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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge

The last 2012 reading challenge that I'm signing up for is the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge.

Earlier this year I read about the controversy surrounding the lack of women writers considered for major literary awards in Australia and it peaked my interest in exploring Australian women writers. 

It also made me realize that I haven't read much from Down Under. Claire McNab is the only Australian writer I can think of that I've read. Unfortunately, the two mysteries that I read by her were set in the US.  I have cousins in Australia and thought it would be a great way to learn a bit about their country.

I'm signing up at the Dabbler (read more than one genre) and Stella levels (read 3 and review at least 2 books) and plan to read books in the crime/mystery and literary categories.

For details about the challenge, click here

WWI Reading Challenge Hosted by War Through the Generations

A few years ago a friend and I had our own WWI study group. It began out of our mutual love of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. We both had relatives who served in WWI which added a personal dimension to our reading. My maternal grandfather served in the German Army in WWI and my friend's relative served in the British Army. Unfortuately, we don't know much about my grandfather's service in WWI other than that he was wounded. The picture below was taken while he was recovering in the hospital. He's wearing his uniform field cap and a hospital gown.

My Opa
What convinced me to take this WWI challenge was reading Hermann Hesse's Demian earlier this week. There's something about this time period and the decades just before and after that fascinate me. I think it's due to the combination of knowing so little about my family's history from this period and that so much was going on in the world. Change seemed to be so shockingly rapid and unforgiving. What's odd to me now is that twenty years ago I thought this time period was a real yawner.

I'm signing up for this challenge at the Wade level: Read 4-10 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

For more information about this challenge, click here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gift Book Round-up

I always enjoy it when other bloggers share the books they gave as holiday presents, so here's a list of the books that I gave for Christmas this year, in no particular order. With the exception of one link (the Marvel comic), all go to Goodreads so that you can easily add a book to your 'to read list' (if you don't use Goodreads, check it out--it's a free service for book lovers to discover books, share opinions, and keep track of what you read and/or want to read). None of the text below is my commentary--I cut & pasted the book descriptions from Goodreads. All books were purchased by hand with love in brick-and-mortar bookstores. :-)

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd
Modern life is abuzz. There are huge LCD WiFi HD TVs and Facebook requests and thumbs tapping texts and new viral clips of cats doing flips. Wouldn't it be nice to say goodnight to all that? Like the rest of us who cannot resist just a few more scrolls and clicks, you may find yourself ready for bed while still clinging to your electronics long after dark. This book, which is made of paper, is a reminder for the child in all of us to power down at the end of the day. This hilarious parody not only pokes loving fun at the bygone quiet of the original classic, but also at our modern plugged-in lives. It will make you laugh, and it will also help you put yourself and your machines to sleep. Don't worry, though. Your gadgets will be waiting for you, fully charged, in the morning. 

******

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.


******


Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
A rare meeting of literary genius: P. D. James, long among the most admired mystery writers of our time, draws the characters of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.

It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball.

Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.

Inspired by a lifelong passion for Austen, P. D. James masterfully re-creates the world of Pride and Prejudice, electrifying it with the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly crafted crime story, as only she can write it.


******


The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Internationally acclaimed crime writer Jo Nesbø’s antihero police investigator, Harry Hole, is back: in a bone-chilling thriller that will take Hole to the brink of insanity.

Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.

Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer.

Fiercely suspenseful, its characters brilliantly realized, its atmosphere permeated with evil, The Snowman is the electrifying work of one of the best crime writers of our time.


******

Lord John & The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

In this highly-anticipated new novel, Diana Gabaldon brings back one of her most compelling characters: the unforgettable Lord John Grey - soldier, gentleman, and no mean hand with a blade. Set in the heart of the eighteenth century, Lord John's world is one of mystery and menace. Diana Gabaldon brilliantly weaves together the strands of Lord John's secret and public lives.
London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser’s quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising.

Like many of the Jacobites who aren’t dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it—he’s sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again.

Lord John Grey—aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy—finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in “Erse,” the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmiur prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate—but will he agree to do it?

Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood.

******




Inside Seal Team Six by Don Mann

The Inside Story of America's Ultimate Warriors When Osama bin Laden was assassinated, the entire world was fascinated by the men who had completed the seemingly impossible mission that had dogged the U.S. government for over a decade. SEAL Team 6 became synonymous with heroism, duty, and justice. Only a handful of the elite men who make up the SEALs, the US Navy's best and bravest, survive the legendary and grueling selection process that leads to becoming a member of Team 6, a group so classified it technically does not even exist. There are no better warriors on Earth.

