Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cry, the Beloved Country: 29% Complete

Now that I have read almost a third of this book, I know what my mom meant when she said this was one of her "beautiful books."  The poetry and description in this book are gorgeous and very old in it's style.  It reminds me of parts of the Old Testament of the Bible in many ways.
I can think of no better way to demonstrate the lilting nature of this book than to give you part of the very first paragraph in it.
"There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into this hills.  These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.  The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke; and from there, if there is no mist, you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa."
I love that phrase, "lovely beyond any singing of it."  Singing has such a way of evoking the emotional side of beauty, so for something to be lovely beyond any singing of it is beauty indeed.
I also ran into an interesting thing.  The quote from the book reads,
"I persuaded him to open a Post Office book, and he already has three or four pounds in it."
I would not have had any idea what a "Post Office book" was if I had not been recently watching the BBC television series "Lark Rise to Candleford" which takes place in the late 1800's in England and in which the Post Office plays an important role.  From watching that show, I knew that the Post Office often served as a sort of bank for rural customers who could not access an actual bank.  A little more research taught me that this system was implemented first in England in the 1860's to promote savings among the poor.  Deposits were limited to thirty pounds a year and a total balance of 150 pounds.  Systems like this still exist in Japan (where the post office was the world's largest savings bank in 2008), Germany, China, Brazil, India, South Africa (where Cry, the Beloved Country takes place, of course) and several other countries.  This information was obtained from, and more information can be found, here.
The vocabulary word for today is "kloof" which is actually an Africaans word (interesting side note: according to the Foreign Service Institute, which ranks difficulty of language learning for English-speakers, Africaans is the easiest language for English-speakers to learn).  Kloof means, "a steep-sided, wooded ravine or valley" (definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary).
And finally, many congratulations to Carrie, winner of our holiday giveaway!  Thank you to everyone who participated!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cry, the Beloved Country: Beginning

The next book I will be reading is Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  This book tells the story of a black priest in South Africa who is searching for his son in Johannesburg.  The book was written and published just prior to the institutionalizing of apartheid in South Africa and it speaks out against the practices of segregation and discrimination.  Alan Paton grew up in South Africa and drew heavily upon his experiences to write this book.
When I told my mom that I was reading this book next, she said, "Oh! That's one of my beautiful books!"  The book describes South Africa in such a way that people have referred to the country as one of the characters in the book.
This book enjoyed immediate success following it's publication in 1948 and in South Africa it has sold more copies than any other book besides the Bible.  I thought it appropriate to read this one now after the recent passing of Nelson Mandela.
The copy I have for Kindle can be found here.  It has 320 pages.
Happy New Year! What are you hoping to read in 2014?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera: 100% Complete

Well I finished The Phantom of the Opera just in time for Christmas! I really enjoyed the last portion of the book; it was suspenseful and fascinating.  Since I haven't seen any of the movies in a very long time, I didn't actually remember what happened, so I was on the edge of my seat toward the end.
One of the things I especially enjoyed, was that at the end of the book there are three chapters which are supposed to be a written narrative of events written by the Persian about his encounters with the opera ghost.  Although Gaston Leroux wrote the whole story, he did a fantastic job of changing  his narrative style while writing as the Persian which is a difficult thing to do as a writer.  The Persian writes with a much less detached and more passionate style than the rest of the book.
To show this, here's a quote from the Persian's portion of the book:
"For we not only saw the water, but WE HEARD IT! ... We heard it flow, we heard it ripple! ... Do you understand that word 'ripple?' ... IT IS A SOUND WHICH YOU HEAR WITH YOUR TONGUE! ... You put your tongue out of your mouth to listen to it better!"
The vocabulary word for today is "mountebank" which is "a person who deceives others, esp. in order to trick them out of their money" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
Very happy holiday wishes to you and yours! Up next? Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera: 71% Complete

I'm almost to the three-fourths mark in The Phantom of the Opera and I'm still enjoying it. One thing I particularly like is how Leroux often breaks down the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience which adds to his attempt to present the story as an actual non-fiction history of what happened.  This is something that's rather rare in literature and I enjoy it.
All the way through this book there are references to the Labyrinthine underground levels of the Paris opera house. I love the idea of mostly forgotten people wandering around in the annals of the earth.  I don't know (perhaps some of you do!) how realistic this is, or if there actually are subterranean levels of the opera house, but I enjoy the descriptions.  Here is one paragraph that I particularly enjoyed with regards to the necessary but unglamorous jobs in the lower levels of the opera house:
"They were the door-shutters, the old, worn-out scene-shifters, on whom a charitable management had taken pity, giving them the job of shutting doors above and below the stage. They went about incessantly, from top to bottom of the building, shutting the doors; and they were also called 'the draft-expellers,' at least at that time, for I have little doubt that by now they are all dead.  Drafts are very bad for the voice, wherever they may come from."
At the end of the previous paragraph there is a footnote which reads, "M. Pedro Gailhard has himself told me that he created a few additional posts as door-shutters for old stage-carpenters whom he was unwilling to dismiss from the service of the Opera."
The word of the day is "astrakhan" which is "the dark curly fleece of a young karakul lambs from central Asia" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).  In the book there is a Persian who wears a astrakhan hat.  At one point Leroux points out that, "It was an infringement of the rule which insists upon the tall hat behind the scenes; but in France foreigners are allowed every license: the Englishman his traveling-cap, the Persian his cap of astrakhan."
Less than a week left to enter my holiday giveaway for an illustrated copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera: 27% Complete

I got a lot of reading done yesterday so I'm now over a quarter of the way through The Phantom of the Opera.  I'm enjoying it a lot; it's funny in parts and sometimes a little creepy! I'm also glad I read Faust before this one because the operatic version of that work is the opera they are performing in this book (at least so far).  So when they make reference to it, I actually know what they're talking about!
I have a couple of funny quotes for you today.  First of all:
"None will ever be a true Parisian who has not learned to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrows and one of sadness, boredom or indifference over his inward joy."
"'Reputations are easily obtained,' replied Moncharmin. 'Haven't I reputation for knowing all about music? And I don't know one key from another.'
'Don't be afraid: you never had that reputation,' Richard declared.'"
The vocabulary word for today is "reticent" which means, "not revealing one's thoughts of feelings readily" (definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary).
Don't forget to enter my holiday giveaway!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera: Beginning

