Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bloggiesta = blog maintenance time.

What is Bloggiesta, you ask?  It's blog maintenance time! "Bloggiesta is a blogging marathon revolving around ticking off those items on your to-do list and improving your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing." That answer comes directly from's about page.

Here's my to do list for this Bloggiesta:
  1. Revamp the Book Index page that I took down last year. Done!
  2. Refresh my side bar content, including figuring out how to create a 'connect with me' social media area.
  3. Draft about a half dozen book reviews.
  4. Revise Twitter lists.
  5. Participate in at least one Twitter chat.
  6. Visit the blogs of all the other participants--be more social.
If you're not a blogger and just read this post, you should consider blogging, because someone who isn't interested in blogging probably wouldn't have read this post. Come on, you know you want to! Visit the Bloggiesta site's Mini-Challenges page for lots of great ideas and blogging support.

Good luck to all participants! I look forward to connecting with you soon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Announcing The National Willa Cather Center

I made my first pilgrimage to Willa Cather's childhood hometown, Red Cloud, NE, as a graduate student at the University of Nebraska over twenty years ago. It was inspiring to see the buildings and sites that helped shape Willa Cather's life and writing. Since that first visit it's been exciting to watch Willa Cather's reputation continue to soar and resources for readers of her work continue to grow.

Today Ken Burns announced the creation of the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Burns is a long-time Cather enthusiast and is serving as the honorary national chairman of the fundraising event to get the center off the ground.

The Willa Cather Foundation has already raised most of the money needed for the creation of the new center, which will include a museum, archive, research center, classrooms, bookstore, art gallery, retail space, facilities for the Opera House, as well as housing for visitors. The Foundation is now asking the public for helping in raising the last chunk of money. According to an article from the, "To meet a $400,000 challenge grant offered by the Peter Kiewit Foundation of Omaha, the Willa Cather Foundation must raise $144,000 by June 30."

Watch Ken Burns's announcement video below or at the Willa Cather Foundation website.

Please help the Willa Cather Foundation make its financial goal by spreading the word (use #fundnwcc where appropriate), and I hope you consider making a donation yourself!

Donations can be mailed to: Willa Cather Foundation, 413 North Webster St., Red Cloud, NE. 68970 or made online at

Monday, March 24, 2014

Post-Chicago Monday Check-in

Hosted by Sheila of BookJourney!

We rolled back into town late last night after 15 hours on the road from Chicago. It was our first trip back to the Windy City since moving to Connecticut in December and we had a jam-packed week of visiting friends and taking care of some business. We also had an open house at my Mom's to celebrate our marriage last month. It was such great fun to see so many people from various parts of our lives converge to celebrate with us. We feel truly blessed to have so many loving people in our lives.

Now, on to the books!

While in Chicagoland I visited The Book Table in Oak Park. What a fabulous bookstore! Best of all, Patrick, one of my former coworkers from Borders, works there as a bookseller so it was great to see him and catch up. Not that we had much time to hang out and talk because the store was doing steady business the night I was there, which is always awesome to see in a bookstore.

At The Book Table I picked up a copy of MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction
edited by Chad Harbach. The book caught my eye a couple weeks ago at Amherst Books, but I resisted it then. I'm reading it with a healthy dose of skepticism (MFA vs NYC seems like a false dichotomy to me), but thus far the few essays that I've read have offered good food for thought. I'm especially intrigued by Eric Bennett's essay, "Pyramid Scheme," which looks at the Iowa Writers' Workshop development in relation to the Cold War. One point of intrigue: the CIA supposedly contributed money to the Workshop to help fight Communism. Bennett has a full-length book on the subject, Workshops of Empire, coming out sometime this year.

On Friday night I meet fellow book blogger BiblioSue for a quick dinner in Naperville. She brought me her copy of Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon (thanks again, Suzanne!). Of course after dinner we had to walk over to Anderson's Bookshop to see what was going on.

What was going on was they actually had John Green's The Fault In Our Stars in stock! I've had a hard time finding that book in stock, so I bought one of the four copies they had left. While browsing around BiblioSue pulled a copy of Brigid Pasulka's A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True off the shelf and said I had to read it. With her strong recommendation and given that it was on sale for $7.99 how could I resist?

I'm done with buying books again for a while, especially considering that I bought the stack below at various (mainly used) bookstores the week before we went to Chicago:

What's books are happening in your life this week?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Oxford UP edition
Thanks to Andi at Estella's Revenge who hosted the Wilkie in Winter readalong, I have now read not only one, but two stories by Mr. Collins.

The first read-along was "The Frozen Deep" (1856), a short story about a love triangle set mainly during an arctic expedition. It was originally a play. Two men who are in love with the same women end up on the same expedition. It sounds contrived and although some of the plot is clunky, there's good tension in this story. I enjoyed very much. You can download it from Project Gutenberg here for free.