Don Mann knows what it takes to be a brother in this ultra-selective fraternity. As a member of Seal Team Six for over eight years and a SEAL for over seventeen years, he worked in countless covert operations, operating from land, sea, and air, and facing shootings, decapitations, and stabbings. He was captured by the enemy and lived to tell the tale, and he participated in highly classified missions all over the globe, including Somalia, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. As a coordinator for several civilian SEAL training programs, and as a former Training Officer of SEAL Team Six, he was directly responsible for shaping the bodies and minds of SEALs who carried out the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

But to become a SEAL, Mann had to overcome his own troubled childhood and push his body to its breaking point--and beyond. INSIDE SEAL TEAM 6 is a high octane narrative of physical and mental toughness, giving unprecedented insight to the inner workings of the training and secret missions of the world's most respected and feared combat unit.


******

Shine by Lauren Myracle

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.






******

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.


******

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield 

A hugely entertaining and revealing guide to the history of type that asks, What does your favorite font say about you?
Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product we buy. But where do fonts come from, and why do we need so many? Who is responsible for the staid practicality of Times New Roman, the cool anonymity of Arial, or the irritating levity of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)?
Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Simon Garfield explores the rich history and subtle powers of type. He goes on to investigate a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seeming ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and exactly why the all-type cover of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus was so effective. It also examines why the "T" in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters and how Gotham helped Barack Obama into the White House. A must-have book for the design conscious, Just My Type's cheeky irreverence will also charm everyone who loved Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Schott's Original Miscellany.


******



Inheritance #4 by Christopher Paolini
Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.



******


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart
.


******

I also picked up a few copies of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey from Marvel Comics. Click here for a preview of #1.

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland craves the romantic life of a storybook heroine. When a chance to visit Bath beckons, she is sure she will find the hero of her dreams. But the inexperienced Catherine soon falls prey to a conniving sister and brother. Will her common sense eventually rescue her or will Catherine's bad choices prevent her from ever attracting a good man? Critically acclaimed Author Nancy Butler & Eisner Award Winner Janet Lee bring you another beloved Jane Austin classic!







As for the books I received . . .


He believed the dog was immortal.

So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving story of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. From the moment in 1918 when Corporal Lee Duncan discovers Rin Tin Tin on a World War I battlefield, he recognizes something in the pup that he needs to share with the world. Rin Tin Tin’s improbable introduction to Hollywood leads to the dog’s first blockbuster film and over time, the many radio programs, movies, and television shows that follow. The canine hero’s legacy is cemented by Duncan and a small group of others who devote their lives to keeping him and his descendants alive.

At its heart, Rin Tin Tin is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. But it is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship and the changing role of dogs in the American family and society. Almost ten years in the making, Susan Orlean’s first original book since The Orchid Thief is a tour de force of history, human interest, and masterful storytelling—the ultimate must-read for anyone who loves great dogs or great yarns
.

George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has become, in many ways, the gold standard for modern epic fantasy. Martin—dubbed the "American Tolkien" by Time magazine—has created a world that is as rich and vital as any piece of historical fiction, set in an age of knights and chivalry and filled with a plethora of fascinating, multidimensional characters that you love, hate to love, or love to hate as they struggle for control of a divided kingdom. It is this very vitality that has led it to be adapted as the HBO miniseries “Game of Thrones.”

This bundle includes the following novels:
A GAME OF THRONES
A CLASH OF KINGS
A STORM OF SWORDS
A FEAST FOR CROWS


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Professor's Assassin by Matthew Pearl

This recently released short story is a prequel to Pearl's forthcoming novel The Technologists (Feb 21, 2012). Pearl is known for writing engaging historical mysteries featuring prominent 19th century literary figures (Longfellow, Poe, Dickens). I've been a fan since 2003 when The Dante Club came out.

"The Professor's Assassin" is based on events that occurred at the University of Virginia in 1840, twenty-one years after Thomas Jefferson founded it. Tensions are heating up over slavery and some students are rioting, demanding the right to carry arms into the classroom. John Davis, a professor, is shot one evening after the riots had quieted for the day. He later dies from his wound. Davis knew the identity of his assailant, but refused to name him.

William Barton Rogers is a young science professor at UVA who refuses to let Davis's murderer go unpunished, not out of revenge but to bring the murderer to justice for the sake of society. A young slave who was committed to Davis suddenly goes missing, as does the lead suspect. With the aid of a sophomore student and some of the student leaders of the riots, Rogers sets out to solve the mystery.

I enjoyed the story, but it didn't really take off for me until the half-way point. I wanted more historical flavor. Perhaps it's because I'm used to reading novels that have more time to set the stage. This is the first digital short story that I've downloaded and it was completely worth the 99 cents that I paid for it.

If the name William Barton Rogers rings a bell, it's because he's the guy who founded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1861. The Technologists revolves around the first graduating class of MIT.

The Professor's Assassin
Matthew Pearl
Random House, digital release December 2011
ISBN: 9780345530141
Source: bought it

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HUNTED by Cheryl Rainfield

If you like The Hunger Games or The Book Thief, you'll probably love Hunted, too.

