Reading Journal (21 Oct): Victorian Second Helpings + Giveaway of an Abandoned Book

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  • Reading Journal (21 Oct): Victorian Second Helpings + Giveaway of an Abandoned Book

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

As I warned last week, I have not been as active at blogging this week. I’ve read your blogs but not commented as much: I’ve taken to skimming far more often. I also haven’t posted a single adult review since last week: I do have some in the wings so don’t worry, I’ll get something up in the coming week! But that lack of blogging activity has been countered by an incredible amount of reading! I’ve had so much fun this week.

I read Oliver Twist for the first time in September in preparation for my book group. Then, last week, I started to prepare my “discussion questions” for book group and I ended up reading it again. I had intended to reread just parts of it. But I couldn’t stop. I loved it. The first time, I only liked it. It was good, but not a favorite I wanted to reread. After reading 100 pages of criticism and primary source documents about the Poor Law Acts of the 1830s (I love the Norton Critical Editions), Dickens’ setting and tone were more clear, and I loved rereading the novel.

So now I am in a deep Victorian mood, and I’ve started revisiting some of the authors I’ve so enjoyed in the past few months. I just couldn’t decide which to read first, so I started three of them: A Tale of Two Cities, The Moonstone, and North and South. Since I’ve begun three at once, I’ve only made minimal progress; I’ll probably finish The Moonstone first. I’m going to read a biography of Collins for the upcoming Classics Circuit and a different novel of Gaskell’s for the Gaskell Circuit, so I do want to finish The Moonstone before I read the biography, and North and South before I begin Mary Barton.

I also started an audiobook biography of Jane Austen. It’s fairly short and I am loving it dearly (it has a wonderful Jane Austen-esque British-accented narrator). I’ve also started Macbeth which is not the challenging read I expected! And then I’ve been struggling to read a book in Spanish: it’s a good experience and a challenge for me, but it has not been light reading.

Next month, I intend to read Sense and Sensibility, because I feel I just can’t get enough Jane Austen! I also hope to get to Tennant of Wildfell Hall and maybe my first Antony Trollope, The Way Things Were, next month. I wanted to get to George Elliot as well, but she may have to wait until December, as November also has my next book club meeting (Cry, the Beloved Country).

November is also the beginning of The Really Old Classics Challenge, which I’m co-hosting. I intend to start reading The Pillow Book come November 1. I won it from Literary Feline in a giveaway, and I am so excited to read a new book that I own (as opposed to these old bookmooch and library books I’m usually reading). I also will read some shorter classics for that challenge, like Medea.

At any rate, to take a break from Victorians and Shakespeare and Spanish, I thought I’d pick up a food memoir, since the Spice of Life Challenge is my own.

But I have been more than a little disappointed to read Julie and Julia after these classic Victorians. You must understand: I’m incredibly excited to see the movie (some day, when it’s out of the theaters) and I was dying to read the book. I entered probably five online giveaways so I wouldn’t have to wait in a library cue, and I was delighted to finally win it from the publisher! But Julie Powell is rambling and whiny and constantly talking about her own sex life as well as that of people around her. And then there is her foul language. I believe this book is not so much about food but about how food and cooking is an allegory for sex, and that really is not for me. The negative reviews I read recently should have alerted me to the fact that this is not a book for me. Honestly, I picked it up this week because the book is brand new and it has that “brand new scent.” I wanted to read it for that scent alone.

I can’t do it, though. I am hating it, and I suspect I will only hate it more once I get to the chapters Rose City Reader talks about in her review. So instead, I have requested Julia Child’s memoir and a few other highly recommended food memoirs from the library that I look forward to reading in the coming weeks. They won’t have the new book smell, but maybe they will be worth reading.

I know a lot of people love this book. Did you, however, nevertheless want a brand-new copy of Julie and Julia with that brand-new book scent? I’ll send you my copy. Leave a link in the comments and I’ll select a winner randomly using (I normally don’t giveaway books I can’t stand, but since this one is brand new and I know there are probably a few people out there want it, I figured I might as well.) Giveaway open to anyone across the globe.

Abandoned/Finished Books

I’ve finished a number of books this week, and abandoned one.

