in which things get a little strange

Hello, world.

I can’t believe it’s day thirty of the reading challenge!

I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to stick with it. I may have missed a few days, and this post is a day late (oops), but I always caught up and that’s what counts, right??

And let me tell you, I’m really excited about today’s post as, naturally, I saved the best for last.

DAY 30: MY FAVORITE BOOK

Goodreads summary:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

(Most of you reading this are probably thinking, I’ve never even heard of this book.)

That’s okay. I forgive you.

Like with the Night Circus, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a descriptive, slow-building novel centered around magic and odd characters and setting. It’s careful and precise and so very, very lovely that I can’t even stand it.

I first read this book in high school. I checked it out from the library because I heard Maggie Stiefvater raving about it and I trust her entirely (of course). From the moment I read the first page, I knew this book would always hold a dear place in my heart. Unlike most books I love, I’ve only read this novel once, that one first time. This is entirely because the book is so long–it literally took me a month to read, and not for lack of interest. It’s just a dense book, one that deserves to be savored. Aside from one thousand and six pages, the book is filled with footnotes detailing the history of magic in this alternative reality. To me, though, these anecdotes and asides add such a character and atmosphere to the novel and allow me to further delve into the world.

I read a blurb about the book that described it as a the lovechild of Austen and Tolkien (two of my favorite authors), which is actually really accurate. The myth and magic feel as ancient and mysterious as Tolkien’s, but the style and voice are so reminiscent of Austen’s clever narration–a proper fantasy.

But in the end, I don’t really know how to articulate why I love this book. It’s more than its literary devices and style and prose (even though I love all these things). It’s the myth of magic, it’s the love of England, it’s the strange and delightful characters. All the elements of the book come together so wonderfully, turning it into an odd treasure of a book.

bbcamerica:“Too right, Mr Norrell. ”
me when i read this book
I love it so very much. I hope to read it again soon.

(Also, the miniseries is super super good and is done so well.)

yours, Natalie

My thirty day reading challenge is now complete! If you missed any days, or want to start over, here is day one.

 

 

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in which i am utterly charmed

Hello, world.

Okay, I’m a sucker for a good title. When I’m perusing a new book to read, I judge it based on three things

  1. its cover,
  2. its title, and
  3. its first line

Titles are very important to me.

DAY 28: MY FAVORITE TITLE

Goodreads summary:

London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Once I read the title of this book, I was sold. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–does it get any better than that??? No, it doesn’t. (Unless it’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging, but that’s another book for another post.)

The book completely lives up to its title, as well. It’s an epistolary novel, which I felt enhanced the sense of time and setting. The letters and utterly charming, and I loved getting to know Juliet and all the denizens of Guernsey. It’s exactly the sort of story that I love: one that explores people, what makes them tick, how they interact with others. GIVE ME ALL THE CHARACTER STUDIES. The discussions of literature and the history of WWII just make it all the better.

Also, the romance is so, so, so adorable and had me squealing for joy. (Yeah, it’s that cute.)

If you want a delightfully charming read, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the book for you.

yours, Natalie.

in which i’m rather a romantic

Hello, world.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am rather fond of Jane Austen’s stories. I think they’re so lovely and clever and important.

Sometimes, though, her six novels just aren’t quite enough.

DAY 23: MY GUILTY PLEASURE

Goodreads Summary:

The only place Darcy could share his innermost feelings was in the private pages of his diary…

Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love.

Mr. Darcy’s Diary presents the story of the unlikely courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Darcy’s point of view. This graceful imagining and sequel to Pride and Prejudice explains Darcy’s moodiness and the difficulties of his reluctant relationship as he struggles to avoid falling in love with Miss Bennet. Though seemingly stiff and stubborn at times, Darcy’s words prove him also to be quite devoted and endearing – qualities that eventually win over Miss Bennet’s heart. This continuation of a classic romantic novel is charming and elegant, much like Darcy himself.

