February Read-Along: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

You’re invited to join a read-along of Little Women in February!!! Suey, Kami, and Jenny are hosting it on their blogs, with 3 scheduled Twitter and blog discussions. I’m very excited because I loved this format for last year’s North and South read-along.

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I just *happened* to pick up a copy of Little Women for this read-along… and I can’t wait to get started! I grew up watching the 1994 movie version and have loved the March family for so long, but I’ve never read the book. (I think I did make it through a children’s version at one point).

If you have a blog, and want to join in, you can participate by posting your answers to the 3 rounds of discussion questions as we go.

And, if you want to chime in on Twitter, we’re using the hashtag #LittleWomenRAL!

Here’s the schedule and info from the original post by Suey:

Chapters 1-17 from February 1-10: Discussion post Feb. 10 on Suey’s blog
(Twitter chat Feb. 10 at 7:00 pm Mountain.)

Chapters 18-33 from February 11-19: Discussion post Feb. 19 on Kami’s blog
(Twitter Chat: Feb. 19 at 7:00 pm Mountain.)
Chapters 34-49 from February 20-29: Discussion post on Feb. 29 on Jenni’s blog
(Twitter Chat: Feb. 29 at 7:00 pm Mountain.)

Movie watching: March 4 or 5: We’ll let you know what day and what time as it gets closer.

We’ll be chatting and tweeting throughout the month using the hashtag #LittleWomenRAL. Please, let us know what you think as you read! That’s always so fun, the impromptu discussions!

Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

As you may have read, I recently participated in a read-along of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Amber over at Seasons Humility put together some wonderful posts full of quotes, discussion questions, and great observations. (you can check them out here) Oh, and we had some fun discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #InspiredbyAusten. And watched the 1995 movie adaptation. July was a month of Jane Austen for me!

This book is FULL of wonderful quotes. Jane Austen had such wit and skill with prose! I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes with you here. If you are unfamiliar with the story, may I suggest you read it? Or at least watch one of the movie adaptations? The 1995 version is very true to the book, while the 2007 version has a dreamier Captain Wentworth (it’s just the truth!). (Kara has compared some characters from each one in this fun post!)

Favorite Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

“It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before…” from chapter 1

“A lady without a family was the very best preserver of furniture in the world.” from chapter 3 (oh, Sir Walter is SO dramatic!)

“Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.” from chapter 6

“…there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.” from chapter 8

“I knew that we should either go to the bottom together, or that she would be the making of me. – Captain Wentworth, from chapter 8, speaking of his ship. (I think this such a neat parallel to he and Anne. While their relationship failed, his naval achievements were a success.)

“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.” – Admiral Croft, from chapter 13

“She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.” from chapter 17

“A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not, — he does not.” -Captain Wentworth, from chapter 20

“…and Anne, –but it would be an insult to the nature of Anne’s felicity to draw any comparisons between it and her sister’s; the origin of one all selfish vanity, of the other all generous attachment.” from chapter 20

“At nineteen, you know, one does not think very seriously.” -Mrs. Smith, from chapter 21

And then we have Captain Wentworth’s letter ♥ in chapter 23! The whole thing is quotable, but here is my favorite part: “I am half agony, half hope.” 

“Such a letter was not soon to be recovered from.” from chapter 23

“…and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow.” from chapter 23

“There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.” from chapter 23

“At last Anne was at home again, and happier than any one in that house could have conceived.” from chapter 23

What about you? Are you a fan of Jane Austen? Do you have more favorite quotes from Persuasion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

You’re invited to join a Jane Austen Read-Along!

I’m thrilled to share with you an announcement of a Jane Austen read-along July 6th-24th. My fabulous author/blogger friend Amber Stokes is hosting a special read-along of Persuasion over at her blog, “Seasons of Humility”. I’ve never read this book myself, so I’m very excited for this opportunity to read AND discuss it with fellow Austen-enthusiasts!

Persuasion and Prayers Read-Along Button

We would love for you to read with us and join the weekday discussions (whether this is your 1st or 947th time reading Persuasion)!!!! Along with Persuasion, we will also be reading and discussing another book — an upcoming release compilation of prayers written by Jane Austen — The Prayers of Jane Austen.

For a “formal invitation” and for further details on the schedule and books, please visit Amber’s original blog post here. 

I hope you decide to join us! #InspiredbyAusten

Final Read-along Discussion Post: North and South

The North and South read-along is officially over! It was so fun to read this classic by Elizabeth Gaskell. This is the last of the discussion questions. This post is hosted by Suey, so head over to her post to find links for everyone else!