  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (480 + 100 pages; fiction)/Norton Critical Edition (100 pages read; nonfiction). FINISHED! I reread the novel and read about 100 pages of the commentary.
  • The Magic Flute (1 ½ hour audio CD; nonfiction). This isn’t a book to count in book totals; rather it’s commentary on the opera by the Chicago Lyric Opera, with samples of the music as he discusses the story. I loved it! It’s such a great way to approach opera, I’ll look for more at the library next time I go.
  • Julie and Julia by Julie Powell (about 25-50 read of 360 pages; nonfiction/memoir). Abandoned. I was really looking forward to this, but I can’t stand it so far. Maybe I’ll stick with the movie?
  • The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science from Pythagoras to Heisenberg by Robert P. Crease (270 pages; nonfiction). FINISHED! For the Dewey Decimal Reading Challenge (500s).
  • Complications by Atun Gawande (290 pages; nonfiction). FINISHED! I thought this was good, but not as fascinating as Better. For the 2009 Science-Book Challenge .

Currently Reading

Each week, I list my progress so I can see how my reading compares week to week. I got four fun bookmarks and a bumper sticker (which I’m using as a bookmark) from J.T. at Bibliofreak from a BBAW giveaway. I thought it would be fun to note which bookmark is in which book! I’ve had fun trying to match the bookmarks to the books I’m reading!

My Books

I keep starting new books.

  • The Stories of John Cheever (22 of 61 stories, 820 pages total; fiction/short stories). Part of my Pulitzer Challenge. I didn’t read any this week…Victorian literature kept calling me! Bookmark: homemade magnetic Christmas bookmark.
  • Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and Their Messages by Karen Lynn Davidson (75 read of 350/455 pages; nonfiction). I didn’t read any this week, thanks to the Victorian literature. Bookmark: BYU Bookstore Education Week schedule from many years ago.
  • Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter by Seth Lerer (230 read of 330 pages; nonfiction). I didn’t read any this week; see note about Victorian kick! Bookmark: Nathaniel Hawthorne (with a metallic book on the end of it).
  • La Casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (75 read of 115 pages; Spanish translation, fiction). For Hispanic Heritage Month. (Obviously, it will be finished and reviewed after Oct 15.)  Bookmark: Reading is Sexy bumper sticker.

Old Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

New Library Loot

I keep getting sidetracked from the books I own with these great library books!

  • The Neil Gaiman audio collection (about 1 hour on 1 disc; children’s fiction). I will begin after I finish the Jane Austen biography.
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (on 227 of 552 pages; fiction). Bookmark: Unputdownable.
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (on 82 of 425 pages; fiction). Bookmark: Happily Ever After. (I’m hoping it will be; it’s kind of sad right now!)
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (on 57 of 386 pages; fiction). Bookmark: Once Upon a Time.
  • Jane Austen’s Little Advice Book by Jane Austen (125 pages; quotes from Austen’s fiction).
  • Too Many Cooks : Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin (360 pages; nonfiction/memoir/cookbook).
  • The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert (267 pages; nonfiction/memoir/graphic novel).
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (115 pages; fiction). The original English version of the book I’m attempting in Spanish.
  • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (484 pages; fiction). For the Gaskell Classic Circuit.


I am trying to do better at adding things to this list that I really want to read – as opposed to just liking the sound of it!


Reviewed on October 21, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • How are you liking North and South so far? It was a lovely book, I like it more the longer it’s been since I Read it. I’m about halfway through Wives and Daughters, now… Gld you put up the Old Classics Challenge, I’m looking forward to it :).

  • I love Victorian literature! I can see why you are enjoying reading so much at the moment. i haven’t read Oliver Twist – I have seen so many adaptations of it on television that I have never got round to it – I think I will give it a try after your recommedation.

    I loved The Moonstone and hope to get round to the Woman in White before the end of the year. I am currently reading Dracula and loving it!

    I haven’t read Julie and Julia yet, but would love to. If you are willing to send it internationally then please count me in the draw. I have read mixed reviews too, but I love cooking, so hope that I will enjoy it.

  • I just listened to the audio version of Julia Child’s My Life in France and loved it. She had such an interesting life over and above cooking.
    It’s been a few years since I read Julie & Julia and I thought it was ok. I am looking forward to seeing the movie.

