February 28, 2015

Literary Heroine Blog Party

Posted in Bible, Blogging, Books, Jane Austen, Just Life tagged at 6:35 pm by catsinboxes

Q.  Introduce yourself! Divulge your life’s vision, likes, dislikes, aspirations, or something completely random!

 My name is Hayley, and I’m a book-loving, Bible-reading, midwest girl transplanted to Louisville, Kentucky, and working on a degree in Humanities at Boyce College.  

Q.  What, to you, forms the essence of a true heroine?

At risk of sounding like Caroline Bingley extolling the merits of a true lady, a true heroine must have common sense and back-bone.  She must possess a sense of humor and, if at all possible, she must like books!  Even more importantly, she must be empathetic and care about others —not everyone, we can’t all be Jane Bennets— but she must have some connection with other people.   

Q.  Share (up to) four heroines of literature that you most admire and relate to.

  • Elinor Dashwood —Definitely number one!  
  • Emma Woodhouse —I plead guilty of being all too like Emma at times
  • Emily of Deep Valley —I’ve had a lot of waiting periods in my life, especially —like Emily— not going on to college right away.  (Here’s a review written much closer to that time in my life.)  
  • Anne Elliot —I’m not as quiet as Anne, but I do hope that as I grow older, I emulate Jane Austen’s most mature of heroines.

Q.  Five of your favorite historical novels?

  1. Sense and Sensibility
  2. Emma
  3. The Hobbit
  4. Persuasion
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird

Q.  Out of those five books who is your favorite major character and why?

Elinor Dashwood . . . I understand her!

Q.  Out of those five books who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Mr. Knightley —he feels the most “real” of all Jane Austen’s men.  He is a friend first and not afraid to call Emma out on her short-comings.  

Q.  If you were to plan out your dream vacation, where would you travel to – and what would you plan to do there?

I’d travel to the United Kingdom and visit battlefields, bookstores, castles, cathedrals, and museums —as many literary and historical places as I could cram into my vacation.  (Fun fact, I lived in London for 6 weeks when I was 12.  I can’t wait to go back someday!)

Q.  What is your favorite time period and culture to read about?

Ooh, hard!  Right now it would be Regency England, but I love Homefront Britain during WWII, and Pre-Revolutionary War Boston.  

Q.  You have been invited to perform at the local charity concert. Singing, comedy, recitation, tap dancing… what is your act comprised of?

I love poetry, so I’d be happy to recite something, and then I’d finish with a piano solo, probably this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UaHl3d8Rlg 

Q.  If you were to attend a party where each guest was to portray a heroine of literature, who would you select to represent?

Hermione Granger; I have both the character and the bushy brown hair! 

Q.  Favorite author(s)?

Besides Jane Austen: Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Goudge, C. S. Lewis, Angie Sage, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, J. R. R. Tolkien and P. G. Wodehouse. . . to name a few  

Q.  In which century were most of the books you read written?

20th century with several notable exceptions!

Q.  In your opinion, the ultimate hero in all literature is…

Lord Peter Wimsey, my first literary crush 

Q.  In your opinion, the most dastardly villain of all literature is…

Moriarty is a classic but, really?  Lord Voldemort!

Q.  Describe your ideal dwelling place.

Bag End, or a quiet farm in the country 

Q.  Sum up your fashion style in a short sentence.

Classic but relaxed: I love dressing up, but I also love my jeans!

Q.  Three favorite Non-fiction books?

Taking the Bible as a given:

  1. Oxford Companion to English Literature (I love reading this reference book!)
  2. Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore (Wonderful, theological book)
  3. At Home with Beatrix Potter (Beautiful coffee-table book with gorgeous pictures)

Q.  Your duties met for the day, how would you choose to spend a carefree summer afternoon?

Yup, an Indiana Jones hat for me!

I’m imagining a summer day back home in Wisconsin —Kentucky summer days are far too hot!  I’d go walking with Mom, then, after my walk, walk out to the barn to see the horses and go out in the pasture barefoot to socialize (being very careful to mind my feet!)  After that I’d head inside, grab a glass of iced tea mixed with lemonade, and find a nice spot outside to read a book or catch up on journaling.  

Q.  Create a verbal sketch of your dream hat – in such a way as will best portray your true character.

While I’d love a beautiful hat, I’m on the adventurous side, so I’ll go for a Australian oilskin hat or a fedora.  If I didn’t wear a helmet horseback riding, that is what I’d be wearing!

