On Finishing My First Semester in Grad School.

coffee and writing

It happens one night. You realize that you’ve been neglecting a large part of what makes you who you are; for you, that is the study of English literature. Reading and writing have always been your biggest combined passions. You went to college to get a degree in English. Almost ten years later, you finally decided to stop wasting time and go for your Masters in the same subject.

But there comes a time in the semester when everything sort of starts to weigh in on you. Deadlines loom. You’ve lost track of days and dates, and suddenly you have two days to turn in your annotated bibliography that you haven’t even started yet, and less than 10 days to finish two papers. One of which has three pages written to it and the other has one paragraph. There are eight years between your bachelor’s degree and the start of your master’s degree and while it starts out all fun and games, eventually, only three months later, you start to wonder if you should really be doing this……

But then you remember how much you love this studying English thing.

You remember the joy you gain from research and study and writing about everything you’ve learned.

You remember that you get to express and live your passion every day doing this Grad school thing.

Then all of a sudden your papers are turned in, your course surveys are done, and you’re off for over a month between semesters.

Is it all worth it?

Fuck yes.

Top 10 Classic Novels You Must Read Before You Die.

Want to read the classics but don’t know where to start? Or feel lost at the bookstore in the vast sea of classic novels to choose from?

Here is a list of the Top 10 Classics You Must Read Before You Die to help get you started! (in no particular order)

1.) Dracula – Bram Stoker

A great gothic read for Halloween! Count Dracula attempts to move from Transylvania to England but Jonathan Harkness and Van Helsing stand in his way.


2.) Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Another great read for Halloween! Frankenstein depicts the story of Dr. Frakenstein’s monster and his coming to terms with life after being reanimated. It is also the study of the potential of science in the time period (about 1818).


3.) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

For the romantics out there! Perhaps you have seen the many movie adaptations and want to read the original novel. Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters as they each get married off, particularly focusing on Lizzie and Mr. Darcy – her “arch nemesis” so to speak. Don’t worry, it has a happy ending. 😉


4.) The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ahhh the Great Gatsby. One of my all time personal favorites! This 1920s novel is a story told by Nick Carraway about his friend Jay Gatsby and his love affair with the beautiful and rich Daisy Buchanan. If you can’t live in the jazz age at least you can read about it!


5.) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

This is story of a girl named Jane Eyre who grows up poor, mentally and emotionally abused, and then goes off to boarding school and later becomes a teacher and a governess. When she becomes a governess she moves to Thornfield where she meets the mysterious Mr. Rochester. The whole east wing of the house is closed off, and Jane can hear eery laughter coming from the attic. A gothic tale that only a Bronte could write, this is a classic you can’t pass up!


6.) The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Moving from 19th century English literature to American 1960s novels we come to Sylvia Plath and her heart wrenching novel The Bell Jar. It is a semi-autobiographical novel of Sylvia’s own struggles with depression and her time in mental hospitals (including electroshock therapy) – you could think of The Bell Jar as the pre-cursor to Girl, Interrupted.


7.) David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Aaaaand back to our Victorian literature (because so many great novels were written during that period!) we come to Mr. Charles Dickens – the king of Victorian literature. David Copperfield literally tells the life story of a boy named (ehem) David Copperfield – we start with his birth and the novel depicts his entire life. It is a tome and not a fast read but one of the best books you’ll ever read. It is peopled with many interesting and unforgettable characters and events.


8.) The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

In The Age of Innocence wealthy lawyer Newland Archer is recently engaged (and pleased as punch about it) to the sweet, but slightly vacant May Welland in 1870s New York. This picture perfect life is shaken up with the arrival of May’s bohemian (and much more interesting) cousin Ellen Olenska.


9.) Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights is one of those classic novels whose reputation rather preceeds itself. It’s the torrid, gothic story of the romance between Heathcliff and Catherine, from childhood into adult hood. But it’s not all rainbows and glitter – the relationship is strife with drama nearly from the beginning. Read on a snowy night bundled up with tea!


10.) Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of Jane Austen’s novels. The story revolves around the lives of two sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in early 19th century England (otherwise known as the Regency era). Elinor and Marianne can not be any more different from each other – Elinor is very reserved (the “sense”) and Marianne very emotional (the “sensibility” – and want to express those emotions which was seen as unlady like at the time) – each falls in love (Marianne more then once) and we follow the sisters on their journeys through these relationships and their relationship with each other.


Which of these classic novels will you be adding to your amazon cart?!

(this post contains affiliate links – if you click then purchase I will be monetarily compenstated. But I promise to only share things with you that I genuinely love myself!)

