Tag Archive: Victorian Challenge 2012


Yes, I realise that it is already the 9th of December (how did this happen?!) but I have only just now had time to wrap up for November!  Of course, I am very busy at the moment and will only get busier, but nevertheless, I read 3 books in November.

Here’s what I read in November 2012:

E = mc² – David Bodanis

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

The Visible World – Mark Slouka

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is the same name number as I read in October.  It is a bit of a mix with a science book, an absolute favourite and a let down!  However, my target of at least one classic every month was not fulfilled in November.

Challenge Progress in November 2012:

The Classics Club :  8/60 books read  (None this month)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (None this month)

Still need to read Middlemarch and Villette for The Victorian Challenge but I think Villette alone will be enough of a challenge!

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams, which technically I haven’t read before, but I have listened to all of the radio series countless times so it is kind of a re-read I guess. I also have lots of science magazines on the go.

December Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are Middlemarch still, Villette by Charlotte Brontë and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  I have already mentioned I am leaving Middlemarch until I can focus on it, but I do hope to get to Villette.  I did want to read Pride and Prejudice this Christmas as well…this may become an early January read.

Challenges:  If I do get round to Villette, it would both count towards all 3 challenges.  Pride and Prejudice would count towards two (not Victorian) and I hope to read at least one of these two books.

I am actually reading every day, but when you are busy it is hard to read more than a few pages – you don’t have time for more!  I am really hoping that I can do my usual balancing of revision and reading in the Christmas holidays this year, as I have exams (again) in January.

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October Wrap-Up and November Plans

Wow it is actually ridiculous how quickly these months are going by; how is it November already?  Anyway October was good fun for me – we had our school charity RAG week and a sixth form social (I think I am still recovering even now!) and this week’s holiday was definitely needed.

October was a pretty good reading month for me considering how poor September was!

Here’s what I read in October 2012:

Fermat’s Last Theorem – Simon Singh

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest – Stieg Larsson

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is 2 more than I read in September!  It’s also a good variety as it’s one non fiction, one fiction and one classic.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in October by Macbeth.

Challenge Progress in October 2012:

The Classics Club :  8/60 books read  (Macbeth)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (Macbeth)

Need to read Middlemarch and Villette for The Victorian Challenge but I doubt I will manage both – Middlemarch beat me when I tried at the beginning of September.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I thought would be a bit of a struggle but so far I am really enjoying it and keeping on top if it.  Also I am reading E=mc² by David Bodanis as my current science book; his prose is not quite as good as Simon Singh’s so far.

November Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Visible World by Mark Slouka, Middlemarch still and Villette by Charlotte Brontë!  Cloud Atlas is pretty big and I am reading two books at the moment so I can’t see myself getting much past The Visible World after them.

Challenges:  If I do get round to Middlemarch or Villette, they would both count towards all 3 challenges.

September was such a dismal reading month for me that I didn’t even bother with a monthly wrap-up so I am glad that I am out of my reading rut.  I am just cautious of pushing myself back into it by forcing Middlemarch upon myself again.  It just seems too big and obscure (I don’t know anything about it and people don’t seem to talk about Eliot as much as say Dickens or Austen) for my life at the moment – maybe it will be something I adore but only if I get time to appreciate it properly; a holiday read next year?  Who knows but I don’t want to completely discard it yet as so many people love it.  Don’t judge a book by its cover size?

August Wrap-Up and September Plans

Hello everyone…I can’t believe it’s September! 2012 seems to be flying by.  I like September because starting back at school is quite exciting and it’s my birthday!  Also, the Autumnal weather is a  favourite of mine.  Anyway, in August I really enjoyed the Olympics, a holiday to Majorca and brilliant results.  It has been great but I am ready to go back to school and have some structure returned to my life!

August was a great reading month for me, but not quite as good as last year…there was just too much going on!

Here’s what I read in August 2012:

The Crow Road – Iain Banks

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Harry Potter à L’École des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling

Dracula – Bram Stoker

This is great as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This was the same number as I read in July.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in August by Dracula.

Challenge Progress in August 2012:

The Classics Club :  7/60 books read  (Dracula)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (Dracula)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 4/15 (Dracula)

Really good progress in all the challenges this year.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress (as of yesterday) is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  I read one page late last night and then put it down as I was exhausted…I just hope this isn’t an indication of how I will respond to all 800+ pages of it!

September Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ NestMacbeth, and Cloud Atlas.  Middlemarch is so vast that I very much doubt I read anything else this month…and maybe next too!

Challenges:  Middlemarch will count for all 3 and Macbeth will count for 2 challenges.

Just though I would mention that it has been 6 months since I started blogging!  That is shocking – I still feel very much like a newbie and I would just like to say thank you to all subscribers/readers/commenters for your insight, support and welcome; you have all made book-blogging a very enjoyable experience for me, which is what I hoped for when I started out back at the start of March.  Thank you all 🙂

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Title: Dracula

Author: Bram Stoker

Date Finished: 25/08/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics & The Victorian Challenge 2012

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Now I haven’t read a classic since the end of July so I needed to get one read in August and next up on my TBR shelf was Dracula.  I got this for Christmas last year and for some reason I wasn’t really looking forward to it.  I don’t know why!  I was very wrong as I really enjoyed it.

It is quite hard to get hooked early on, as it takes time to get used to the epistolary format and everything is quite confusing, but after a day or two (I was on holiday in Majorca) I was really interested.

The plot is really great in Dracula especially in the middle section of the book when you have suspicions and ideas but nothing is confirmed.  At points the story is as gripping as a modern thriller and I really wanted to keep reading.  However, due to the sinister nature of the plot, I wasn’t quite as comfortable staying up for hours at night on my own reading as I am accustomed to!  There were times when I felt quite upset by the book [spoiler] for example, when Dracula is obviously feeding on Lucy and Mina and the men haven’t noticed – I was almost throwing the book down in frustration saying ‘just do something to protect them!’ [/spoiler]

I was very impressed by Stoker’s characterisation in Dracula, as the main little group we get to know contains some very memorable characters, most notably Van Helsing, the Dutch Professor.  The position of women in the 19th Century is quite clear, but Stoker certainly has a point to make there: Mina is very resourceful and useful and ultimately the one who solves all the problems which is quite something for a 19th Century novel, I think.  The characters were intricate and a delight to read about – you couldn’t help but support them.

How could I not discuss Dracula himself and the whole creation of the quintessential vampire that Stoker created?  He really gets the balance between creepy and believable right.  Ok, when it is during the day and you’re lying on a Majorcan sun-lounger nothing seems too bad, but when it’s night time and quite something about Dracula is very scary even today when vampires are almost embraced (thanks for that, Twilight…).  Speaking of Twilight and all modern vampire fiction, I think everyone who says they love all those novels should read this and see where it all stemmed from – beautiful, powerful, terrifying vampires are nothing new and I think that is being forgotten.  I think people may be surprised at how many similarities they would stumble upon.

The Transylvanian setting is so iconic and creepy!  It is great to read about and I love settings I know nothing about – Romania for example, especially in the 19th Century! – although some of the long description at the start of the book (before I got into the storyline) was a bit tedious.  Having said that, Stoker’s prose was superb throughout and was really quite easy to read – I thought beforehand that may have been an issue.

All in all, I am very glad I put this on my challenge lists and that I just went for it – it shows how “judging a book by its cover” is still bad 😉  I would heartily recommend this book to all of you.  I am torn between awarding a 4 and a 5, as I didn’t love it the way I loved David Copperfield or TKAMB, but I liked it a lot more than most other 4s, like Wuthering Heights.  I will stick with a 4 for now, but it is definitely going straight on the re-read list!

July Wrap-Up and August Plans

You may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet this last week or so – not posting/reading/replying much and I think that’s fair.  I have been watching the Olympics non-stop – it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a home games and I am making the most of it.  We are off ourselves on Friday and I will try and get a post up to describe what we’re going to see!

I have had a good reading month in July, I think.  Considering I was camping for a week at the start with my friends (didn’t get chance to read) and have been pretty busy so 4 books is great!

Here’s what I read in July 2012:

The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

This is great as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This was one more than I read in June.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in May by To Kill a Mockingbird AND Cold Comfort Farm!”

Challenge Progress in May 2012:

The Classics Club :  6/60 books read  (To Kill a MockingbirdCold Comfort Farm)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  3/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 3/15 (To Kill a MockingbirdCold Comfort Farm)

Really good progress in The Classics Club and The Literary Classics, just need to stay on top of The Victorian Challenge over the next few months.

Currently In Progress:

At the moment I am slowly making my way through The Crow Road by Iain Banks, which I can’t say I am enjoying, but I am not very far in – too early to say I definitely don’t like it!

August Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, The Da Vinci Code and Dracula. These are all pretty big and so is The Crow Road so I doubt I will get through them all.

Challenges:  Dracula is the only one of these which will count for challenges – all 3 actually so maybe I should prioritise that one…

Hopefully you are all enjoying some downtime in August, be it by enjoying the Olympics by not 🙂

June Wrap-Up and July Plans

There has not been much action on my blog this week as I have been super busy – I finally finished my exams on Wednesday; had induction days for sixth form on Thursday and Friday; a party on Friday evening; concert rehearsals on Saturday and then concert and then post-concert meal on Saturday evening; special church service Sunday morning and then packing for camping.  Yes, I am tired.  Yes, I am going camping on Monday… in England …wish me luck!

I have read an average amount in June, I think.  It has been hard to find time to read when everything has been so hectic and I hope I will have a bit more time in July.

Here’s what I read in June 2012:

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens 

Submarine – Joe Dunthorne

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins (post to follow asap.)

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This was the same number of books as I read in May.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in May by Great Expectations, which I really enjoyed.

Challenge Progress in May 2012:

The Classics Club :  4/60 books read  (Great Expectations)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  3/6 books read  (Great Expectations)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 1/15 (Great Expectations)

As you can see, I killed 3 challenge-birds with one stone, which is often going to be the case, as I am involved in 3 classics-based challenges.

Currently In Progress:

During camping, I am planning to read The Subtle Knife, which is a re-read of an old favourite for me.  Also, if I have time I will read The Time Traveler’s Wife but I don’t know what sort of reading time I will get – there are 25+ of us going camping!!

June Plans:

Books:  the next three books on my TBR shelf are The Timetraveler’s Wife; To Kill A Mockingbird and The Crow Road.  As I have already said, I don’t know how much time I will spend reading this month, but hopefully I can make a start on some of these titles.

Challenges:  To Kill A Mockingbird will count towards The Classics Club and The Literary Classics so that’s good..also considering it’s my favourite book, I think I will enjoy July a lot!

I hope you have all had a productive June and are going to enjoy some down time in July; you deserve it!

Title: Great Expectations

Author: Charles Dickens

Date Finished: 22/06/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : Yes – Victorian Challenge 2012 & The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I knew I needed to re-read Great Expectations at some point, because I was too young to really appreciate/understand it the first time I read it, a few years ago.  Basically, I think I got the fundamentals – the basic story and who the characters were, but I remember it being a struggle to read and now I know I was just that bit too young.

Also, the edition I read a few years ago was an old Penguin paperback I found in a second hand book shop with lots of writing in, as the previous owner had obviously studied it at school.  Now, I am someone who needs books to be “nice”.  Note, I don’t say “new” because there is nothing wrong with reading a second (or third or fourth) hand book; but I have real issues with broken books, print that is too small and many other things that make reading harder than in needs to be.  Therefore I thought I would treat myself to a nice new copy, and this was just the time that the Penguin English Library was launched.  What a coincidence – one of their first books was Great Expectations, so that was that!  You can see how lovely it looks.

So I was all prepared to read.

The plot in Great Expectations is something I thought I essentially ‘got’ from my first read of this book.  However, I was wrong.  There were so many twists and turns that I had completely missed the first time and even though I assumed I got the basic story, I didn’t really get that either!

I was really impressed by the story Dickens tells in this books – before, I thought it was a good idea but it was just another ‘hard-done-by boy grows up to be good with disappointments’ but it was so much more than that.  Especially in the second half of the third volume, I could not stop reading.

The characters are another thing I presumed I understood already.  Sadly, no – I was wrong again!  Yes, I remembered Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella and Joe, but I had completely missed Herbert, Biddy, Orlick and many more.  The characterisation was perfection, as I have come to expect from Dickens, and again all these characters are completely unique.  It is truly amazing to think that one person thought up all these different people and got them absolutely spot on – you can see and hear them all right in front of you.

Of course the prose is flawless and the setting, especially the marshes, is completely unique.  The reasons for me concluding with a 4/5 and not a 5/5 are twofold.  Basically, I compared how I felt about reading other similar(ish) books that I really loved, such as Jane Eyre and David Copperfield and I realised that this didn’t spark my reading in the same way.  Until the last 100 pages, I was going quite slowly (for me) and didn’t have the drive to plough on with the story.  Secondly, I didn’t warm to the characters as much as I did with David Copperfield.  I understand that this is obviously a less ‘nice’ book and that there are many unpleasant characters, but I didn’t feel the motivation to read all about the minor characters in Great Expectations as I did in David Copperfield.  No-one rivalled Peggotty/Betsey/Mr Dick.