Q.  Share the most significant event(s) that have marked your life in the past year.

Joining Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville; I am so thankful for my new “home” church.

Q.  Share the Bible passage(s) that have been most inspiring to you recently.

I love how the psalms are filled with the idea and admonition to wait on the Lord.  Psalm 33:20-22 so clearly ties this waiting with joy and hope in the Lord.  I’m learning to live this daily.

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.   For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.   Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. 

February 19, 2015

Snowbound with Station Eleven and Jane Austen

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Dystopia, England, Favorite Quotes, Jane Austen, Movie Reviews tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:53 pm by catsinboxes

It snowed this week, quite impressively for Louisville, blanketing the city and wreaking havoc on roads, schools, and schedules.

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I didn’t complain when my quiet weekend was extended by one day. (Though I did frown at my nearly-empty carton of eggs.)

As the snow fell outside, I made hot tea and settled down to read Station Eleven. (While the library has over a hundred people on the waiting list for this National Book Award Finalist, I lucked out and was lent a copy by a fellow reader.) Another book-loving friend had described Station Eleven as an absorbing page-turner, and it was a fun.

Resembling Dickens in its cast of characters and twisting story lines, Station Eleven darts back and forth, weaving the tale of a group of people across a number of years who are bound together by one man. Just after the book begins a pandemic sweeps across the world. It was almost eerie, reading about civilization crumbling in Station Eleven‘s world while —outside— the city ground to a halt, immobilized by snow.

I wouldn’t recommend Station Eleven unreservedly, but it is definitely an engaging book.

Another highlight of my quiet week was watching the 1995 BBC version of Persuasion with a fellow British drama lover. I. Love. That. Story.

Persuasion falls into my top three Jane Austen novels. It was my last to discover. . . . I was an early teen at the library and, locating Jane Austen in the fiction section, realized that here was one story of hers that I had not read. That was soon remedied!

Anne Elliot, the last heroine completed by Jane Austen, has depth. (And Amanda Root does a lovely job of displaying this in the movie!)

The movie is a wonderful adaption —my favorite for Persuasion. The casting is great and though I didn’t catch it last time, Harry Potter lovers, did you realize AUNT PETUNIA is Mrs. Croft?! It’s so funny to see her as a good character for a change, and actress Fiona Shaw does a lovely job.

I love the Crofts in both the movie and the book, and I’ve never forgotten Anne’s observations regarding the Crofts as they are out driving in their carriage. Mrs. Croft exclaims:

My dear Admiral, that post! we shall certainly take that post.”

But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the Cottage.

So, that’s part of what I enjoyed during this snowy week. How about you? Please do leave a comment; I love people chiming in!

January 30, 2013

Books, Books, and More Books -Part 1

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, England, Fiction, Jane Austen, Theology/Christian life at 8:23 pm by catsinboxes

Divided into categories, here is an overview of different books I’ve encountered lately.

Read Aloud

Bill Bergson, Master Detective by Astrid Lindgren

Two weekends ago, I was on the prowl looking for a good read aloud.  I knew what kind of story I wanted, an exciting one with adventure and cliffhangers.  And if that weren’t enough, I really wanted one that would be a new read for me, too.  It was a tall order, and I realized it.  Still, I didn’t give up and went poking hopefully through our children’s books.  After looking at a few books, a paperback caught my eye.  Bill Bergson, Master Detective.  It was a promising title, and it was written by Astrid Lindgren.  I like Astrid Lindgren, so I picked it up.  I opened to the first page.  This was the critical part.  Would it catch my listeners’ interest?  They are wonderful listeners, but they’re well read and have high expectations.  Also, would it meet my criteria?  Yes, I was being picky, but I did feel like just one sort of book.

These were the first few sentences:

Blood!  No doubt about it!  He stared at the red stain through his magnifying glass.  Then he moved his pipe to the other side of his mouth and sighed.  Of course it was blood.  What else can you expect when you cut your thumb?

This book was exactly what I was looking for, and we all enjoyed reading it.  What is the story about?  Why, Bill Bergson of course.

Bill is a keen detective, complete with magnifying glass and (empty) pipe.  His only problem is that he is 13 years old, no one will take his profession seriously, and the small town he lives in is annoyingly free of crime.  Still, Bill manages to have a lot of fun with Eva-Lotta, his next door neighbor, and Anders, his bosom friend.  It looks like their fun might be interrupted when Eva-Lotta’s Uncle Einar comes for a visit.  Uncle Einar is exasperating for one thing, but he also seems mysterious.  And that is when things start happening, and it will take all of Bill Bergson, Master Detective’s wits to get to the bottom of these suspicious events.