  • Jason, Loving it! I read the first 50 pages and wasn’t sold. Then I read lots of the Moonstone. Then I picked it up again and couldn’t put it down last night.

    It reminds me much of the biography of Jane Austen I’m listening to: Jane was forced to move from idealic country setting to a city (Bath) with her parents. Quite traumatic for 25-yr-old Miss Austen. She didn’t write for 10 years!

    Jackie, Intl is not a problem. I’ll clarify that this is open for everyone!

    I’m so glad you are enjoying your Victorian time! There are so many great books out there!

    Suzanne, I have My Life in France on hold! I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! And I am so excited for the movie of Julie and Julia — I’ve heard it focuses equally on Julia Child, so that should be better than this book I couldn’t get through.

  • I had a similar reaction to Julie & Julia but I would definitely see the movie…Meryl Streep is wonderful and the Julie character is a toned-down version which is easier to handle. Like you I loved Oliver Twist…it was my first Dickens and definitely won’t be my last. And I thought North and South was just perfect.

  • I haven’t read Julie and Julia nor seen the movie but I’ve heard the movie is better than the book – maybe you’ll enjoy it when you finally watch it. Honestly I’m not interested in either version. But my book club is reading Julia Child’s My Life in France for our Dec. 1 meeting …

    So glad you picked up A Tale of Two Cities. I love that book but find that most other people do not. I’ll be interested to see your review when you finish.

  • The movie is based equally on two books, even though the name comes from Julie Powell’s book. I read My Life in France before seeing the movie. I loved the book and it made the movie worth my time. Really an amazing book/woman: Julia.

  • You’re making me want to dive into the Victorians too! 😀 I did just start Ruth yesterday (on CD), and as soon as I finish Byatt, I’ll be grabbing by Wilkie Collins Classic Circuit read! And I need to read North & South before it’s due, so I might be having a classicsfest too. 🙂 Is The Pillow Book long? It rather frightens me, lol, but if you end up enjoying it I’ll give it a go!

    From all the reviews, I knew Julie & Julia the book wasn’t for me at all, but the MOVIE is marvelous. 🙂 What a neat opera commentary CD! I’ve been getting the straight-up operas from my library (the last one I listened to was Boris Gudonov-it was awesome!), but a commentary would be even better. 🙂 Since you enjoyed Better more than Complications, I can’t wait to get to it!!!

    I’m reading The Children’s Book right now & it’s awesome! 😀 And I read Howard’s Endin January and adored it! Way more than Room w/ a View. 🙂

  • Rebecca, I totally understand your Victorian cravings – once I started Jane Eyre, I started to feel EXACTLY the same way! I can’t believe you reread Oliver Twist so soon after reading it the first time! I want to do more re-reading, but it is the rare book that would compel me to pick it up almost immediately after finishing it! Also, it’s interesting how in such a short time period you went from liking it to loving it!

    Not sure which Victorian book I’ll tackle next, but I’m excited to be rediscovering my love of the Classics. Like you, I also want to try Trollope & Elliot soon, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to really do so. Maybe I’ll break through my Dickens wall (I’ve never been able to finish anything by him!) this year too…

    No need to enter me in the draw for Julie & Julia. I’ve read enough about this book to know it probably isn’t for me. Also, I’m really moving away from those kinds of light and fluffy reads.

  • Wow, so much to comment on here! First off, I’m not entering to win that book. I’ve actually never been interested in reading it, or in seeing the movie for that matter. I’m just not a cooking person, plus i have some bad associations with Julia Child (long story). But I can relate to your experience – that’s exactly what just happened to me with In a Perfect World. I expected it to be more than it was, and it just disappointed me. Ugh.

    So you convinced the library to let you do your book club monthly? I hope that’s what you mean when you talk about Cry the Beloved Country, because that’s awesome!!

    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is so good! I hope you enjoy it. Sadly, I’d thought about joining the Gaskell tour but was scared about the size of her books. It conflicted a bit with NaNo. But then Jason bought me a copy of her novella Cousin Phillis so I went to sign up – and the deadline had passed 3 hours earlier. How’s that for irony? Ah well. 🙁

  • I’d love your copy of Julie and Julia — I’ve been looking forward to the book for awhile, but only enough to get it from the library (which there’s obviously a long wait list for!).