Hunted is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Caitlyn who is in a tough situation and trying to do the right thing. Caitlyn is a Para, a person who has paranormal talents living in a country where such inborn talents are illegal. Paras are supposed to register with the government. Once registered, Paras live under government surveillance and can be ripped away from their family at any moment and used as Para-slaves. Paras who are enslaved are controlled by torture and used to capture other Paras. Unregistered Paras, on the other hand, live under the constant threat of being found out and turned in by the Normals in their communities or by Troopers and their Para-slaves.

Caitlyn and her mom have been on the run for about seven years. Her dad was a strong Para who was murdered by a mob of Normals while promoting peace and compassion between the two groups. Her brother, Daniel, disappeared the same day their father was murdered. The town they're now hiding in has the highest Para capture rate in the country, but there are also a lot of Para supporters. On Caitlyn's first day at her new high school she plans on not sticking out, but you know what they say about the best laid plans. Caitlyn finds herself keeping vital information from her mother and as the danger that Caitlyn finds herself in builds she realizes that there's more than just her own life or even her mother's life at stake.

The library and the librarian are central supports. At one point Caitlyn realizes that "Reading strengthens your mind, makes you less susceptible to Paras. To any influence." Do you remember that scene in Star Wars, "These aren't the droids you're looking for"? Well, I hope I'm not giving anything away when I say that one of my favorite lines from Hunted is, "There is no one here. No one but the librarian."

Hunted has an original plot, strong characters, steady pacing, and a consistent narrative voice. This is a strong girl novel that will appeal to both young adult and adult readers, as well as more mature tweens. There are a couple scenes with kissing, but nothing risque. And although there is a budding romance (or two) it in no way overwhelms the story or steals the show. The main theme is about the struggle to be who you are in spite of societal oppression. In Hunted the primary fight for equality is between the Paras and the Normals, but Rainfield is also concerned with sexism, homophobia, and racism.

I've been following Cheryl Rainfield on Twitter since reading Scars, her first novel. I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy of Hunted. There are no signs of a sophomore slump in Hunted. It's a very different book from Scars, which is refreshing since sometimes authors find a formula that works for them and they don't stretch much beyond that. Another refreshing thing about Hunted is that it doesn't scream sequel next year! Although I can imagine seeing Caitlyn in a sequel, Hunted is a solid, self-contained story that kept me reading past my bedtime.

Check out Cheryl Rainfield's website for info about a chance to win a signed copy of Hunted. You can also download a free short story tie-in and watch the book trailer.

HUNTED
Cheryl Rainfield
WestSide Books, Dec 15, 2011
ISBN: 978-1934813621
270 pages
(Note: I read a PDF copy supplied by the author)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bookish Ardour Off The Shelf Reading Challenge


As a result of utilizing my employee discount as a Borders employee for over eleven years and buying books at library sales and other bookstores, my office is overflowing with books, the large majority of which I have yet to read. When I saw the Off The Shelf! reading challenge listed on A Novel Challenge, I perked up and knew that if I took on only one challenge this year (other than my own Willa Cather Novel Reading Challenge) it would be this one.

I'm signing up at that "Making A Dint – Choose 30 books to read" level.

My Goodreads goal for 2011 was to read 50 books and it looks like I'll just make it in under the wire. My Goodreads goal for 2012 will be 50, so signing up for Off The Shelf at the Making a Dint level means that the majority of the books I read in 2012 will be ones I already own now in 2011. This makes me feel warm & fuzzy because although it usually makes me happy to look at the books on my shelves, it's sometimes a little sad to see the unread books that I purchased with such enthusiasm just sitting there, patiently waiting, wondering if I'll ever get around to reading them.

Check out the Off The Shelf! details at Bookish Ardour hosted by Bonnie at http://bookishardour.com/off-the-shelf/ and if you have a few unread books laying about, sign up!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Visit to William Gillette's Castle in Connecticut

Gillette

 Visiting William Gillette's home was not part of the plan during our recent trip to Connecticut. We usually hang out on the coast and stayed in Guilford this time, but on the way back to the Hartford airport we took a round-about route via Essex and East Haddam to see some of the more inland towns along the Connecticut River.

We did want to see The Goodspeed Opera House, which is glorious. It's in East Haddam right on the river. I can't wait to go back and see a production there. Next to books, I love musical theatre.


The Goodspeed Opera House built in 1876

Side view

Luckily, when we saw signs for Gillette Castle in East Haddam we had the time to spare to investigate. We had both heard of the castle before and even saw pictures of it, but silly us...we didn't know the house was designed and built by actor and writer William Gillette. We heard the name Gillette and thought "razor blades."