Read-Aloud Quality: 5 (out of 5)

Ideal Listeners’ Ages: 7-13 

Emil’s Pranks by Astrid Lindgren  

After the success of Bill Bergson, I was ready to try something else by Astrid Lindgren.  Emil is written for a younger audience and, as the name predicts, the book is devoted to a chronicling of five-year-old Emil’s pranks with every other page including a whimsical and often humorous illustration.  It’s not that Emil is naughty, though he is; it’s just that he is a bit too clever for his own good and his parents don’t know what to do with him.  (Think Calvin and Hobbes Swedish version!)

I like Emil because his naughtiness in this book, and others in the Emil series, isn’t the kind that will rub off onto his listeners.  I think few of them will ever be tempted to paint their siblings blue or hoist them up a flagpole . . . but oh is it funny to listen to Emil’s escapades!

Today, as I was reading aloud with Joshua, the word “mischief” was used.  Jonathan, age 5, looked up from a puzzle he was working on and said with a grin,

“I know what mischief means: it’s what Emil does.”  And that is true, Emil is the definition of mischief!

Read-Aloud Quality: 5 (out of 5)

Ideal Listeners’ Ages: 5 – 12

Biography

Jane Austen by Peter Leithart 

This short biography is an easy read and belongs to a biography series called Christian Encounters.   In it, Peter Leithart does a good job of tracing Jane Austen’s life, work, and faith.  He tries to find her true character between the two extremes that she has been portrayed: sarcastic, cynical feminist or pious Victorian prude.  In doing so, he creates his own picture of Jane and, to differentiate from other portrayals, dubs her “Jenny.”  He doesn’t do it consistently, and I found it slightly annoying.  To my knowledge, Jane was never called Jenny, and it was a hard pill to swallow.  It’s like dubbing Charles Dickens, “Charlie.”  It simply shouldn’t be done!  That gripe aside, Jane Austen is a truly enjoyable read.  One more note for interested readers before I move on. Don’t be like me, and read the whole book wishing you had a family tree BEFORE discovering there is an appendix in the back for the complicated list of brothers, sisters-in-law, cousins, second wives, etc!

Biography Rating 4 (out of 5)

Readability 5 (out of 5)

Fun fact of the day: do you know that Pride and Prejudice turned 200 this week?

Christian Living

Radical Together by David Platt  

After reading Radical, two years ago, I was eager to read Radical Together.  I bought it this past fall, and it has been sitting on my shelf with a list of other to-reads.  Once I started, it was a fast read, only about 130 pages.  It is an interesting follow-up to Radical and in it, David Platt tries to show what it looks like when the church as a body is “radical” together.  He gives many examples, particularly from his own life and ministry.  For some, this might seem rather self-righteous, but Platt makes it very clear that he and his ministry are far from perfect.  Anyone who  knows David Platt, who has heard him speak and read his book, will know that this is a man who has a heart for the gospel.  Reading Radical Together, it is so neat and challenging to see in practical terms what living out “radical” has meant for both individuals and churches.

In this book, Platt is quick to recognize the importance of the local church.  He also is quick to point out that the problem is not that our church programs and agendas are inherently wrong; they can be very good.  The question is, are they the best in the end for displaying God’s glory to the nations?

If you’re starting to feel a little too complacent (after all, Radical was two years ago), this book will be the perfect book to get you back on your toes.  I love the passion that David Platt shows toward reaching the unreached.  I also love the way he is so challenging, and yet so clear that God does not need our help.

“God does not involve us in his grand, global purpose because he needs us.  He involves us in his grand, global plan because he loves us.”  (Radical Together, 129.)

Christian Living Rating 5 (out of 5)

Readability 5 (out of 5)

January 4, 2013

A Confession Concerning Emma

Posted in Books, England, Jane Austen tagged at 9:11 am by catsinboxes

When I first discovered Jane Austen, I was twelve.  Emma was, I do believe, the third Jane Austen audiobook which I listened to, and I was not impressed.  Simply put, I did not like Emma.  She was far too annoying; how could anyone like her?  I realized that some people did, my own father included.  So then I began a theory: maybe men tolerate Emma more than women.  And that was that.  I listened, and re-listened to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  I read and re-read Persuasion.  I did not touch Emma.  And then, two years ago, Emma came back into my life.  It began with BBC’s new production which is available on Youtube.  While living in Japan, I decided to watch Emma.  And I actually enjoyed it!  So that was that, and at the back of my head, I started to wonder if perhaps I should give Emma another chance.  Time passed, and then -in October- we had a girls’ trip to Louisville, Kentucky.  One of the joys of the trip was high-speed internet.  And, one night, I suggested that we watch Emma.  So we watched it, and everyone was pleased.  Again, I had the inclination -this time stronger- to give Emma another chance.