    I’ve been thinking about classics lately too, actually. I sort of want an e-reader, but don’t think I’d ever pay $10 for an ebook — that seems too expensive to me for something I can’t even hold on to. But, a new one I read said it could connect to Google Books, which has tons of classics for free (since they’re past the copyright dates). So if I had an e-reader, maybe I’d read more classics. That’s the thought, anyway 🙂

  • Book PSmith, I knew i wasn’t alone in that reaction, and I’m incredibly excited about the movie! As soon as it’s in Netflix, I’m seeing it!

    I consider Oliver Twist my first real Dickens as A Christmas Carol is not quite the same depth. I’m enjoyed Two Cities thus far! Ditto on N&S.

    Heather J., I like “foodie” stuff so I am interested in both Julia Child and the movie. Are you going to read it for your book club? Just wondering if you were still interested in that book, even if you don’t want to see the movie.

    Mary, that’s what I’d heard about the movie, so I”m hoping my hold from the library comes through soon, but I suspect there is a huge wait list for My Life in France since everyone is reading it right now! I honestly know nothing about Julia Child — My mom wasn’t in to that kind of thing (never seen her watch tv and she doesn’t cook like that) and I’ve only been a “foodie” in the past year or two. (I hate that term. *Cringe*)

    Eva, The Pillow Book is not too long, maybe 300 pages? Another blogger referred Shonagon as a blogger born 1000 years to early — it’s kind of random notes and observations about her daily life. I’m really excited to get to it!

    I should have known about the book, but my “rule” is I need to read the book before I see a movie, so I’m hoping (and it sounds like it will work) that reading My Life in France will compensate!

    I do love the opera commentary. I’m now watching/listening to the opera (a little every day) because kow that I know what the story is and what the different sounds signify articially, it’s easier to understand! I’d love to know which opera to do next. I have a personal story attached to Magic Flute, so that’s why I started with it.

    Yes, I think I did enjoy Better better, not as gory 🙂 (I kept getting queasy during Complications but I’m pretty weak I guess.)

  • Steph, I didn’t intend to read it all again! I was just looking for something to use in my discussion questions and I started reading…and kept going :). It definitely didn’t compel me to read it right away again, but I’m so glad I did read it again. A different experience the second time!

    I’m still feeling the need for “light and fluffy” reads occasionally. I’m hoping the other cooking memoirs I picked up (and am going to pick up) will satisfy that craving!

    Amanda, I know, I could just post a Reading Journal every single day because I feel I have so much to say. I look forward to Wednesdays!

    I have no feelings and no experiences about Julia Child good or bad — except that I’m looking forward to learning more! I’ve only been cooking, really, for one or two years (I found food blogs before reading blogs and now I only read reading blogs!!), so I have lots to learn!

    Our book club is every month but December. I’m hoping we can consistently keep a room next year! I had so much fun last week!

    Sorry you missed the Gaksell tour, but of course you can still read the book. 🙂

    Kim, funny you bring up the ereader today since I’ve been obsessing about the nook. Not sure why, since I’ve never considered the Sony and it seems like practically the same thing. (and I could buy a lot of nice hardcover books for $250.) I’d only go for free books too, though. I’d love the built in dictionary!

    Anyway, I’ll enter you for the giveaway: So far, it’s only Jackie and Kim, right?

  • No, sorry, guess I wasn’t clear – you don’t need to enter me. 🙂 My book club is reading MY LIFE IN FRANCE – I’m sure someone will read JULIE & JULIA as well but it won’t be me! ~LOL~

  • I can’t wait for all the Jane Austen reviews. I haven’t read any biographies on her yet, but want to as she’s so fascinating.

  • I’m reading Dracula now and will read The Woman in White next. Are they Victorian? 🙂 I hope Julie&Julia book doesn’t deter you from watching the movie, because it’s lovely.

  • I actually only read Julie & Julia because it was for free from Hachette. I know, bad. But I liked her mis-adventures in the kitchen. Sadly, those were the only things I liked in the book. The rest I didn’t. Also, I skipped most of the parts that weren’t about Julia Child’s recipes. I think my review was more positive, though, because I tend to write only about the things I liked, but don’t emphasize enough about the things I didn’t like. I did give my copy away also. I’m sure I will totally love the movie though.