I really really really like these books.

happy smiling aww jeremy renner aw

Amanda Grange has written each of Austen’s novels from the lovers’ perspectives, which is basically exactly what you would expect them to be–aka glorified fanfiction–and it’s so good.

I may be a pretentious English major, but I can also take a lot of pleasure from cheesy, romantic stories, so long as they have decent grammar and involve characters that I love. These novels check at least one of those boxes (jk they check both).

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which marigolds appear

Hello, world.

Today’s post is another installment in the series of books Natalie loved as a child, which really is just the series of books Natalie still loves because I am a nostalgic being and have largely the same taste in books. Little Natalie made great book choices.

DAY 21: MY FAVORITE BOOK FROM MY CHILDHOOD

Goodreads summary:

Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. But he’s just a commoner, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he’s discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom–and she’ll bump off her own daughter to do it. Can Christian foil her diabolical plans?

To be honest, the City of Ember probably would also be my favorite childhood read (but I’ve already talked about it and I’d obviously never talk about the same thing twice.) As I thought about other books I loved, I remembered this little gem.

I specifically remember the first time I read this book. It was a Friday afternoon, and I had brought the book home from my school’s library as a weekend read. My mother was repainting our living room walls, but that didn’t stop me from sitting in the room in one of our big leather chairs to start reading the book. In fact, I finished it that same afternoon. And read it a couple more times before Monday.

it me

Obviously, I adored this book.

A few weeks ago, I reread Once Upon a Marigold for the first time in years, and it was still as delightful as the first time. It’s such a lovely children’s book–clever without being condescending, charming without being cheesy (well, at least not overly cheesy). The main characters, Christian and Marigold, are kind and lonely and so relateable, really. (As I, too, have no friends and make terrible jokes.) All the side characters, like Ed and King Swiftbert, are just hecka funny and make the book a hilarious time. The love story is sweet, the message heartwarming. What is not to love about this book? Nothing, I tell you. It’s got everything, except, according to the cover, the kitchen sink, which I am able to overlook.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which earnestness is a virtue

Hello, world.

Okay, I love to laugh. I wholeheartedly agree with the Irish proverb that claims that “a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” I think it’s good to find laughter in every aspect of life, which, for me, includes books.

DAY 20: A BOOK THAT MAKES ME LAUGH OUT LOUD

Goodreads summary:

Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

Yes–I know that this isn’t technically a book, but it’s still literature so I think it counts. Also, it’s my blog so I can do what I want.

(I am Ron Swanson, obviously.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST IS SO FUNNY.

As I vaguely hinted at in my last post, I’m obsessed with the Victorian Era. I have studied it several times in school and done my own research and read so many Victorian novels and Victorian-inspired novels and I JUST LOVE THE VICTORIAN ERA OKAY? This is important for you to understand.

me when someone tries to insult the victorian era

Published at the tail-end of the Victorian Era, The Importance of Being Earnest is very much a product of its time. Well, it’s mocking the other products of its time. Oscar Wilde is the literal master of satire and is so savage with his criticisms, but in the most humorous of ways. This, really, is why I love it so. I love its place in history and I love understanding what exactly Wilde is hinting at in his writing. If you really want to get the humor out of this play, I would recommend learning a bit about Victorian society and culture.

Even without any foreknowledge, this play is still top-notch comedy. The entire premise is entirely ridiculous and all of the characters are the perfect combination of absurd and insightful. Just sample this conversation between Jack and Algernon:

How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

Honestly, what more do I need to say? This play is Oscar Wilde at his best. Every time I read it my sides hurt from laughing so. If you need a good laugh, definitely check this out. (Also, the play is in the public domain, so hurrah for free things!)

(Also, the movie is fantastic. That’s all.)

colin firth oscar wilde rupert everett the importance of being earnest

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which stars shine

Hello, world.

(Another late post, I know. Life gets kind of busy sometimes and takes away the time I’d like to spend here.)