So after my poll ended in a three-way tie, I decided to read The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux next.  This book was originally published as a serial in 1909 and originally sold very poorly.  It tells the story of the famed "ghost" of the Paris Opera House and the ghost's relationship with the beautiful soprano Christine Daae.
There is a 1986 musical version of this book with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber which is the longest running show in the history of Broadway.  There is also a film version of this musical that was released in 2005 starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum which I have actually never seen (I'll have to watch it after I finish the book).  In addition there is a silent film version of the book from 1925 with Lon Chaney which I watched as a child and a 1943 film version with Claude Rains.
This book was originally written in French and the version I have, (which is free for Kindle here) appears to have been translated by Kate McMullan, Lowell Bair and Peter Neumeyer. On my Kindle the version has 500 pages and will probably take me longer to get through than the last book!
One last thing: you will notice on the right side of the page there is a HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY for an illustrated copy of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale: A Christmas Carol! This is very exciting and the first of what I hope will be many giveaways that I will be able to host.  There are multiple ways to enter and if you follow me on Twitter or are a fan on Facebook then you are already eligible for one or more entries! So throw your hat in the ring and good luck!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Farewell to Arms: 100% Complete

I raced through A Farewell to Arms in about 36 hours.  I really enjoyed it, even though it has a sad ending (I'm actually kind of glad I knew the ending before I started it because I was prepared!).  Be warned, however, this blog post contains some spoilers, so if you haven't read it and spoilers bother you, don't read ahead!
About halfway through the book, Catherine becomes pregnant.  Then she proceeds to drink alcohol throughout the rest of the pregnancy.  Now I realize they didn't know as much about fetal alcohol syndrome and I also realize that in some parts of the world the admonition of women not to drink when pregnant is not so strictly maintained as it is in the US, but it still made me cringe every time.  Case in point:
"'Don't we have a fine time?' Catherine asked. 'Look. Let's go some place and have beer instead of tea. It's very good for young Catherine [the baby].  It keeps her small.'
'Young Catherine,' I said. 'That loafer.'
'She's been very good,' Catherine said. 'She makes very little trouble. The doctor said beer is good for her and keeps her small.'"
The nurse in me was thinking, "It keeps her small, alright.  They call that low birth weight and it's NOT a good thing!"
The vocabulary word for the day is "puttee" which means "a long strip of cloth wound spirally around the leg from ankle to knee for protection and support" (definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary).
So now I have to decide what book I want to read next.  For today, you can vote for the book you think I should read next on poll on the right hand side of the page.  I'll let you know how the poll turns out in a couple of days!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Farewell to Arms: 42% Complete

I'm really enjoying A Farewell to Arms so far.  Hemingway's writing is so raw and terse and real.  The fact that he was an ambulance driver himself during the first world war means that his descriptions of the front are realistic and detailed.  I'm racing through it and I expect to be done in the next day or two.  After Faust, it almost feels like reading children's literature.
I chose the quote for today because I think it is representative of Hemingway's writing; the way he chooses words and phrases that show how the characters feels.  In this piece, Lt. Henry is getting to know Catherine Barkley.
"I held her close against me and could feel her heart beating and her lips opened and her head went back against my hand and then she was crying on my shoulder. 
'Oh, darling,' she said. 'You will be good to me, won't you?'
What the hell, I thought.  I stroked her hair and patted her shoulder.  She was crying."
The way he says he thought "What the hell" and the way he says, twice, that she was crying, brings to mind that combination of frustration and confusion that many men feel when women display unexpected emotions.
Because this is so much easier to read than Faust, I know most of the vocabulary words, but there are a few words borrowed from Italian that I had to look up.  So today's word is "carabiniere" which means "a member of the Italian paramilitary police."
I expect that I will be finished with this very soon, so now I just have to decide what I want to read next.  Suggestions?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Farewell to Arms: Beginning

The next book I will be reading is A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.  This book was written in 1929 and was Hemingway's first best-seller.
It is a love story between Lt. Henry, an American ambulance driver serving in the Italian army during World War I and a British nurse: Catherine Barkley. 
An interesting fact: in the first editions of the work, certain swear words (I'm too much of a lady to name them here!) were replaced with dashes.  This book has been adapted for stage, screen and radio, including a 1932 screen adaptation which was nominated for an Academy Award.
I have read one piece of Hemingway's before: The Old Man and the Sea.  I was in high school and any ironic symbolism was completely lost on me and I hated it.  I thought it was the stupidest story and for a long time I used that and Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath as proof that most American literature was horrid.  However, having said that, I am much older (and I hope, wiser) now and with a little relevant life experience and appreciation for hidden messages in literature, I think I have a decent chance of enjoying this one.
I'm reading a hard-copy version of this, specifically the 2003 paperback version published by Scribner.  The copy is a little worn around the edges, but since I bought it for two dollars at a book sale, I don't really mind.  This merely allows me to feel more comfortable folding down page corners and leaving it splayed open on the coffee table while I get another cup of tea.  This copy has 332 pages, and because it's much easier to read than Faust, I'm anticipating that I'll get through it pretty quickly.
Happy reading!

Faust: 100% Complete

Well, I whizzed through the last bit of Faust and finished it up late night.  Overall, I'm glad I read it, although I won't say it was my favorite book on the list.  I did find the second half easier to read and understand than the first, although I'm still sure I missed a lot.  If I were going to read it again, I would try to find a version that had more footnotes (mine had a few here and there, but not much), because frequently there were references that I didn't understand.
The final quote for Faust is rather a long one, but I thought it was both funny and philosophical (if that is possible).  In this quote, Faust is speaking with Margaret, the innocent young girl he woos and whose life he basically destroys.  She has asked him if he believes in God, and he has hemmed and hawed around the question, and here he tries to explain that perhaps he believes in God but by other names.
"Faust: Then call it what thou wilt,
Joy! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name to give it!
All comes at last to feeling;
Name is but sound and smoke,
Beclouding Heaven's warm glow.
Margaret: That is all fine and good, I know,
And just as the priest has often spoke,
Only with somewhat different phrases."
Of course this question of whether the principle of a rose by any other name smelling as sweet applies to God, is a theological and philosophical question that goes far beyond the scope of this project, but I mostly found Margaret's response funny; that the priest says basically the same thing, but the phrases he uses are a little different.
Our final vocabulary word for Faust is "expiate" which means "to atone for (guilt or sin)." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
Up next I'm tackling: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Faust: 68% Complete