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

abahWhen the Bright family moves to Philadelphia from their rural Pennsylvania town in the autumn of 1918, to run the family funeral home and after the death of newborn Henry, they have no idea what the future holds. Months into their new life, the Spanish flu pandemic hits the US, and hard. In As Bright As Heaven, we are taken on the full journey of these characters from before the flu, to during the pandemic, to after the flu, right into its long term effects and how it has shaped those who survived. The virus makes its way to the Brights rather suddenly, and with the lives of over 12,000 souls in its wake disappears just as quickly as it appeared. Indeed, the flu spans only a few chapters in this novel leaving the reader feeling shocked and saddened in the aftermath. This was one of the most heart wrenching novels I have read in a long time; inducing tears when I do not cry easily at books.

I thought this was a unique imagining of the Spanish Flu during WW1 by bringing in the perspective of those who care for the dead – the undertakers, the morticians and their families. We witness the story through the eyes of the four Bright ladies; Pauline, the mother, Evelyn the oldest, Maggie the middle child and Willa, the youngest. Well written, in easy, clear language, this novel was difficult to put down. This is a book full of characters and events that you will never forget. And while Death is prominent in this story, we are never left without hope.

Get As Bright As Heaven here: https://amzn.to/2zv0jOn

(this post contains affiliate links: if you click + buy I will be compensated monetarily – but I promise to only ever share links to products and books I LOVE and definitely recommend!)

Birds of Wonder by Cynthia Robinson

bowBirds of Wonder is an engrossing and heartbreaking first novel. Detective Murder Mysteries are not my usual fare. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and this was definitely one of those exceptions. The body of a beautiful teenage girl is found in the field of a prominent Child Services lawyer by her theater teacher, and thus begins Birds of Wonder. The story is told from the points of view of the six main characters, each with their own chapters, and each is introduced in such a way as to build the mystery, main story and backstory with just a slow enough climb that you want to see what’s next. The writing is succinct and each voice is clearly different. What I enjoyed most about this novel was that the authors medievalist and ornithological expertise is well woven into the story, adding unique symbolism and interest to a murder mystery. At turns poignant and disturbing, this is a novel that explores the darkest edges of the human mind and heart, what we don’t see (or more accurately, what we ignore) and is a story not soon forgotten. I absolutely recommend this book! Available February 20th, 2018 from amazon.com (I am not affiliated!)

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

21413855In The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, sixteen year old Sunshine Griffith moves from Austin, Texas, to Ridgemont, Washington State with her adopted mother after her mother gets a new job. They move into a haunted house and it is up to Sunshine to figure out what’s going on and save her mother, though Sunshine is unaware that something bigger is happening. She makes a friend, Nolan, along the way who helps her with research and who turns out to be far more important then she can predict. The book reminded me in some parts of the Beautiful Creatures series, though only mildly. This kind of ghost story has such potential to turn out ridiculous – this is not the case here. The story is wholly believable from start to finish. Sunshine has an honest and non-cliched teenage voice through which we experience the tale. The ending was somewhat predictable, though that did not hinder the enjoyment of the book for this reviewer. The reader, if actively reading and paying attention, can easily figure out who Sunshine’s mentor turns out to be in the very last scene, but it still just leaves the reader wanting the second book to find out what happens next. I would recommend The Haunting of Sunshine Girl for fans of RL Stine or for anyone who just likes solving mysteries, and I look forward to reading the second book, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl.

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

519bogS1iVL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Caitlin Morans How to Build a Girl is exactly that; a how to on putting together a girl piece by piece, all by herself, from the inside out. Fourteen year old Johanna Morrigan, growing up in early 1990’s Wolverhampton, England, begins writing rock music reviews as Dolly Wilde to save her family, and escape her poverty stricken life. Along the way she begins to discover who she is, or at least who she wants to be. She begins shedding her cocoon after meeting her rock star best friend and crush John Kite and starts coming into her own; fully aware that she is outgrowing her small town and knowing it’s time to expand out into the world. She is a girl driven to bring the dreams inside her head to fruition in real life. She dicovers that she has control over her own life and what happens or doesn’t happen to her. This is a book that, overall, is about reinvention, which is never finished; reinvent, then reinvent again. There are many references throughout the novel to David Bowie who was a master of reinvention.