So overall I really did enjoy Great Expectations, especially towards the end.  Also, it completely proves my case for re-reading.  You can get so so so much more out of a book the second or third or fourth time you read it.  I had missed so much the first time round.  Re-reading lets you experience more because you can see beyond the major plot and characters – you get to really appreciate the author’s skill and craftsmanship.  So yeah, everyone should re-read!

May Wrap-Up and June Plans

Three months book blogging and I am still going strong.  I am really grateful to everyone who has followed/reads my blog and I hope you feel like it’s a two way connection and that I am just as interested in your posts as you are in mine, because believe me I am! 🙂

May has been a very hectic month for me: earlier on, I had my Last Day and Prom which were great and then the exams kicked in…which were not so great.  (You can catch with my exam progress in my Friday Quick Wrap-Up posts.)  But in terms of reading, it has been quite a good month and I am very pleased with what I have achieved.

Here’s what I read in May 2012:

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month (and I really enjoyed these books).  This was the same number of books as I read in April.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was not officially fulfilled in May, a I haven’t read any classics, but I read two in April so it works out fine anyway.

Challenge Progress in May 2012:

The Classics Club :  3/60 books read  (None this month)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  2/6 books read  (None this month)

This isn’t amazing but doesn’t really matter, as I am on target for both challenges as I only need to read a Victorian every 2 months and a classic every month to complete these challenges on time.

In other challenge news, I have recently signed up to Ali’s Literary Classics Reading Challenge, which ties in very nicely with the other challenges I am participating in.  Here is my sign up post

Currently In Progress:

Great Expectations: I am re-reading this as I don’t think I understood it enough to enjoy it when I struggled through it a few years ago, and so far (about 20% through) that is proving to be right – I don’t seem to remember anything except the basic story.

I still have Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling, Living French, The Languages Book and Italian For You by my bed, for languages reading, but with my Latin and German GCSEs not complete, this is quite a rarity at the moment (I don’t want to get my languages muddled).  Yes, I am going to teach myself basic Italian grammar and vocabulary over the summer and hopefully enter for a GCSE in it before I leave school – I just think it’s a great language!

June Plans:

Books:  the next three books on my TBR shelf are Submarine – Joe Dunthorne, The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman and The Time-Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger.  Great Expectations may take me a while, although I do have a week’s break this week so (even though levels of revision are high) I should get some reading time.  Therefore, I will probably get round to Submarine and The Subtle Knife, at least.

Challenges:  Great Expectations will count for all three of the challenges I am involved in – The Classics Club, The Victorian Challenge 2012 and The Literary Classics Reading Challenge, which is great.

I hope you’re all looking forward to some (hopefully) warm weather this month and can take some time out to relax with a good book!

April Wrap-Up and May Plans

So it is the end of my second month of book blogging, and I am still going.  To be honest, I haven’t read as much in April as a) I did in March b) as I would’ve liked to.  This is, as I’m sure many of you are aware, because my exams start in TWO WEEKS TIME! SCARY!  So as you can guess, I have been doing lots of work and revision and less reading.  I have 19 exams by the way ( 😦 ) and they stretch from mid-May all the way to the end of June!  Well, escapism in the form of reading will certainly be on the cards for me.

Here’s what I read in April 2012:

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Emma – Jane Austen

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month (and these were all great books).  I read slightly less in terms of numbers of books than in April but not massively.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in April by Wuthering Heights AND Emma!

Challenge Progress in April 2012:

The Classics Club :  3/60 books read  (Wuthering Heights – Emily BrontëEmma – Jane Austen)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  1/6 books read  (Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë)

This is great as Wuthering Heights counted for both challenges I am involved with and I tacked my first Austen too (there are quite a few on my Classics Club list.  I am on target for both challenges as I only need to read a Victorian every 2 months and a classic every month to complete these challenges on time.

Currently In Progress:

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón:  I am not very far into this book yet, but from the first few chapters, it seems as though this is definitely a book for me: a good mystery, a foreign setting, a focus on books…what more could I want?!