I had a chance to get a lot of reading done at work today, so I'm over two-thirds of the way through Faust.  I can't tell if the story is getting easier to understand or if I'm just getting better at reading it, but it seems like I'm getting more of the story now than I once was.  One of my clients at work (I'm a caregiver for elderly people) is very well-read and of German ancestry, so I mentioned to him today that I was reading Faust and he said, "Wow, I read that.  It's kind of hard to understand, though, isn't it?" so I felt a little better about my lack of comprehension!
I have two quotes for you today.  The first one is by Mephistopheles, in which he is upset about something and he says,
"Oh, to the devil I'd give myself instanter, if I were not already he!" 
In the second, Mephistopheles says,
"Such love-sick fools will puff away sun, moon and stars and all in the azure,
To please a maiden's whimsies, any day."
The vocabulary word of the day is "ennui" which means "a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
Before I go, I had to tell you about a great bargain I got on books yesterday.  I work at a retirement home, and they had a book sale, so of course I couldn't resist going to check it out.  I ended up spending only six dollars and I got an anthology of humor pieces from The New Yorker, a copy of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms (which is on the list!) and a copy of The Scarlet Letter with a copyright date of 1919!  All in all, a pretty successful book-shopping trip, I think!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Faust: 48% Complete

Now that Faust has sold his soul to the devil, he and Mephistopheles are cavorting around the countryside with Faust getting his wishes granted, more or less.
In this scene, Faust has asked to be younger (interesting to note that people's top wishes haven't changed a whole lot).  Mephistopheles tells Faust he has a way to do that, and his instructions are:
"Out to the fields without delay,
And take to hacking, digging, planting;
Run the same round from day to day,
A treadmill-life, contented, leading,
With simple fare both mind and body feeding,
Life with the beast as beast, nor count it robbery
Shouldst thou manure, thyself, the field thou reapest;
Follow this course and, trust to me,
For eighty years thy youth thou keepest!"
Of course Faust doesn't much like his suggestion, but Mephistophales's description of the "simple," idyllic life of a farmer reminded me of Leo Tolstoy's depiction of Konstantin Levin's life on the farm in Anna Karenina (I confess, after I read that book I wanted to move to a farm, even though I grew up on one).  It also points out the human desire to get things without working for them.
The word/phrase of the day is "as lief" which means "as happily or as gladly" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
Before I sign off for now, I want to suggest a holiday gift idea for new parents/grandparents or anyone who has care of small children.  I am convinced that my love for reading, and indeed the ease with which I communicate can be traced back to the fact that my parents faithfully read to me from the day I was born.  The Read-Aloud Handbook outlines research that demonstrates how beneficial reading to kids can be and is a wonderful gift for anyone who has influence over children!
Happy Holidays to one and all!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Faust: 41% Complete

First of all, I want to thank all of you for checking in on my blog! In November I had a six month high in terms of page views, so thank you!
I have finally reached the point in the play where Faust sells his soul to the devil.  I think this story is meant to parallel the story of The Fall from Genesis.  Faust's motivation to sell his soul is his own boredom with life and with his limited knowledge, coupled with his own pride.  At one point Mephistopheles is talking, under the guise of Faust, to a student scholar who comes seeking advice from Faust and he writes in his book: Eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonum et malum.  Now I took Latin for a number of years in school but it's gotten pretty rusty, so I had to look this one up.  It seems this line is actually from Genesis 3:5 and means "You will be like God, knowing good and evil."
I have flagged so many good quotes, but I think I'm going to give you this one, which sums up the essence of Faust's deal with the devil.  Mephistopheles says,
"I to thy service here agree to bind me,
To run and never rest at call of thee;
When over yonder though shalt find me
Then thou shalt do as much for me."
I have also run into a large number of vocabulary words, including "ennui" which is "a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation of excitement" and "soporific" which is "tending to induce drowsiness or sleep" (definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary).

Friday, November 29, 2013

Faust: 15% Complete

I'm still enjoying Faust.  One of the things I like best about it so far is how Goethe (I'm assuming this is a product of the original German, not something added into the translation) mixes different styles of poetry and prose depending on the mood or the character.  Some of the characters use very short, clipped rhymes and meter and some use longer, more sonnet-like poetry when they speak.  It adds a whole other dimension to an already complex fabric of words and emotion which I'm really enjoying.
This quote I just like because of the images it conjures up, and because it talks about reading classic literature, obviously a soft spot for me!
"Excuse me! in these olden pages
We catch the spirit of the by-gone ages,
We see what wisest men before our day have thought,
And to what glorious heights we their bequests have brought."
The word of the day is "famulus" which is "an assistant or servant, esp. one working for a magician or scholar." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
I hope all my American readers had a happy Thanksgiving.  Let the Christmas festivities begin!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Faust: 9% Complete

I'm slowly but surely working through Faust which I'm thoroughly enjoying.  It's actually a little bit more difficult to read than I was expecting, but I find if I slow down and really pay attention to the words and the rhymes and the lyrics, it's really enjoyable.
As far as a quote goes, I could pretty much quote the whole piece as I've read so far; it's that poetic and lyrical.  But I managed to select one.  This quote is God talking to Mephistopheles (the demon).  Mephistopheles points out that Faust is not the most loyal follower that God has, and God says,
"He serves me somewhat darkly, now, I grant.  Yet will he soon attain the light of reason.  Sees not the gardener, in the green young plant, that bloom and fruit shall deck its coming season."
The word of the day is "stager" which is an archaic term for an actor.
This Thanksgiving I'm grateful for the access, the education and the time (however scarce) that allows me to read these wonderful works of literature.  At no time in history has wonderful literature been so available to us at our fingertips, and this is a wondrous thing.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Faust: Beginning

Well, I'm back.  Basically I lost my motivation to work on the project for a while, and then I started nursing school and that has eaten up a lot of my time.  But I'm getting better at studying now so I have a little free time and I figured I could work on the project a little at a time.

I know I left off in the middle of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples but I will come back to that at some point.  The problem is, I had to check it out of the library so the setup was not very conducive to my slow reading pace.  So I've decided to move on to a Kindle book, and then come back to Churchill when I have more time.