William Gillette (1853-1937) is best remembered today for bringing Sherlock Holmes to life on stage. It was Gillette who introduced the deerstalker hat, the bent pipe, and that most famous Sherlockian phrase: "Elementary my dear fellow," which later became "Elementary, my dear Watson" in talking films.

I'm chalking up this unexpected literary field trip as an instance of biblio-synchronicity since it was just a few months ago that I first read and enjoyed some Sherlock Holmes stories. Gillette was a writer in various genres and he published one mystery novel, The Astounding Crime on Torrington Road (1927), which I'll have to add to my used bookstore hunting list. Check out the Wikipedia page on Gillette for an overview of his life and works and then Wyatt James's piece on The Astounding Crime. The home is now maintained by the State of Connecticut and you can visit their site here.

The visitors center loops a movie about Gillette and showcases theatre posters and Sherlockian artifacts such as this magnifying glass and deerstalker.

Gillette: another cat loving writer.
Approaching the castle. It's just a short stroll from the visitors center.
Front entrance.
Back of the castle. The sun room has a little pond in it where Gillette kept frogs. The dining room is just off the sun room.
The patio--I can imagine reading away a hot summer's day here.
View of the Connecticut River from the back of the castle/patio.
A deck on the side opposite of the patio. Faces the woods. Notice the fire escape ladder.
Back to the side with the patio. The very top room on the left is Gillette's tower room, which he used for "meditation and seclusion." It is no longer open to the public. The room to the right on the second level is the library.
Door latch detail. Gillette designed the entire castle, including its 47 hand-crafted wooden doors, of which no two are alike. They still work beautifully and reminded me of something out of The Hobbit or Harry Potter.
Can you see the door here? You're really not supposed to notice it. It's in a recessed nook in the front entry staircase. It's a "secret passage-way" door from Gillette's study to the front entrance of the castle so he was able to quickly greet guests.
The great room. I couldn't get a good shot of this room which was stunning when you first walk-in. There are built-in couches on the wall across from the fire place and it is open to the second floor. The four bedrooms of the house look out onto the great room, giving the place a very cozy feel.
The sun room. The pond is in the far corner.
The dining room.
The kitchen. The kitchen has been cut in half to make room for a state regulation staircase at the back of the castle.
This blog post provides everything, even the kitchen sink.
This is a bed/lounge in a room between the dining room, great room, and Gillette's office. Heating pipes run underneath this bed, no doubt a yummy place to read on a winter's day. Gillette's bar is located in this room. From the second floor he could look into a mirror to watch the reflection of his guests as they tried to figure out his intricate lock to the bar. One guest was Albert Einstein and he didn't figure it out.
Gillette's office.
Close-up of the door behind Gillette's desk. It's the doorway that leads to the entrance of the castle.
Gillette's desk. Notice the chair is on a track. He liked nautical designs. This picture is a bit dark, but can you make out the bookcases on the right? The state added the removable bar across the middle of each shelf to deter theft, but it looks like an intentional nautical touch. One book that jumped out at me from these shelves is on my 2012 reading list, Edna Ferber's So Big.
Close up of his desk top.
At the end of the hallway on the second floor. See that do-hicky hanging from the ceiling? Read below.

Amazing, right?

Do-hicky close-up.
Gillette's bedroom. Cozy and functional.
See the wooden handle? Gillette liked to read in bed and that's a switch he invented so he wouldn't have to get out of bed to turn off the light. The walls throughout the castle are decorated with handwoven raffia coverings, which you can see clearly here.

Gillette's bathroom.
Nautical themed stained glass from Gillette's houseboat, The Aunt Polly.
On the second floor standing outside of Gillette's bedroom looking toward the guest bedroom. The light fixture on the ceiling is a Tiffany.

Close-up of the Tiffany light fixture. It's the only rough-cut lamp that Tiffany designed.


Light switches with a nautical flair.
The plaque next to this display reads: "These pictures were painted by Pamela Colman Smith. Her association with William Gillette was probably in the theater for in her early teens she traveled with Ellen Terry and Sir Henry Irving, taking bit parts in their plays and helping to design costumes and scenery. She is most famous for the mystical Tarot cards, which she and Arthur Edward Waite developed. They have become the most authoritative deck in existence." I was excited to see some original paintings by the women who worked on the Waite deck, but do you know what else made me excited? There's a Bram Stoker connection here! Stoker was Irving's manager for years. I wonder if Gillette and Stoker ever met?

Gillette's library.
The view from the library.
Gillette Castle is stunning due to the immaculate craftsmanship and loving yet functional details designed by William Gillette. The castle itself isn't necessarily huge (as far as castles go) and nothing within is ostentatious. Gillette didn't refer to it as a castle, it was his retirement home. It's a functional, comfortable space designed by a man who knew what he liked and had the money to bring his vision to life using quality materials and excellent craftsmen. I was inspired. If you're anywhere near the area I highly recommend a visit.
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