I still have Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling, Living French and The Languages Book by my bed, for whenever I feel like a bit of languages reading.  I take Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers with me for any chance I get to read in school (not very likely with upcoming exams) and I dip into the other two for about a chapter once a week.  It is nice to read something completely different now and again.

May Plans:

Books:  the next three books on my TBR shelf are Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins, The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson and The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman.  I am not too sure about how long I will take with The Shadow of the Wind, with all my other commitments, but I should finish Catching Fire and maybe The Girl who Played with Fire too.

Challenges:  in regards to challenges, I don’t have any books planned for April that will count for The Victorian Challenge 2012, and none for The Classics Club either!  This isn’t that great but I am well on track for both so it is not really a big deal.  Great Expectations is next up for both challenges, but I am currently deciding which edition to buy…the new Penguin English Library editions are very appealing, I have to say.  You can access the paper for The Classics Club here.

How is everyone else getting on with The Classics Club and have you got any favourite editions of Great Expectations to recommend?

Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

Date Finished: 04/04/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – Victorian Challenge 2012 & The Classics Club

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

This book has certainly taken me on a journey.  To start with, reading this was a bit of a chore if I’m honest.  I didn’t really know who anyone was – I was confused as to why there was this Catherine who was Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law and not his love, so I assumed I must have misunderstood something.  I was also a bit put of when I realised that it was not narrated by neither Cathy nor Heathcliff, as I assumed it would be, as Jane Eyre is narrated by Jane (falling into the trap of presuming the Brontë sisters’ novels will be similar again).

Funnily enough, everything I felt at the start of this book seemed to be completely turned around by the time I had finished!  For example, at the start of the book I felt sorry for Heathcliff – he was treated cruelly and at a time where status and class were everything, no wonder he felt alienated and resentful.  However, by the end of the story, especially when he locks Ellen and Catherine in the Heights to prevent them from seeing Edgar before he dies, I loathed his unnecessary cruelty.

Anyway, I remember Jillian writing that she was surprised that this novel was so emotive for her, and now I know what she meant.  The way I resented some characters for their sheer spite and found my heart beating rapidly when others were in danger really moved me.  It is a true credit to Emily Brontë that she evokes such strong emotions in people well over a hundred years later than when she wrote her only book.

The plot is really original – without being unrealistic, it was shocking and clever and took turns I never would have predicted.  Throughout the novel, I was constantly wondering “what the hell can happen now?!”  The slight downside, for me, is that sometimes we were told of events before they were narrated.  For example, Nelly states that Heathcliff has died before she tells the tale of how, which slightly diminished my desire to read on quickly.

In terms of characterisation, Emily has depicted some of the most unforgettable characters throughout English literature; personally, I believe Heathcliffe and Cathy are on a par with some of Dickens’ creations.  This, of course, is definitely not to say that I like the characters in Wuthering Heights.  On the contrary, I abhor the majority!  At some time or another, almost all of them are mean to one another and seemingly the only person who isn’t, Ellen, is pretty unrealistic, in my eyes.  All those years of serving the family and still going strong at the end?  Oh, and being perfectly content to discuss the entire history of a family she has been so intimate with?  Not likely.

Another instance of the way my view completely changed over the course of the book was with the character of Edgar.  When we were first introduced to him when they were all so young, I found him irritating and meddlesome.  How dare he stand in the way of two people so obviously destined for one another?  I think I saw him as the personification of the requirement to conform to stereotype, in this case marrying to your appropriate social level, and that annoyed me.  However, as I progressed with the story, Edgar’s kindness and devotion to both his wife and daughter won me over and he became one of my favourite characters by the end.

The prose is undoubtedly superb, with no sentence sounding odd or disjointed.  All writing by the Brontës I have encountered so far has been flawless and a pleasure to read; I can’t help comparing with Dickens again, whose lengthy descriptions sometimes have my mind wandering – this is not an issue with Emily Brontë’s descriptions of the moors.  What an amazing setting!  I have family in Yorkshire and next time I visit them, I am definitely going exploring.

To conclude, I now understand what is meant by the view that Wuthering Heights is not so much a novel, but an exploration and education on passion, dominance, revenge and many other strong emotions.  For me, I think it educates on how cruelty can spring from all places, despite background or situation.

A very vivid and thought provoking read.
Although I did not award 5/5 (I couldn’t completely disregard the apathy I felt towards the characters and plot at the start) it is definitely going straight on my re-read list, as I think I have so much more to learn from this book the second time round.