A quick update on me, since so much has happened since I last was here: I got married in September, I started nursing school two weeks later (my husband is also a nursing student) and I turned twenty-five four days after I got married (it was a busy couple of weeks).  This officially means I have less than five years to finish the project, and I haven't done the calculations yet, but I'm sure I'm way behind pace.

So the next book I'm going to tackle is Faust by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe.  This is a tragic play in two parts written in German in the mid-1700's.  The version I am reading was translated by Charles Timothy Brooks. 

The play tells the traditional German story of Heinrich Faust, a dissatisfied scholar who sells his soul to the devil.  According to Wikipedia, this play is considered one of the greatest works of German literature.  Franz Liszt, the great Hungarian composer, wrote a symphony called Faust Symphony and Charles Gounod wrote an operatic version as well.  There is apparently a musical version by Randy Newman and there are Czech and Russian film adaptations as well.

The Kindle version I have has 226 pages and will probably take me a while to finish because nursing school and work are eating up the majority of my time.

But at least I'm back!

Friday, June 14, 2013

I'm baaaaaccck!!!

Hello faithful readers.  As promised, I am back in blogging land, and will shortly be back with an update on progress with The History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
I enjoyed my mostly restful couple of weeks off.  I finished up my finals so now I have just over three months before I start nursing school.  During the two and a half weeks since I last posted, I have read (in no particular order):  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (five out of five stars), All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith (five out of five stars), Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift in the Psych E.R. by Julie Holland (three out of five), The Intern Blues by Robert Marion (three out of five), Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (four out of five...actually I loved this book because I love Mindy Kaling, but objectively, it's just a four out of five.), Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky (three out of five), Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown (five out of five) and Trauma Junkie: Memoirs of an Emergency Flight Nurse by Janice Hudson (four out of five).
By the way, the rating scale I use roughly looks like this:
Five out of five: Awesome book! Someone I know is probably getting a copy of this for Christmas
Four out of five: Very good. I would recommend it.
Three out of five: It was entertaining, but not anything special.
Two out of five: Meh, not very good/wouldn't recommend.
One out of five: I probably didn't finish it, or just I skipped to the end to see what was going to happen.
I guess eight books in eighteen days isn't too bad.  Anyway, they were all light reading, so my brain is all refreshed.  Out of all of the above, I laughed the most reading Adulting, was most inspired by Trauma Junkie (I'm considering becoming a flight nurse after I finish nursing school) and objectively think that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is the best one up there (and the movie with Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt is fun and quirky and good).  All Roads Lead to Austen a must-read for Jane Austen fans and I think they should make it into a movie.  Maybe starring Julia Roberts or even Meg Ryan (is she still making movies) in the lead.  But I digress.
Anyway, I'm getting back into Churchill now and I'll give you an update when I have read some more.
Happy reading!

Monday, May 27, 2013

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume 2: 75% Complete

Yes, I am woefully overdue for an update.  The truth is, I'm going to take a little sabbatical from the project for a couple of weeks.  Between working and school, I find I'm just too brain-dead at the end of the day to read anything with any weight.  The good news is, though, that I only have three weeks of school left.  My last final is on June 14th, so once that's past, I will resume work on this project. 
I have been doing some reading, however, just not books on the list.  I'm catching up on some newer, lighter reading books that I've wanted to read for some time.  In the past week and a half I've read: Wild by Cheryl Strayed (four out of five stars), Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin (five out of five), A Final Arc of Sky by Jennifer Culkin (four out of five), Once Upon a List by Robin Gold (two out of five) and The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (three out of five).  Right now I'm working on Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday.
So I will bid you farewell for a couple of weeks, but rest assured, just like the Terminator, I will be back!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, volume 2: 75% Complete

Many apologies, dear readers, for my prolonged absence.  As many of you have gathered, I am a full-time student, a hospital volunteer and a certified nursing assistant.  The past couple of weeks I have been working 40+ hours a week in addition to going to school and my volunteer shifts.  The nature of my work has been such that I've been able to do quite a bit of reading while I'm there, a luxury I am thoroughly appreciating, but I haven't had much time for blogging.
So I finished volume one and I'm most of the way done with volume two now as well and still loving it. 
I have a confession to make.  When I was reading on Kindle, I found it easy to look up words that I didn't know, but with a hard-copy book, I've been too lazy to do much of that, especially when I'm at work without a dictionary.  So I don't have a vocabulary word for you today.  But I do have a couple more quotes (I've been folding the corners of the pages over to mark them.  In a library book. *gasp* I promise I'll fold them back up before I return the book.  It's like the book version of "be kind, rewind."  But I digress...)
First of all, an example of Churchill's often-biting commentary:
"Indeed, no fact stands forth more unchallengeable than that the overwhelming majority of the nation was convinced that Richard [III] had used his power as Protector to usurp the crown and that the princes had disappeared in the Tower.  It will take many ingenious books to raise this issue to the dignity of a historical controversy."
And from volume two, an example of his poetic writing:
"The pamphlets  [of the Puritans in the 1500's] are loaded with coarse, effective adjectives, and the sentences lumber along like the hay-cart in which the press itself was at one time concealed."
And lastly, an example of the humorous bits that Churchill throws in without warning (maybe it wasn't supposed to be funny):
There is no surer way of rousing popular excitement than the holding of General Elections in quick succession.  Passions ran high; beer flowed."
Politics and beer.  Now that's a time-honored tradition.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, volume I: 62% Complete