Moran’s writing is straight forward, clear and concise, full of sass and humor. It is easy to fall for Johanna as she aims for her dreams of rock critic stardom, and her inner journey of self discovery. Moran uses Johanna’s journey into Dolly Wilde to express the themes of feminism and class differences. The book is riddled with unforgettable characters aside from Johanna; her desperate, failed pop star father, her exhausted mother, her always exasperated brother Krissi and her very loved little brother Lupin, to the personalitites she meets writing for D&ME magazine and the rock stars she befriends, and the bands she critiques. It’s a very relatable story even if the reader hasn’t grown up in 1990s Wolverhampton or lived the rock and roll life; for everyone has gone through trying to find themselves, probably more then once, especially in the teenage years. Moran very clearly remembers what being a teenager was like and she has expressed that here so perfectly. It is a story so universal anyone can find themselves in Johanna, in some way or another. This was the first of Moran’s works that I have read and I have to say that I was not let down, indeed, I was pleasently surprised that I didn’t want to put the book down. Highly recommended.

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen


This is the story of Elizabeth Holland and the pressures she faces as a young woman in 1899 New York City. The novel reminded me very much of Edith Wharton’s stories, The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth specifically.

Elizabeth Holland’s family has just lost their patriarch, Elizabeth’s father. As if that wasn’t enough, he has left Elizabeth, her little sister Diana and their mother with almost nothing. So it is up to Elizabeth to save her family by accepting the very rich, popular and handsome Henry Schoonmaker’s hand in marriage. Henry has his own reasons for the marriage, and it is not a marriage for love. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s ex best friend Penelope Hayes has her eyes set on Henry for herself. But what nobody knows is that Henry is actually in love with Elizabeth’s little sister, Diana, and Diana is in love with Henry, and Elizabeth has a secret love of her own. Everything finally comes to a head when Elizabeth takes things into her own hands at the end.

I really enjoyed this novel, as I am a fan of the time period and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I wouldn’t call this a mystery as there is nothing really to solve, but from the very beginning the reader wonders what has happened to Elizabeth (which becomes very clear by the end). The end was a bit on the predictable side, but this didn’t bother me at all, and in fact, made me wish I had already purchased book two so I could continue finding out what happens next.

I greatly look forward to reading book two, Rumours.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I read this novel for the 2011 Classics challenge at Stiletto Storytime.

I have wanted to read this classic novel for years now, and this classics challenge was the perfect excuse to do so.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, from start to finish. It was not exactly what I had always thought it to be, but still, I was not let down.

Lets start with Miss Eyre herself. What can be said about her? In very un-Victorian language: She is a badass! Standing up to Mrs. Reed as a scared little girl, surviving destitution on will alone, turning down St. John Rivers every single time he proposed to her, even though she was almost convinced by way of her faith. She made the right decision in the end which I feel is probably the more honest, Christian thing she could have done. She is a strong, opinionated, honest, intelligent heroine. She was honestly the only character I liked consistently.

Now for Mr. Rochester. I expected to swoon, but didn’t really. I think he is one of those literary heroes whose reputation proceeds him, so I had high expectations (unknowingly). Perhaps it is because of this that he did not entirely live up to what I thought him to be. I didn’t dislike him, don’t misunderstand me; I loved it when he said to Jane “my very soul demands yours,” Now that is romantic! And despite his attempt at bigamy (which actually was kind of understandable; he just should have been much more honest about it), and in comparison with St. John (who if I have to be truly honest, was rather annoying to me), was the romantic hero – or perhaps he is more of an anti-hero.

Bronte’s prose is just simply beautiful. Landscape descriptions seem to be her forte, actually, and I could see very clearly in my mind the picture she was painting; just breathtaking views! I equally enjoyed her more Gothic descriptions (the orchard in mist, the lunatic Mrs. Rochester’s antics/suicide, the laughter Jane would hear upon her arrival at Thornfield etc), though I still think her sister Emily edges her out just a bit in this respect (though it’s been years since I’ve read Wuthering Heights). On that note, I could see similarities between the two sisters; very passionate writing and story telling.

I plan to read this novel again in the future, and I very much look forward to seeing the new film next month!

Also: I found these illustrations on GoodReads.com and thought they would be a great visual aid/addition to my review, so please enjoy. 🙂

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Read for the Gaskell Reading Challenge over on GaskellBlog.com. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing is so charming that she reels you right in and doesn’t let go until the very end. Reading about the lives of old Victorian women was so fascinating to me, for some reason. They were such lovely ladies – I almost hated to bid them goodbye at the last words, especially dear Miss Matty. It had romance and comedy and drama and interesting people that you want to read about, and end up feeling very close to.  The Victorian era is one I am particularly fond of so I loved reading a first hand account of Victorian life, especially from a female perspective.

I fully intend to visit Cranford again in the future, and to continue reading Mrs. Gaskell’s other works, including North & South and her short stories. (I am also very much looking forward to seeing the film!)