The second story in the read-along was The Woman In White (1859), a chunky novel that has been on my radar some years and I'm happy to finally have it under my belt.
About the book, from the Penguin Classics edition: 'In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white' The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.
The Woman in White is a big book (638 pages) full of characters that come and go and come again. The story is told by multiple narrators. Overall I enjoyed the story, but the plot execution was a bit uneven at times--wordy here, short there--but perhaps that is fairly typical for a big story that was written for serialization during this time period. All of the characters were interesting and I got the sense of a full back story on them, even if it wasn't present in the book itself. This, and the fact that the novel is considered one of the first mystery novels, made those parts that dragged bearable.

One character initially intrigued me and then annoyed me for the bulk of the story, only to captivate me again toward the end. Do you remember that scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where Harrison Ford's character is confronted by a man who skillfully twirls and whirls his sword in a peacock-like threat?

At times that's what I felt like doing to the character mentioned above. If you've read the novel you can easily guess which character I'm talking about.

On the other hand, my favorite character of the novel is Marian Halcombe. She's described as dark and mannish, and she's a smart, strong, courageous women who fights to protect her weak (blonde) sister. I would have loved to see more of her on the page.

If 19th century chunkster novels are not your cup of tea or if you tried this one and couldn't get into it, I recommend you check out Sarah Water's Fingersmith. It has all the appeal of a 19th century gothic novel, including wrongful imprisonment in an insane asylum, but it's pacing is much more unified and there's an awesome plot twist that will blow your mind.

The Woman in White is on my Classics Club list.
It was also on my list for Back to the Classics 2014.

I'll definitely read more Wilkie Collins. 
I've got my eye on Moonstone (1868) and Plethora of Books recently recommend The Law and The Lady (1875).

Do you have a favorite Wilkie to recommend?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

That's a Wrap: February Recap

February was an awesome month. My partner Laura and I got married! We've been together for thirteen years, but Illinois (where we recently moved from) does not have marriage equality, although it's on its way. Connecticut (where we recently moved to) was one of the first states to extend full marriage equality to all of its citizens. People have asked us if marriage equality was the reason we moved from Illinois to Connecticut. It is not the main reason, but it is certainly one of the factors included in why we chose this state. When we started talking about moving we knew we wanted to live our lives in and contribute to a state that valued equality. I look forward to the day when all Americans have the right to marry.

Here's a recap of my month in books.


  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
I'm thrilled to have The Woman in White under my belt. It is on my Classics Club list, but what got me motivated to read it now was Andi over at Estella's Revenge who hosted #WilkieinWinter. Check out her vlog review. I enjoyed the book, but it was a struggle to get through at times. I will probably write about it later this week.
  • Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison by Piper Kerman (audio)
I worked at Borders when this book first came out and it was all the rage. I resisted reading it. It sounded so girly and WASPish (and my "its popular so it must not be any good" obstinacy kicked in). Fast-forward to this past summer. I had three clients ask me if I'd watched the Netflix series of the same name. They were hooked and thought I'd like it. So one night I decided to check out an episode. I ended up binge-watching the whole series in two days. The book is good, but I love the TV show even if they did take liberties with the Kerman's story. Oh, and Kerman served her time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, right here in Connecticut. Hmm, I wonder if I could go on a field trip  and write a post about it?
 Hope Street, Jerusalem was a fantastic read. It is fresh and new. Makler is an Australian and has worked as a freelance correspondent for over fifteen years, reporting from London, Moscow, and now Jerusalem. Her book is a memoir of her early years in Jerusalem. I loved learning about the city and some of its people. I read the book for TLC Tours and will also apply it towards my commitment to the Australian Woman Writers Challenge.

Total pages read in February: 986
Total pages read so far in 2014: 2,480
Hours listened to in February: 11 hours, 14 minutes


  • Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell 
Caldwell writes about her friendship with Caroline Knapp as well as her own alcoholism and dog love. It is really good so far, both in content and style. It's a book to read slowly to savor its beauty. Don't let the book's banal cover fool you.
  • Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever (audio)
I didn't read Little Women until I was in my 30s and was surprised by how much I liked it. What really got me interested in Louisa May Alcott was reading Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion by Madeleine B. Stern and Leona Rostenberg. They're the ones who discovered that Alcott wrote a bunch of stories under the pseudonym A.M. Barnes.




March is the month when some of the literary sites that have been closed all winter will reopen. Emily Dickinson's house in Massachusetts is the next author home I'd like to visit. I also hope to make a pilgrimage to Willa Cather's grave in New Hampshire sometime this month.

As for reading, I didn't get to Twelve Years a Slave in February, so I'd like to read that. I'm also planning on reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky for the Classic Club Spin.

What's on your bookish agenda for March?
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