My apologies for going so long between updates.  I'm really enjoying A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.  Churchill's writing is funny, engaging and opinionated.  I do a lot of my reading in between classes at school and a couple of times, I have nearly laughed out loud while sitting in my classroom.
There haven't been many vocabulary words that I haven't known, but I do have one for you.  The word is "hypocaust" which is "a hollow space under the floor of an ancient Roman building, into which hot air was sent for heating a room or bath"  (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).  I was familiar with this concept, but I didn't know that word for it.
I have run across so many quotes which are entertaining or interesting or both, but I have to choose a few to share with you.
First, from the beginning of the book, as the Bronze Age gives way to the Iron Age:
"At this point the march of invention brought a new factor upon the scene.  Iron was dug and forged.  Men armed with iron entered Britain from the continent and killed the men of bronze.  At this point we can plainly recognize across the vanished millenniums a fellow-being.  A biped capable of slaying another with iron is evidently to modern eyes a man and a brother.  It cannot be doubted that for smashing skulls, whether long-headed or round, iron is best."
(On a side note, shouldn't the plural of millennium be millennia?  But who am I to correct Churchill...)
On the subject of King Arthur:
"And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honour, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round."
Could it be that perhaps Churchill saw himself as a second Arthur, if you will?
In the next quote he has just related a rather romantic (in the older sense of the word) story of a love triangle involving Henry II, his wife Eleanor, and a woman simply called "Fair Rosamond."
"Tiresome investigators have undermined this excellent tale, but it certainly should find its place in any history worthy of the name."
I love how Churchill, while writing a history book, puts the excellence of the tale above the "tiresome" factual history.  He seemed to be rolling his eyes in disgust at anyone who might suggest that this story didn't actually happen.
And lastly, not a quote, but an interesting tidbit.  I was, of course, familiar with the name Plantagenet, applied as a sort of surname to the kings and queens of England from Henry II to Richard III.  But apparently this name comes from the emblem of Henry II's house, the broom (plant, not cleaning instrument specifically), which in Latin is called the planta genesta, literally broom plant.
Before I close, I want to send out my sympathies to all those affected in the bombings in Boston and the plant explosion in Texas.  May you be embraced by peace and comfort.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: Beginning

The next book I'm going to tackle is A History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill.  (N.B. On the cover of the book, there is no hyphen between "English" and "Speaking;" however, as there should be one and as it does appear on the title page, I will be putting it in.) For some reason there is no copy of this book for Kindle, as far as I can tell.  Fortunately, the Seattle Public Library has them so I am borrowing them from there, in hard copy. This gives me a chance to use the lovely bookmark my sister gave me for Christmas. (One of the few downsides to Kindle, I've found, is that you don't get to use bookmarks.) 
The book was originally written by Churchill (who was, of course, prime minister of the United Kingdom during and after World War II) in the 1930's.  It's publication was delayed by the war, however, and it was not published until the mid-1950's.  The book is four-volumes long (although there is an abridged, one-volume version available) and covers the history of Britain and it's former colonies from the invasion by Rome in 55 BC to the beginning of the first World War in 1914.
The book tends to focus mainly on military history and political movement, rather than social or economic history.  Another British prime minister, Clement Attlee, suggested that the book should have been titled, "Things in History that Interest Me."  Nevertheless, the book has endured the test of time for it's judgment of war and politics and for Churchill's lively writing style.  It was one of the books mentioned when Churchill won his Nobel Prize for Literature.
This is a book I've been interested in reading for a long time but have put off because of it's length, but I'm excited to begin.  Because I will be reading each volume separately, and because I don't know the page lengths of all the volumes, I will report my progress through each volume as a percentage of that volume's total length, not a percentage of the whole book.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On the Origin of Species: 100% Complete

Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples came in at the library, and I was so excited to start it that I buckled down and finished Darwin over the weekend. 
I also had some good news this week! I got a job as a certified nursing assistant at a retirement home and I found out I got accepted to nursing school beginning in the fall! So I'm going to try to do a lot of extra reading between now and September so I will have a little wiggle room once I start nursing school.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I understood more of it than I expected to.  It did seem to be a little repetitive occasionally but not annoyingly so.  I found Darwin's rather conversational writing style refreshing.
The final vocabulary word from this book is "fecundate" which means to fertilize.
One thing I enjoyed about Darwin was his rather "grass-roots" experimental methods.  In my biology class last quarter, my teacher shared a story about Darwin putting dead birds in his bathtub full of salt water to see how long they could theoretically float in the ocean before sinking.  In some cases, he had rotting birds in the bathtub for more than a month or two.  I can just imagine how enthusiastic his wife was about that.  So when I came across this passage, I once again pictured Darwin conducting his "experiments" with his characteristic enthusiasm:
"In the course of two months, I picked up in my garden 12 kinds of seeds, out of the excrement of small birds, and these seemed perfect, and some of them, which I tried, germinated."
Next up: A History of the English-Speaking Peoples!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On the Origin of Species; 56% Complete

I'm still plugging through.  Despite my initial cockiness, I have to admit I'm understanding less and less of this book as I work through it.  But I do understand some and those parts at least are still interesting. I put a hold on the first volume of Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples at the Seattle Public Library (it's not available for Kindle), so I want to wrap this book up so I can start reading that when it comes in.
The word of the day is "fecundate" which means to fertilize.
I have another interesting story for you that Darwin tells:
"One of the strongest instances of an animal apparently performing an action for the sole good of another, with which I am acquainted, is that of aphides voluntarily yielding their sweet excretion to ants: that they do so voluntarily, the following facts show.  I removed all the ants from a group of about a dozen aphids on a dock-plant, and prevented their attendance during several hours.  After this interval, I felt sure that the aphides would want to excrete.  I watched them for some time through a lens, but not one excreted; I then tickled and stroked them with a hair in the same manner, as well as I could, as the ants do with their antennae; but not one excreted.  Afterwards I allowed an ant to visit them, and it immediately seemed, by its eager way of running about, to be well aware what a rich flock it had discovered; it them began to play with its antennae on the abdomen first of one aphis and then of another; and each aphis, as soon as it felt the antennae, immediately lifted up its abdomen and excreted a limpid drop of sweet juice, which was eagerly devoured by the ant.  Even the quite young aphides behaved in this manner, showing that the action was instinctive, and not the result of experience.  But as the excretion is extremely viscid, it is probably a convenience to the aphides to have it removed; and therefore probably the aphides do not instinctively excrete for the sole good of the ants."