So, we live in a world where there are a lot of book-to-movie adaptations. More specifically, we live in a world there are a lot of terrible book-to-movie adaptations. However, in the universe of horrid films, there are a few shining stars that burst through the hazy darkness.

And speaking of stars …

DAY 19: MY FAVORITE BOOK TURNED INTO A MOVIE

Goodreads summary (for the book):

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

While there are other beautiful and classic book adaptations I could have chosen (To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Rings, for example), I really, really adore this movie. In some ways, I enjoy more than the book itself–which is a rare and almost alarming thing. More than anything, though, I just love the fairy tale, the otherworldly feeling that surrounds it.

Here is a nicely compiled list of reasons why I love the movie:

1. The casting is A+: you’ve got Robert de Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and a baby Charlie Cox. What more do you need?

2. Speaking of which, Charlie Cox (Trist[r]an Thorn) is the original cinnamon roll. He’s awkward and bumbling and charming and lovely–everything Trist(r)an needs to be.

Stardust - Actually, Tristan, it's called a Babylon Candle.

3. The cinematography is so lovely and it’s just a really pretty film to watch. (Matthew Vaughn did such a nice job with it.)

4. I love what the movie did with all the characters. I love the dynamic between Tristan and Yvaine, the dead princes of Stormhold, even little Bernard the sometimes goat. With any movie, there are many aspects that can be lost from the characters, but overall, I feel the movie does them good justice.

5. The humor is 10/10 would laugh again.

6. The faerie world setting is so perfect. I wish that a faerieland lay over the wall in my hometown, but, alas, I think all you’d find here was orange peels and graffiti.

(6.5. It also takes place during Victorian England, also known as my favorite historical and geographical era of all time, so there’s that.)

7. The ending makes me very happy. The end varies quite a bit from the book, but I actually rather prefer the movie version. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sappy love stories.

If you haven’t read or watched Stardust, I highly encourage you do to both. It’s a really the loveliest little fae story you’ll ever find. And though I might like the movie a little bit more, the novel is still a gem. (It’s written by Neil Gaiman, so how could it not be?)

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

 

in which i relive my childhood

Hello, world.

I’ve loved reading for a long time. (When I was young, I would collect stacks of books to read as I sat on our couch, usually accompanied by a sleeve of cookies.) But this lifelong love affair really began when I read a book that sparked the flame.

DAY 18: THE FIRST CHAPTER BOOK I REMEMBER READING AS A CHILD

Goodreads summary:

Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?

I loved this book as a kid.

I can’t remember when exactly I first read it. I think my third grade class read it together, and I read on my own the next school year. I continued to read it another seven or eight times in the following years. The story entranced my thoughts like nothing else. I couldn’t get enough.

The City of Ember was one of the trailblazers for the current dystopian craze, and consequently it felt really fresh and original to my young mind. I had never imagined that the world could be like the world described in a novel, had never imagined having to live in an underground city. The idea fascinated me. I wanted to know everything about the story and the world and the characters.

I so loved the characters. I wanted to be just like lovely Lina, and quiet, moody Doon seemed to me the most adorable of persons. (I had such a big crush on him tbh.)

More than anything, the book gave me a new world to inhabit and to explore. It taught me to expand my imagination. (I forced my little brother to play “Lina and Doon” with me all the time.) I can’t thank this book enough for all it did for me.

I almost want to reread this book now. Maybe its time to dust it off from my bookshelf.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which i am both “happy and sad”

Hello, world.

I love quotes. I love reading them and writing them and memorizing them until they have been impressed onto my own soul.

I love discovering those quotes that seem to have emerged from my very heart.

DAY 17: MY FAVORITE QUOTE

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.

Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This quote has resonated with me from the moment I read it. It captures so easily how I have felt my entire life–happy yet sad, this odd combination of seemingly opposing emotions. I have a sensitive, melancholy soul, I think, and when I feel, I feel entirely. I rarely feel one emotion at a time–I am a torrent of things, but I cannot imagine feeling one without the other. Somehow, in my heart, they fit together, and I’m not sure why.