On the drive back from Louisville, we finished listening to Pride and Prejudice.  I wasn’t ready to be done with Jane Austen, so I made a decision.  I would try Emma, again.  It was duly checked out from the library, and I really enjoyed it!

That said, I will not say that it is my favorite, but it is from one of my favorite authors.  I do believe that age has something to do with it; I’m ready to admire and enjoy it as an amateur connoisseur.  And I feel like I can understand Emma much more now that I am about her age.  Emma’s fault is that she is open in expressing her feelings.  She is too quick to give censure and jump to conjectures.  She is a woman through and through.  And, I find myself wondering, is Emma dislikable simply because she is such a pretty picture of womanhood?  Is it because she wears on her sleeve the faults that so many of her sex indulge in inwardly?  Certainly I am not an Emma, but I do see myself in Emma.  Suddenly, I can understand her irritation with the ‘perfect‘ Jane Fairfax.  In Emma’s lack of carrying through with the best intentions, I can see a picture of my own intentions.  I have been guilty of the same things: making goals but never completing them, yet basking in the praise of being “accomplished” by admiring -and very partial- friends and family.  Suddenly I can see how it happens.  And I can like Emma.  I can like Emma because I realize that I am more like her than I would like.  And I like her even more because of the glimpse Emma affords into Jane Austen’s mind.  There are so many glimpses of society, so many observations on people and character and disposition.  Now that I’ve finished Emma for a second time, I’m more than ready to read it again.  And after all, who doesn’t like Mr. Knightley?

November 2, 2012

A New Reason to Blog and a Book Review

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Jane Austen, Just Life at 10:10 pm by catsinboxes

Since I began blogging, I have had many inducements to blog.  The greatest has been my love of writing, especially writing about books.  Then there’s been the guilt factor, I haven’t blogged since when???  Quickly following the guilt factor has been the continual resolution factor, I will post once a week, I will post regularly.  But, if a reader were to peruse my blog they would realize that neither the second nor tertiary factor have prevailed.  But, recently I have discovered a new inducement which might -if exercised judiciously- get me to blog faithfully.  And that inducement is the growing library fine.  With monetary loss hanging over my head, I feel the need to blog much more urgently!

And what is the book that has brought me to a state of pecuniary problems?  Before I continue, I should make something clear.  My writing (and choice of vocabulary words) is right now being subconsciously affected by Jane Austen.  It’s an affect I have noticed before, and while I don’t mind at all, I feel that it does require an explanation!

Now, back to the overdue library book which is causing this blog post.

This was a “first” for me in several respects.  It was the first book I have read about economics and the first book I have read about food.  I saw it recommended in World Magazine, and I thought it sounded intriguing.  I found it was in our library system, so I checked it out and began to read.

If you like to save money, if you like food, and if you want to understand how economics related to food works, then this is the book for you!  It was an enjoyable read and very informative.  Tyler Cowen loves food, and throughout the books he adds examples from his personal experience.  This book is full of practical information: Asian supermarkets tend to have the best -and cheapest- produce . . . good food at a good price is more likely to be found in an out-of-the-way location than in an expensive area since business will depend more on a loyal clientele drawn by good cooking . . . Pakistani restaurants tend to be more authentic than Indian restaurants because they cater toward a narrower audience which expects authentic Pakistani food.  These and many more interesting facts (did you know that some of the best French restaurants in the world -outside of France- are in Japan?) can be found within this book.  Tyler Cowen manages to cover a whole host of subjects in 11 chapters.  Eco-concious readers will appreciate his chapter on ‘Eating Your Way to a Greener Planet.’  I found it very interesting, and while I wouldn’t say I agree with all of his conclusions, I definitely see his logic!

One of the best things, for me, about reading An Economist Gets Lunch was the timing.  I read Chapter 4: The Rules for Finding a Good Place to Eat right before heading on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky.  From that point on, armed with a host of rules for finding good, inexpensive food, I was on a mission.  With the help of Tyler Cowen’s tips, and reviews from The Urban Spoon, we ate very well while we were in Louisville: Mediterranean food, burgers, and barbecue -amazing barbecue!  If I were a food blogger, I’d now produce many delicious pictures of said food.  But alas, I am not.  Maybe someday I’ll go into that, but for now you’ll have to content yourself with my assurance that the food was excellent.