Monday, March 25, 2013

On the Origin of Species: 48% Complete

I was getting a little bogged down in Darwin so I took a little break (gasp!) and read something a little lighter and not on the list; namely, Tina Fey's wonderfully funny and insightful autobiography: Bossypants.  (Favorite quote: "We drove out of town a little ways, listening to Peter Gabriel's 'In Your Eyes.'  [He] played that song constantly. He was very deep. Did I mention yet that he always wore a small shell necklace and he told me that he was never going to take it off until Apartheid ended?")
When I started this project I promised myself I would take a break now and then to read something newer, lighter and funnier than most of the books on the list, so I don't get too far behind and emerge from the wreckage at the age of 30 with no idea what had been written in the last six years.  So it was fun and now I'm back to Darwin again, refreshed.
The word of the day isn't a word at all, but rather a phrase Darwin mentioned.  My meager Latin skills weren't quite up to the task of translating it, but luckily Wikipedia was much more helpful. The phrase is "Natura non facit saltum" which means "Nature does not make jumps."  On a philosophical sort of Sunday morning a few months ago, as I was lying in bed, I noticed this phenomenon: that large, dramatic changes in nature are rarely beneficial; that real, meaningful change takes time.  Of course there are all sort of personal, deep, philosophical implications for this, but mostly I was just excited to find that I wasn't the first person to notice this.  Perhaps it was a bit egotistical of me to suppose that I might have been the first, but at least I'm not totally batty.  Yet.
One of the things I'm loving about this book is all the examples Darwin puts in of the various things he is discussing in nature.  He has, apparently, a vast collection of stories and observations about nature floating around in his head waiting to be linked to a phenomenon and many of them are fascinating things I never knew about.  For example:
"As in repeating a well-known song, so in instincts, one action follows another by a sort of rhythm;  if a person be interrupted in a song, or in repeating anything by rote, he is generally forced to go back to recover the habitual train of thought: so P. Huber found it was with a caterpillar, which makes a very complicated hammock; for if he took a caterpillar which had completed its hammock up to, say, the sixth stage of construction, and put it into a hammock completed only up to the third stage, the caterpillar simply reperformed the fourth, fifth and sixth stages of construction.  If, however, a caterpillar were taken out of a hammock made up, for instance, to the third stage, and were put into one finished up to the sixth stage, so that much of its work was already done for it, far from feeling the benefit of this, it was much embarrassed, and, in order to complete its hammock, seemed forced to start from the third stage, where it had left off, and thus tried to complete the already finished work."
First of all, I loved the notion that the caterpillar was "embarrassed" that the work was already complete.  And secondly, you'll notice that whole section is only two sentences.  You've got to love nineteenth-century Englishmen and their astounding sentence construction.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On the Origin of Species: 15% Complete

I'm actually enjoying this book a lot more than I thought I would.  For school I've been reading some scientific journal articles and they're mostly dry, complicated and full of jargon and terms I have to look up to even sort of understand the piece. I sort of expected this book to be similar in some ways. But Darwin's writing is poetic, passionate and almost chatty.  I can feel Darwin's excitement and enthusiasm about the subject coming through and reading this book feels like sitting down around a fire with a cup of tea and chatting with him about his ideas.  He often has to check himself as he becomes too excited and begins to ramble on.  For example, this line: "I am tempted to give one more instance showing how plants and animals, most remote in the scale of nature, are bound together by a web of complex relations."  Scientists do not write like that now.  Some things I have read about this book have complained that Darwin's lack of writing experience comes through and makes the book harder to read, but I think that is one of the things I like about it.  He writes as he probably spoke, rather than writing as a professional writer.  Sure, his style could probably be improved, but the somewhat rambling nature of the book is really enjoyable from my point of view.
I have no vocabulary words for you today.  Darwin actually has a surprisingly small vocabulary for someone that is ingrained in a particular field (now days you almost need a whole second language to understand scientific speak).  The terms he doesn't have, he coins, but they are quite self-explanatory.
One thing that I have found almost distressing is how Darwin didn't have access to the research done only a few years later by Gregor Mendel.  For those of you who don't know, Mendel was an Augustinian friar who is often called, "the father of modern genetics."  Between 1856 and 1863, Mendel did some ground-breaking work on genetics by studying pea plants.  He was the first to really begin to understand genetic inheritance including dominant and recessive traits.  Although his work was published in Darwin's lifetime, there is no evidence that Darwin ever read it (it was not initially well-received) and he certainly could not have read it before he published On the Origin of Species.  It seems a shame to me that he didn't have access to this information that could have explained so much for him.  Take, for example, this paragraph:
"The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, and in individuals of different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; why the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather or grandmother or other much more remote ancestor; why a peculiarity is often transmitted from one sex to both sexes or to one sex alone, more commonly, but not exclusively to the like sex."
While reading this, I just want to yell at the page, "Yes! We do know why those things happen! If only you knew, Darwin, if only you knew!"

Friday, March 8, 2013

On the Origin of Species: Beginning

The next book I'm tackling is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (or just On the Origin of Species for short!) by Charles Darwin. I'm taking (well, just finishing) a cellular biology class this quarter and we have been discussing some of Darwin's theories, etc. in class so I felt this was a good time to read this one.  We have also been studying Mendel's theories of genetic inheritance, information which Darwin did not have access to at the time he wrote this book, but which would have helped him to explain some of the mysteries of genetic transmission that he didn't fully understand. 
Charles Darwin was twenty-two years old when he took the post of naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle which sailed from England to explore South America in 1831.  The evidence Darwin collected on this trip, specifically his study of the finches on the islands of the Galapagos, was influential in establishing his future theories.
Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 and although it was not the first suggestion of natural selection or of this process of evolution, it was one of the most influential on the scientific community. 
One funny anecdote about him: ever the methodical person, when he was contemplating marriage to his future wife Emma, he made a list of pros and cons for marriage.  Under the pros column, he wrote "constant companion and friend in old age...better than a dog anyhow" and under the cons: "less money for books" and "terrible loss of time."  Evidently "better than a dog" outweighed the loss of money for books!
Charles Darwin died in 1882 of congestive heart failure.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you how influential his work has been on the world or why I chose this book for the list.  An Examiner review of the book from December of 1859 says, "Much of Mr. Darwin's volume is what ordinary readers would call 'tough reading;' that is, writing which to comprehend requires concentrated attention and some preparation for the task. All, however, is by no means of this description, and many parts of the book abound in information, easy to comprehend and both instructive and entertaining."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Room with a View: 100% Complete