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North and South Final Discussion Questions

1.  There’s much talk about all the deaths in this book. What are your feelings on that? Do you think they were necessary? Or too much?

Mmm, they were all necessary to the story, though at times they were very sad. They each inspired a reaction (or lack thereof) in different characters.

2. Was there anything that happened during this last part that you found surprising or unexpected? Or was everything very predictable?

It’s been so long since I have seen the miniseries, I forgot a few details of the later portions. Other than the “killed cat” moment (ahem, moving on….), I thought that Margaret’s falling back into her old habits as Edith’s companion was a bit unexpected. I was glad when she stood up for herself a bit later and wanted to make her own choices.

3. What are your feelings on the about face Margaret and Mr. Thornton have with regard to their financial status?

For one thing, it forced them to have to correspond with each other again. On a deeper level, I think it proves the strength of character they both possess. Their change in fortune did not effect their personalities or demeanors by making them greedy or proud.

4. Do you think Margaret is justified in being so anguished over the lie that she told? Does it mostly have to do with her feelings for Mr. Thornton? Or something else?

She certainly spent a lot of time dwelling on the fact that Mr. Thornton didn’t know the truth! I think it had more to do with her feelings for him. Once she asked God’s forgiveness, she should have been satisfied personally, though she had to live with the consequences of it.

5. At what moment exactly do you think her feelings for Mr. Thornton completely changed?

At the moment when he covered for her being at the train station. He really lied for her, because he knew she was in the area with a man. In a way, his deliberate lie, to protect her, was very much like her lie to protect Frederick. Maybe this showed her Thornton’s capacity to care was similar to her love for her brother.

6. Discuss the character of Nicholas Higgins. What do you think about the relationship he has with Mr. Thornton? Did he change Mr. Thornton? Did Mr. Thornton change him?

Nicholas began as a character I liked, but didn’t really love. He changes, though, through everything he goes through with Bessy and Boucher. He became an endearing character; one who represented the working man and all his opinions to the story.

I think his relationship with Mr. Thornton changed both of them. I think, for the first time, their relationship caused each to view the other just as a man, not as a master or worker. Their common goal of providing for their family helped to unite them.

7. How does Mr. Thornton’s views on the master/worker relationship change? Or. . .did it change? Did your view on this issue change as you experienced this book?

His views changed some. Proof comes with his implementation/experiment of a new kitchen area available to his workers. I think he began to see ways he could provide for his workers beyond a fair job at a fair wage.

My view didn’t change. I enjoyed following both sides of the issue and seeing how they ended up working together (not without their trials, though). But I still say I’m on Thornton’s side.

8. Do you have a favorite quote from this book? If so, share and let us know why it’s your favorite.

This book has so many quotable lines!!! I think my favorite, though, is this from chapter 20: “He knew it was the first time their hands had met, though she was perfectly unconscious of the fact.”

I also love this line from Nicholas Higgins: “Any yet, yo see, North and South has both met and made kind o’ friends in this big smoky place.”

9. The ending! Are you happy with how things turned out? (Try not to compare with the movie here… that’s for a later question!)

Yes!!! I’m completely happy with how the story turned out. It did feel slightly abrupt – I would have been happy with a few more pages of John and Margaret getting settled and speaking with their families. But, I am good with how it was resolved. I know that Gaskell had to make the length of it fit at the time in Charles Dickens’ publication. And the roses were sweet 🙂

10. What aspect of this book would you like to address that we haven’t yet talked about? Is there something we’ve skipped over in our discussions that makes you want to say… “Yeah, but what about….?”  And if you’ve got nothing there, answer this: Did you like the book? Why or why not?

Hmm, the one thing we didn’t discuss was the fact that Fanny finally got married. Didn’t she supposedly marry a wealthy man in trade? Why couldn’t he help Mr. Thornton? I do wonder that.

BONUS MOVIE QUESTION:

If you’ve already seen the movie, go ahead… now is your chance to compare the two!

Ok, so I definitely love both the book and the miniseries, for separate reasons. The book is so richly detailed, and we see Mr. Thornton’s point of view. The movie, though, provides a visual for the characters and the setting. The movie has a different first meeting and a totally different ending sequence, which I am happy about. The kiss-less book ending is appropriate for that era of literature, I know. So for us in modern times, we have the series to watch and be happy about.

 

Thank you to Suey, Jenni, and Kami for hosting this fun read-along! It’s the first one I’ve participated in, and it has been fun and memorable.