So, this is my life.

yours, Natalie

in which i delight in anything ridiculous

Hello, world.

sorry this is late sorry sorry

I have many favorite female characters (let’s get real). Yet, when I think of my favorite, only one character has inspired so much admiration and aspiration from me.

DAY 16: MY FAVORITE FEMALE CHARACTER

Goodreads summary:

First published in 1813, “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners – one of the most popular novels of all time – tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins the novel, that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

Whatever your opinion about Jane Austen’s books (I, personally, am a huge Janeite), you’ve got to admit that Elizabeth Bennet is a total BAMF. She’s everything I aspire to be–loyal, passionate, and witty as heck. Plus, she manages to win Mr Darcy, so that’s pretty cool.

pride and prejudice mr darcy elizabeth bennet
*swoons*

More than her romance, though, Elizabeth is such a lovely, complex character. She doesn’t quite fit into the life she’s been given–she doesn’t smother her emotions, but uses them as her moral guide, even when they may contradict societal norms. She wants to be seen as a full, intelligent person, which was rather extraordinary for her time.

And she has faults–so ever many faults (reference: the title), especially in a time when women weren’t supposed to be anything less than perfect. But does she let them define her? Heck no. (I pity the thing or person who ever tries to define Eliza Bennet.) She learns from her mistakes, but she also holds her ground when she knows she’s right. It’s important to know when to do which–something she discovers in the book.

And though she takes some knocks and blows throughout the novel, Elizabeth knows her soul and person, and she doesn’t let any thing alter her sense of self. I think that is such an important thing.

Ever since I was I young girl, I have always wanted to be like Elizabeth. I think inside my soul I might be a little like her, although outwardly I act more like Jane. I rather keep my thoughts and judgments hidden. Maybe one day I’ll let my inner Lizzy reign free.

rosamund pike keira knightley pride and prejudice jane austen elizabeth bennet

Now, excuse me while I go watch Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version obviously) for the umpteenth time.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which words are not enough

Hello, world.

I’ve talked many times on this blog about the fact that I am horrid at choosing favorites of anything, because

  1. I’m indecisive and
  2. I don’t like to limit my options to that one thing.

This equally applies to my favorite authors. I have many, many, many favorite authors–writers who have inspired and influenced me in my own identity as a writer. I cannot choose one because I feel they all have a place in my heart, in some way.

(This is a hard choice, but also easy, in a way.)

DAY 13: MY FAVORITE WRITER

Maggie. Freaking. Stiefvater.

As I have said in my posts about the Raven Cycle and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, I love Maggie Stiefvater SO MUCH. When I read her books, I feel like I am reading a reflection of my own soul. Her writing brings the dream-stuff of the universe into the world. I  remember reading Shiver for the first time and thinking, this is the language of my soul. Thinking, this is the kind of story that I want to write. I had never felt so understood in my life. It was a strange and wonderful experience.

amelie audrey tautou movie heart

Maggie’s books feel like myths you have heard somewhere and sometime before. Sometimes she writes about wolves and kisses and songs. Sometimes she writes about monstrous horses and islands and deep-rooted relationships. Sometimes she writes about welsh kings and cars and friendships. Sometimes she writes about other things entirely.

I always leave her books feeling like I had left the world of my soul. Like I had left the real version of myself, and that the outside version was just a mere shadow of the person I am.

(does that even make any sense?)

I was lucky enough to hear and meet Maggie on one of her stops for the Raven King tour. She’s just like you would imagine her from her books and online writings, except funnier and lovelier and more faelike. I laughed till I cried and bumbled like an idiot when I spoke with her. It was the loveliest night.

If you haven’t read any of her novels, please, please do. They have had such an influence on me, as a writer and as a person.

(Also, do check out her tumblr. It’s rather hilarious.)

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!