of writing on it, I just wanted to get down some quick reread thoughts for this one and encourage you to pick it up again if you read it in high school and felt indifferent about it. It really is brilliantly constructed and full of literary merit and the horrors of humanity. Which let's be honest, is everything you could ever want in a book. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What I Wish I was Reading

Hello from underneath a huge pile of required reading! I'm really struggling to find time for pleasure reading this semester, although I am pretty lucky that most of the readings in my literature class can overlap into both categories sometimes. Here's what I really wish I was reading right now, and what I'm actually reading.

I wish I was reading...

I bought this one over Christmas break when it came out in paperback, but I haven't gotten to start it yet- it's torturous! I really need to know where this series goes and prepare for the release of The Raven King next month. 

This one just came in for me from my library ebook program, and I'm desperately hoping to read it before I have to return it. It's a historical fiction novel that takes place during WWII, which I just proclaimed on Tuesday is my favorite setting for a historical fiction novel. I'm sure I will be sneaking this one in when I should be reading for school. 

Another book I have been aching to get to. I really want to experience this one, as I have flicked through it and it looks like a really unique reading experience. And of course, it has gotten rave reviews. 

But I'm actually reading...

Research for my paper on the women of Bletchley Park. Well, right now I'm spending more time looking for sources than actually reading them and it's a little annoying. I will be posting more about this topic in the future, as I have found some things I want to share.

I just finished a reread of Lord of the Flies by William Golding for one of my literature classes. I hadn't read this one since high school, and I really enjoyed rereading it at a time when I was better able to appreciate the craftsmanship of this novel. More about this soon. 

Next up on this list is to start Frankenstein which I have never read. I'm really excited to read this and then write my paper on it as I have been wanting to study this novel for a very long time. I really think I'm going to love it. 

I also need to reread Persuasion this weekend, or at least skim through it again, as I just read it last year. This is for the same class as Frankenstein, so I have quite a bit of reading for that class. 

I also need to star Macbeth which I have never read in the original play version. I am familiar with the story line though. This is another one that I will be reading and then creating lessons and activities for as a teacher so it will be interesting. 

Phew! Seeing all that reading laid out is a little scary. If you need me, my nose will be in one of these books. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Historical Settings

I love historical fiction, and there are certain time periods that will always convince me to pick up a book. I used to read tons of historical fiction but haven't been reading too much of it lately. I would love to read more of this genre this year because I really miss it. 

This is my favorite historical setting to read. I find WWII so fascinating, and I especially love to read from the perspective of characters who are not American because that is not a perspective I am exposed to very often.

2. The Tudor Reign
Another of my favorite historical settings, I love the court drama and intrigue and beautiful fashions.

3. 1960's America
The 60's was a time of revolution and upheaval and it's fascinating to read about. I'm really hoping to get into some nonfiction about this time period this year.

4. WWI
WWI has inspired some of the greatest poetry and literature in history, so I love reading literature written during and after the war as well as historical fiction novels set in the time of WWI. 

5. Victorian London
I will always love Victorian London. It's a Romantic and perfect setting for a sweeping and all-consuming story, particularly stories with a mystery element. 
6. Georgian Era London (Jane Austen's time)
This era is so comforting for me to read from, if it's done well, it is such an interesting time in social history for England.

7. 1920's America 
The 20's have a lot of really great female power; women were granted the right to vote and the flappers were rocking their short hair and short dresses. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Wrap-Up

So, up until recently I was trying to do weekly wrap-ups, but it has gotten to be too much with school. I'm going to switch over to the monthly wrap-up which I think will work much better for me. I'm still playing with format, categories and length, but here we go!

What Happened:
School started this month and it's been pretty crazy. I'm taking 16 credits and doing four hours a week of observation in a high school classroom. I've been struggling to find time to read for pleasure and blog, so this month has been a little irregular on the blog, but I'm okay with that.

Other than that, I got totally obsessed with the carpool karaoke videos with James Corden (Adele's is the best) and I have been watching them whenever I need a quick laugh and music break. I'm also on the last season of Gilmore Girls and could not be more excited about the recent Netflix reboot news. I'm eagerly awaiting more details.

I haven't bought any books since my last weekly update (which was a month ago!) so I don't have a lot to update you with there. I do have some post ideas coming up soon that I want to get out, but I just have to find the time to type them up.

What I Read and Reviewed:
I read East of West vol 1 and vol 2 right before winter break ended. I also read my first nonfiction read of the year Eat, Pray, Love and I really enjoyed it! I really want to read more nonfiction this year so I'm really glad I started the year off with this one. Finally, I read The Accident Season which was weird and wonderful.


I'm currently reading a lot of stuff for school, but I have a huge pile of books I'm dying to get into soon.

What Else I Posted:
2016 Resolutions
My Film Wishlist
1 A.M. Post: When Reading is Fun (and when it's not)
The Last Ten Books I Decided I Need to Read
What I'm Reading This Semester
Ten of My Favorite Poets (Check this out and leave me some of your favorite poems!)

How was your month? This month was pretty much filled with school which makes for a boring wrap-up. Here's to February!