Do you agree with my answers for this final discussion? Have you seen the miniseries? I’d love to hear your thoughts on either!

Read-along Discussion Post 1: North and South

Ya’ll, if you’ve never read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, you’re seriously missing out on a great story and some beautiful arrangements of words. We don’t have quite the same vocabulary – or at least the flourish – as they did in the Victorian era. But this means we can admire and enjoy their stories!

So far, we’re 1/3 through with the read-along hosted by Kami, Suey, and Jenni. This means our first discussion post is upon us! Jenni is hosting it; and she’s come up with some great questions for this round. We’re linking up at her post, so be sure to add your link and explore everyone’s thoughts thus far! Also, we had quite the discussion on Twitter with the #NorthSouthRAL hashtag.North-and-South-Read-Along-600x408

1. Is this your first time reading this? If so, what do you think so far? If not, are you liking this reread so far? 

This is my first time reading it! It is better than I expected, actually. I wasn’t sure how entertaining it would be. Sometimes older books are hard to relate to or move too slow. BUT, it’s not that way. The plot moves at a nice pace and the themes seem to be relevant. Plus, the descriptions and history of the era intrigue me.

2. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?\

Yes, I have seen it once! So far, the series did stay very close to the book. And, like it was mentioned on Twitter, the casting of all of the characters in the miniseries was very well done.

3. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap?

I think she refused him because she didn’t love him. (Perhaps another Pride & Prejudice nod, @moonlight_reads?)

4. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?

Hmmm. With a mental picture of Richard Armitage, it’s hard not to focus on his looks, as Gaskell explains early on 🙂 With that said, he first became an acquaintance of Mr. Hale through whom he connected with a house to rent, etc. So maybe as a considerate person and friend to the Hales? After learning more about his character, it’s clear he deeply cares for the happiness of his mother and sister, Fanny. And he is fair in business.

5. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.

I think Margaret has stereotyped Mr. Thornton as a proud “tradesman”, though she is unaware of the full extent of her feelings. The Higgins family is more comfortable to her. She has called upon “the poor” in the past to aid them, so the Higginses are a new outlet for this habit.

6. Compare the two moms we’ve seen in the story.

They are soooo different! Mrs. Hale is frail, sickly, and annoying in the fact that she pays Margaret little attention. And when she does, it is completely for her benefit to make her tea or sooth her. Mrs. Hale is decidedly selfish.

Mrs. Thornton, on the other hand, is confident and very involved in the day to day life of her son. She comes across as a little stiff and snobby, but I think that is just a crusty outer layer. In chapter 12, we see that she just has a different way of communicating her feelings.

7. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?

Aside from the country/city differences, I think the larger scope of classes living in the north is significant. It allows for more complicated relationships between people (masters/workers, Hales/Thorntons, Margaret/Higgins’).

8. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?
I do think so. I admire him for standing up for his faith.

9. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?

If only I could remember how that comes into play later in the story……

But, it is unfortunate. It’s so sad that they couldn’t really communicate with him.

10. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship?

It’s a very interesting situation. One that is definitely relevant today. I can see both sides of the situation, though I do think the masters are more aware of the markets and how all that works. At least Mr. Thornton is known to be fair to his workers 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings about North and South! Have you read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Happy Sunday!

2015 Reading Challenge Checklist (and free printable!)

Happy (almost) New Year! What better way to kick off a year of reading with a new 2015 reading challenge? I’ve put together a checklist of 32 criteria for books, along with a printable, for the year.

As I’ve said before, I participated in the Empty Shelf Challenge in 2014. I read a total of 50 books. Here’s a pic of my full shelf now:
My Not-So-Empty Shelf at the end of 2014

For 2015, I’ve set a goal of 50 books and created my own reading challenge! I’ve created a printable one, so please feel free to join me in 2015! I was inspired by this challenge, as well as a few other ones I found on Pinterest and some fun Twitter convos.

To start off the year, I’m also participating in Kami, Jenni, and Suey’s read-along of Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South” this January. If you’d like to join our Twitter and/or blog chats about it, please do!

Also, fellow bloggers Cassie and Jamie are hosting their very own 2015 Jody Hedlund Challenge! They are working their way through Jody’s books each month with a discussion post. I hope to join in on it sometime 🙂

Here’s my free printable checklist! Feel free to join in and use the hashtag #TGM2015ReadingChecklist on social media. If you do, please leave me a comment so I can keep up with your progress, too!

Courtney's 2015 Reading Checklist.docx

Click the image to open the .pdf printable. Enjoy!