I did it! I finished A Room with a View.  For whatever reason, I really enjoyed the second half, after finding the first half really dull.  I'm glad I suffered through it, though, because the characters, the settings, everything seemed to come alive in the second half.  It suddenly seemed like things were happening when before, it seemed like nothing was.  I would be curious to know if anyone else has had this same experience with this book or if it's just me. 
Now that I'm finished, I wanted to go back and start over, because I started to notice that Forster peppered the story with a few choice words that seem to hold a lot of symbolism, most notably the words "room" and "view."  I think he meant "room" to represent convention and proper place in society: the place of Lucy's fiance Cecil.  She says at one point that she always pictures him in a room.  The view, which first comes into play when George Emerson and his father give up their rooms (which have views) for Lucy and her cousin at the Italian hotel where they are all staying, is representative of passion, of breaking out of the rules of society.  I didn't notice these reoccurring themes until I was three quarters of the way done with the book, but once I did, I wanted to go back and start over.
I don't have a vocabulary word today, but I do have a couple of quotes which were funny and made me laugh and one which I found very insightful.
First, the problem of Cecil, who is conventional, but annoying:
"He had been rather a nuisance all through the tennis, for the novel that he was reading was so bad that he was obliged to read it aloud to others.  He would stroll round the precincts of the court and call out: 'I say, listen to this, Lucy.  Three split infinitives.'"
And the traveling Miss Alans:
"They always perched there [in Bloomsbury, England] before crossing the great seas, and for a week or two they would fidget gently over clothes, guide-books, mackintosh squares, digestive bread and other Continental necessities.  That there are shops abroad, even in Athens, never occurred to them, for they regarded travel as a species of welfare, only to be undertaken by those who have been fully armed at the Haymarket Stores."
And finally, a quote in which I found a great deal of truth:
"It is obvious enough for the reader to conclude, 'She loves young Emerson.'  A reader in Lucy's place would not find it obvious.  Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome 'nerves' or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire."
I especially like the line: "Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice."  How true.
So up next? On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Room with a View: 64% Complete

I got quite a bit of reading done this weekend, so I'm past the halfway point in A Room with a View.  I must say, I'm enjoying the second half of the book quite a bit.  The book, for those of you who have not read it, is divided into two parts, the first part taking place in Italy, and the second part back in England.  In the first part it felt like the characters did lots of things but nothing really happened, if that makes any sense.  But the second part, so far, is much more engaging.  So I'm enjoying it a lot more.
The word I have for you today is "pourboire" which means a tip.  Literally it's French for "money for drinking" which I suppose is what a tip usually is anyway, right?
One thing I enjoy about this book is how E. M. Forster is constantly poking fun at British sensibilities, particularly their feelings about class and proper social positions.  I have two quotes for you today that illustrate that, I think.  First:
"Miss Bartlett had asked Mr. George Emerson what his profession was, and he had answered 'the railway.'  She was very sorry that she had asked him.  She had no idea that it would be such a dreadful answer, or she would not have asked him." 
And secondly:
"'You ought to find a tenant at once,' he said maliciously.  'It would be perfect paradise for a bank clerk.'
'Exactly! said Sir Harry excitedly. 'That is exactly what I fear, Mr Vyse.  It will attract the wrong type of people.  The train service has improved--a fatal improvement, to my mind.  And what are five miles from a station in these days of bicycles?'
'Rather a strenuous clerk it would be,' said Lucy.  Cecil, who had his full share of medieval mischievousness, replied that the physique of the lower middle classes was improving at a most appalling rate."
(On an unrelated side note, I always get a twinge of pride when I spell check my entry and the day's vocabulary word comes up as misspelled when I know it's not.  It just proves that it's a word most people don't use.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Room with a View: 27% Complete

I fear my apologies for lack of updates are beginning to sound a little hollow, so I will forgo.
I haven't done a lot of reading lately for whatever reason, but I have done a little as you can see.  I'm still liking A Room with a View although I'm over a quarter of the way through the book and it still seems like not a lot has happened.  She witnessed a murder, but that's about it.
Anyway, the word of the day is "desideratum" which means "something that is needed or wanted." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary)
E.M. Forster's writing is often perceptive and poetic, something I'm enjoying.  I love those moments in a book when you read something and say to yourself, "Ah, I am incredibly familiar with that concept, only I have never thought it through in so many words."  I have had several of those moments in this book.  One I liked was this quote, in which Lucy and George Emerson end up spending a few moments (scandalously!) alone together in Italy.  Forster writes,
"She stopped and leant her elbows against the parapet of the embankment.  He did likewise.  There is at times a magic in identity of position; it is one of the things that have suggested to us eternal comradeship."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Room with a View: 22% Complete

Yes, I know, I am woefully overdue for an update.  Many apologies, but it's been a rather hectic couple of weeks.  I had to attend a memorial service on Saturday for my dear aunt, I applied to nursing school on Friday, I had a big math test on Wednesday, and *drum roll, please* I got ENGAGED to my boyfriend of three years on the 25th!    But I'm back, and I'll try to do better from here on out. 
I'm enjoying A Room with a View so far.  It's rather funny to me to think of a British person going to Italy for the summer and then spending virtually the entire time in the company of other Brits who are also on vacation.  I mean, god forbid you actually have to talk to an Italian person!
The vocabulary word I have for you is "incommode" meaning "to inconvenience someone" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
I have two humorous quotes for you.  In the first, Lucy's guardian is rather concerned about her safety in going outside alone but the proprietor of the hotel they are staying at reassures her,
"Being English, Miss Honeychurch will be perfectly safe.  Italians understand.  A dear friend of mine, Contessa Baroncelli, has two daughters, and when she cannot send a maid to school with them, she lets them go in sailor-hats instead.  Everyone takes them for English, you see, especially if their hair is strained tightly behind."
And the second will ring true with anyone who has children or who has ever had to deal with a child who is having a meltdown:
"The child's legs had become as melting wax.  Each time that old Mr. Emerson and Lucy set it erect it collapsed with a roar.  Fortunately an Italian lady, who ought to have been saying her prayers, came to the rescue.  By some mysterious virtue, which mothers alone possess, she stiffened the little boy's back-bone and imparted strength to his knees."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Room with a View: Beginning

The next book I'm reading is A Room with a View by E. M. Forster.  This book was published in 1908 in England. 
The book is about a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, and her struggle between convention and passion in the repressive society of Edwardian England.  The story is split in two parts, the first part taking place during a summer holiday in Italy, and the second at Lucy's home in England.  The themes of the book include love, resistance against religion and coming of age.
A Room with a View has been adapted many times both for stage and film.  Of some interest to me, is the references to this book in the episode of TV show: The Office.  In one episode the characters create a "Finer Things Club" where they discuss cultured things such as art, music and literature and at one point they are reading this book.
This piece has long been considered a classic by many, and in 1998, the Modern Library included it on their list of 100 Best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century. 
My Kindle copy is 215 pages long and can be found here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Barchester Towers: 100% Complete