  • I’m nearing the end of a couple of books right now, and last night I made a big pile of the ones I want to read next–Collins, Gaskell, and Trollope were on my mind too! I wonder if there is something about Fall that makes some people crave victorian literature?

    I’m interested in what you’ve said about North and South. I’ll definitely stick to it for at least 50 pages or so, then.

  • If you ever want to chat about Guns, Germs, and Steel and the challenge of reading it, let me know. That book is my nemesis; I have a real love-hate relationship with it as I adore the topic but can’t seem to make myself focus and finish it.

  • Bella, I’m learning a lot about Jane! And can’t wait to read her books!!

    JT Oldfield, My mother-in-law gave me the book and that was in it! So yeah, I figured, why not!

    mee, DEFINITELY Victorian. Enjoy! And yes, I will see the movie.

    claire, If I’d started reading the book in July, I would have finished it. This month, however, I’m obviously in more of a classics mood!! You do have a positive review style! I’m glad there was something you liked about it!

    Maire, I know there’s the RIP Challenge, and Classics Circuit started with Victorians, so maybe we’re all just feeding each other’s cravings! It’s fun so far.

    Have you started N&S? I think I hesitated at first because I wasn’t sure which of the 1000 books to read next. But once I got in to it, yes, definitely loving it! Off to go read more in a minute.

    Trisha, Oh no. I started the audiobook a few months ago and I seriously think it was putting me to sleep as I was driving. I thought it was the narrator. Sounds like one I should maybe pass. I’ll try it and if it’s a no go, I’ll let you know!

  • Trisha, I just found that book in my pile of old magazines! I guess I started reading it but like you said it is a bit challenging so I put it aside and it literally got buried! It is an interesting and important topic and I feel like I “should” read it.

  • I felt the exact same way about Julie and Julia. I expected something thoughtful and even sort of magical, with the idea of this woman working her way through Julia Child’s cookbook. I suppose the movie trailers pulled me in…oh well.

    I read My Life in France right after it was published, and it is a wonderful book. You can actually hear Julia Child as you read it, so you get a terrific sense of her humor and intelligence.

  • Rebecca and Suzanne – I think the book is worth reading, but you have to be in the right mood. My grandpa just loved it, so I’m hoping to pick it up again and finish it.

  • Suzanne and Trisha, It won Pulitzer in history too, so I’ve been interested for that reason too!

    Priscilla, I do think the movie trailers make the book look -more magical….I’m hoping I love the Julia Child book! Just got it from the library.

    Mystica, Ok!

    *Going to choose a giveaway winner now* I’ll be back…

  • Thanks Rebecca. Thanks once again for making it open for overseas readers. Books are prohibitively expensive in this part of the world and getting one through a giveaway or a contest is an absolute bonus.

  • Wow, I’m exhausted just reading your list. Wow. I think I spend more time lately reading about books than actually reading them. . . so I should get off the laptop and read. But your list of Victorians is impressive. I just finished The Woman in White and loved it, I agree it that it’s better than The Moonstone. And I also loved Oliver Twist. . . not that I want to add to your reading, but there’s an excellent online classics group that’s all Dickens, and they’re currently reading The Pickwick Papers but will continue reading them in order, so Oliver Twist should come up early next year, if you want to add to the discussion or just check them out. It’s , in case you’re interested. And I think you’ll like Trollope. He’s different than Dickens or Collins but equally good.

  • Karenlibrarian, I’m not sure I can handle another book group right now, but thanks!

    I am exhausted every time I walk by my bedside table: they’re all stacked up there and it’s a bit intimidating. I’m making good progress this week, though 🙂

    I have just finished the Shield biography. It’s concise and too the point and just fun — and I haven’t read all the novels yet!! I think you’ll love it, since I know you went to the JASNA meeting too — she starts it by talking about how she’s an “amateur” that likes to go to those too!

  • I sought out the book after I watched the movie. Then Hachette Group sent me a free copy along with other books. I do not appreciate her voice and style in the book, but find her (mis)adventures in the kitchen very interesting.

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