So, with the Christmas season approaching, An Economist Gets Lunch is a perfect present for a book-loving friend who also loves food and has a streak of Scotch blood.

There, now my blogging conscience has been assuaged, and I will return this book to the library as quickly as possible.  And, many apologies to the person who put it on hold and is right now wondering why I won’t return it!  I wanted to return it, I really did, I just needed to blog about it first!

April 28, 2011

Thoughts on Sense and Sensibility

Posted in Book Reviews, Jane Austen at 8:58 pm by catsinboxes

Background:  This post was written last Thanksgiving, but I never got around to posting it.  If you don’t like Jane Austen, you might as well stop reading right now.  This is definitely a post for Jane Austen enthusiasts!  

I just finished Sense and Sensibility.  Let it be said right now: I love Sense and Sensibility.  I love all of Jane Austen works, some in lesser degrees than others, but I especially love Sense and Sensibility.  Let me tell you why . . .

1.  Elinor Dashwood is my favorite Jane Austen character.  She has so much character, yet enough good sense to temper her feelings.

2.  Marianne is so . . . so . . . Marianne Dashwood.  She’s romantically inclined to say the least, and I love Jane Austen’s wry observations on her behavior.


3.  Edward Ferrars is tops.  He is such a nice character, that we can quite forgive him for becoming entagled with Lucy Steele.  Speaking of . . .

4.  Lucy Steele is the nastiest, most conniving creature of Jane Austen’s creations.  At least, that’s how I feel at the moment.  She is certainly the most developed, and oh how I detest the social-climbing, scheming, insincere lady.  Speaking of detestable creatures . . .

5.  Robert Ferrars, his mother, Fanny, and her husband John Dashwood all fit nicely into this category.  Lady Middleton is certainly insipid, so I can almost put her here.  I don’t think she would object since I am classing her with other “people of class.”

6.  Willougby, oh Willoughby!  Why can’t you look as charming as you really and truly were in the book?  You are such a cad, such a narcissist, such an egotistical self-centered wretch!  I can find a little bit of my heart to feel sympathy, but I will harden it again when I think of poor Eliza.  I will always think of you as a villain . . .

  

7.  Every time I read (or listen) to Sense and Sensibility, I am struck with how my feelings toward Mrs. Jennings and Sir John change.   At the beginning of the novel, they are so vulgar, so boisterously intolerable (these pictures disappointingly cannot do them justice in that respect), but by the end of the story one can appreciate that each possess a truly good heart.  And while I’m thinking of good hearts:

8.  Colonel Brandon does not change throughout the book, but he is so good.  Such a quiet, steadfast, suffering man.  I still prefer Edward . . . but I especially like Colonel Brandon’s friendship with Eleanor.  And he gets his girl in the end, even though he does insist upon wearing flannel!

9.  I’m afraid to leave Margaret and Mrs. Dashwood out . . . I like both of them.  Compared to Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Dashwood is a wonderful mother.  Margaret is not mentioned in the book, except for giving Mrs. Jennings and Sir John ammunition towards Eleanor, but she’s such a sweet character in the movies, that I’ll be kind and include her:

(I love this scene: enough to charm any big sister’s heart!  ~For those unfamiliar with the movie, Edward is giving Margaret a ride on his gorgeous black horse.)

I could easily think of a 10th thought concerning Sense and Sensibility, but I’ll conclude for now and go back to Thanksgiving preparations.  I’m listening to Pride and Prejudice now . . .  thoughts on that will be an upcoming post.

*All pictures are from Masterpiece Theater’s 2008 production of Sense and Sensibility.

May 11, 2010

Jane Austen on Facebook . . .

Posted in England, Favorite Quotes, Jane Austen at 10:18 pm by catsinboxes

Resignation to inevitable evils is the duty of us all…

Actually, Jane wasn’t writing about Facebook.  The context is Mr. Collins reassuring Mrs. Bennet that he REALLY doesn’t mind about Elizabeth Bennet flatly refusing him.

Still, I found this quote just as I was resigning myself to some inevitable evils of Facebook.   Literally, the timing was perfect.  Just goes to show how relevant Jane Austen is to the everyday life of a 21st century American high school senior!