I powered through the last little bit of Barchester Towers over the long weekend, so it's finally complete.  I want to be clear here that this lull in my reading motivation had very little to do with the book I was reading at the time.  All in all, I rather enjoyed this book: it was witty, humorous and rather different from other period novels.  I would give it three stars out of five.  As an aspiring novelist myself, I especially enjoyed Trollope's observations on the art of writing novels.  One of the aspects of it that I didn't enjoy so much was that it seemed like it was a bit too long; like it could have been better if he had shortened it somewhat.  It was one of those stories that just portrays a section of life for a town, rather than one with a definite story arc: beginning, middle and end.  I'm probably revealing my modern sensibilities here, but I prefer the latter type of story.  But those are my only complaints.  It's not my favorite of the books I've read so far, but it was pretty decent.
I have one last funny quote to share with you all.  This one is another little aside which Trollope inserts into his story. He writes:
"Morning parties, as a rule, are failures.  People never know how to get away from them gracefully.  A picnic on an island or a mountain or in a wood may perhaps be permitted.  There is no master of the mountain bound by courtesy to bid you stay while in his heart he is longing for your departure.  But in a private house or in private grounds a morning party is a bore.  One is called on to eat and drink at unnatural hours.  One is obliged to give up the day, which is useful, and then left without resource for the evening, which is useless."
So that's it for Barchester Towers.  Next up: A Room with a View by E. M. Forster.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Barchester Towers: 82% Complete

I actually have done quite a bit of reading so far this weekend; I feel like I'm finally getting back on track.  So that's good.
The vocabulary word of the day is "toxophilite" which means "a student or lover of archery" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
I have two quote for you today, to make up for the lack of one in my last post, both of which I found humorous.  First:
"Men of fifty don't dance mazurkas, being generally too fat and wheezy; nor do they sit for the hour together on river-banks at their mistresses' feet, being somewhat afraid of rheumatism.  But for real true love--love at first sight, love to devotion, love that robs a man of his sleep, love that 'will gaze an eagle blind,' love that 'will hear the lowest sound when the suspicious tread of theft is stopped,' love that is 'like a Hercules, still climbing trees in the Hesperides'--we believe the best age is from forty-five to seventy; up to that, men are generally given to mere flirting."
As someone with a weakness for older men, I can appreciate this.  The quoted passages are all from Act IV, Scene III of Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost. 
And secondly:
"He had lived too long abroad to fall into the Englishman's habit of offering each an arm to two ladies at the same time--a habit, by the by, which foreigners regard as an approach to bigamy, or a sort of incipient Mormonism."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Barchester Towers: 70% Complete

So first of all, I want to offer up my most humble apologies for the lack of updates lately.  The truth is, I've hit a slump.  I'm just completely unmotivated to read, and although I have picked up my Kindle a couple of times over the past week, it has been rare. The lack of interest stems partially from the fact that I'm getting a bit bogged down in Barchester Towers, and the fact that I'm getting ready to apply to nursing school in two weeks but mostly I just haven't been in the mood for reading a lot. Any of you who know me in real life know that my interest and fascination tends to flit eagerly from subject to subject and right now it's not on reading. 
Now rest assured I am absolutely NOT giving up on the project.  I knew when I started this that there would be times like these where I just didn't want to read any more and now, three and a half months into the project, here I am.  But I'll keep trying to plug forward and let the interest come when it will (and it will, I'm sure of that). 
You all, my faithful readers, have been so kind with your comments and encouragement and I thank you for that.  I've felt guilty enough about not reading and not blogging that I've been avoiding Blogger and Twitter all together the last several days, but I decided enough was enough and you all deserve an update even if there isn't much to report
The good news is that I did so much reading early on in the project that I think I'm still ahead of schedule (I haven't actually calculated it, but I shouldn't be much behind if any).  So even though things are a bit slow at the moment, do not be alarmed, I shall be back to my usual bibliophile self after a bit!
Because of the lack of reading, I don't have a quote for you all right now, but I will share a word I found that I thought was funny.  The word is "bugbear" and in the context that Trollope used it, the definition is "an imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically a sort of hobgoblin supposed to devour them."  The other, apparently more common, definition is, "a cause of obsessive fear, irritation, or loathing" (definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Barchester Towers: 68% Complete

I'm still plugging along on Barchester Towers. The truth is, I'm getting a little tired of reading this book; it feels like it's taking forever! I'm getting anxious to be done with it so I can move on to something new.  The book is still good; I'm just getting bored of reading it.
The vocabulary word for today is "bairn" which is a Scottish word (Trollope uses it when he's quote Robert Burns at one point) meaning a child.  I love the way Scottish words sound and this one sort of rolls off my tongue.
I have a couple of light-hearted quotes for you today.  One thing I like about this book is how often Trollope inserts funny little things into serious situations.  First of all, our dear Mr. Arabin is pining for the love of the young widow Mrs. Bold:
"Then he made up his mind not to think of her any more, and went on thinking of her till he was almost in a state to drown himself in the little brook which ran at the bottom of the archdeacon's grounds."
And here in the second quote, old Miss Thorne is throwing a party, about which she is very concerned with every detail, and she is going over last minute preparations with one of her servants: Mr. Plomacy.
"'But,' said she in a dolorous voice, all but overcome by her cares, 'it was specially signified that there were to be sports.' 'And so there will be, of course,' said Mr. Plomacy. 'They'll all be sporting with the young ladies in the laurel walks.  Them's the sports they care most about now-a-days."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Barchester Towers: 64% Complete

I started school today for winter quarter, so I'm hoping that getting back into a routine will help me get back on track with my reading.  Hopefully I'll be better about updating you all regularly as well.
Today's vocabulary word is one which I always thought was a made up word.  The word is "especial" and can be used relatively interchangeably with "special."  For some reason, I never realized that this was a real word!
I just have two very short quotes for you today, nothing too exciting.  One thing I especially enjoy about Trollope is the little insights into human nature that he inserts into the story.  Both of these quotes demonstrate that.  First,
"We English gentlemen hate the name of a lie, but how often do we find public men who believe each others words?"
And second,
"Is it not a pity that people who are bright and clever should so often be exceedingly improper, and those who are never improper should so often be dull and heavy?"