Hasten to my New Home!

After months of pondering and contemplating the pros and cons of buying my own domain name and hosting my own site, I decided to quit dithering and JUST DID IT.

Yes, I now own my name and won’t be hosted by WordPress any longer. SO, please update your rss feeds and sidebar links (which I really appreciate) to reflect that my blog is now located at http://www.gudrunstights.com.

I have a site up and running with all of your lovely comments preserved on the new site.

I’m going to see about getting a re-direct from this site to my new one soon, but I won’t be blogging here any longer.

Why did I make the change? I really wanted more control over what I can implement on the blog, how I can design it and I wanted to be able to use javascript widgets. I’m also interested in learning html and css and my blog will be my own personal playground for it.

Thank you all my wonderful friends for making this space such a happy place for me – please visit me at my new digs so we can continue the conversation!

http://www.gudrunstights.com

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

There is a magical quality to Willa Cather’s writing that greatly affects me. I have long been an admirer of My Antonia and can’t read more than 2 sentences of that entrancing novel without getting teary. It’s not so much the subject matter that moves me (though it does) but the words themselves, the images they create, the feelings of sympathy they evoke.

I found the same quality in Death Comes for the Archbishop. I am not shy to state that this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. I felt transported while reading it, lifted above the everyday dinginess of my own life to  a land that is brutal and fierce but where nature rules and is beautifully infused into the lives of the people. I very much admire the way Cather writes about nature. Her respectful and praising attitude toward the landscape of New Mexico or Nebraska or whatever place she is writing about becomes almost central to the story – a character itself.

Ms. Willa Cather

This novel takes place in New Mexico, the land of enchantment. Father Latour, a French priest who has been serving in Ohio, is sent to be the bishop of the Santa Fe mission. The year is 1851 and the journey out to the west is treacherous. After much hardship he arrives among the juniper trees and red hills of his new diocese. The people of Santa Fe will at first not acknowledge his authority, but he finally wins them over and becomes a beloved figure in the town. He soon sends for his best friend and fellow priest, Father Vaillant, to join him. The two men have been inseparable since they were in seminary together and Father Latour relies on his much more energetic and charming friend to grease the wheels of progress among the natives and Mexican citizens of the area. Father Latour is more of a dreamer, a reserved and cultured man who loves the people he serves, but doesn’t like conflict.

The book doesn’t really have a straight narrative. It is comprised of sketches in the life of these two noble men that progress through the years of their service in the area. We meet many of the members of their diocese, many of them simple people who love God and are devoted to goodness. We also meet scoundrels and wealthy villains who make life difficult for the church.

St. Francis Cathedral Basilica of Santa Fe

While this is not a fast-moving novel or what some would call gripping, I was hooked from the first page.  I think it may have more meaning to me because I am from the southwest and enjoyed reading about what life was like here during the 19th century and I love the descriptions of the trees and plants and rocks that are so familiar to me.

Magic and magnificence emanate from this tale. I could enthuse non-stop about how much I loved it, but instead I will urge you to discover the beauty for yourself.

Classics Challenge – January

It’s the fourth of the month and time to post on my current classic for A Classics Challenge! This month’s prompt asks participants to post about their views on the author of the classic they are reading. My current book is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. From my days of having to read A Tale of Two Cities in middle school I have abhorred Dickens. I very vehemently avoided reading anything by him all during my teen years, but I couldn’t escape him in college. Little Dorrit was assigned in my Victorian Lit class and I reluctantly skimmed the book – just enough to be able to participate in discussions and act like I knew what the professor was talking about. I left the class and never looked back on Mr. Dickens. I had no intention of ever reading any of his novels again until my thoughts started to change after watching the wonderful Bleak House tv series that aired a few years ago. I started to think that maybe his stories weren’t as boring and convoluted as I feared.

Now with 2012 upon us and Dickens making a splash (due to his Bicentenary) I decided the time is right to read one of his novels. I started Great Expectations a few weeks ago and have been really enjoying it. I didn’t anticipate the humor of it, the very funny scenes and amusing characters. I am about 1/4 of the way through and appreciate Dickens’s keen sense of human weakness, his marvelous talent for description and his powerful way of conveying the motivations of his characters and the conflicts Pip is tortured with.

I am enchanted with this book and so pleased that I chose to read it as part of the Classics Challenge. I can’t wait to see where Pip’s adventures take him.

Do you like Dickens? What is your favorite Dickens novel?

A Few Books I Especially Enjoyed in 2011 – You Might Like Them, Too

Looking back over the books I read this past year I can’t help but feel disappointed. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to (only 38 books) and I didn’t read as many classics as I wanted to. However, I did find some true gems, books I loved and enthusiastically recommend. Here they are:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton –“I’d seen the movie and also read many reviews of this classic Pulitzer Prize winning novel. What I was unprepared for was the depth of emotion and strong mixture of reactions that Wharton’s complex tale provoked in me.”

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones – “I adored this novel. I experienced an intense emotional connection to the characters and to the story. It is my favorite kind of book – one that will leave a lasting impression.”

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan – “This is a really good book. It has complex characters, a suspenseful plot and presents a vision of a scary future that I hope never comes to pass, but that makes you think about how fear and uncertainty can lead to harsh governmental control. “

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart – “Reading this novel was like snuggling down into a soft, warm bed in your own familiar room – completely comfortable and satisfying. I think I have found an author who will stay with me.”

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – “There is so much to ponder in Snowdrops. It’s a powerful book for having  a relatively action-less, slow moving plot.”

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths – “This is an engrossing, solid mystery. I’m taken with both Ruth and DCI Nelson and will continue to read the series if only to see where their relationship ends up.”

Now on to 2012! What do I hope for the new year? I hope to read more, read primarily classics, keep my blog going strong and to stick to the challenges I’m joining. In addition to the Classics Challenge I am joining the Victorian Challenge hosted by Laura’s Reviews. These are the books I want to read for the challenge:

*Jane Eyre

*Vanity Fair

*Lady Audley’s Secret

*North and South

*The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

*The Return of the Native

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and best reading wishes for 2012!

I Couldn’t Resist…A Day in Books

I’ve loved reading the many versions of this meme that have proliferated on the blog scene, so I decided to give it a go myself.

I began the day with A Heart of Stone.

On my way to work I saw The Odd Women

and walked by Thornyhold

to avoid The Dead Path,

but I made sure to stop at The Crossing Places.

In the office, my boss said, “Enough about Love

and sent me to research A Brief History of Montmaray.

At lunch with The Witch of Ravensworth

I noticed Snowdrops under The Night Circus

then went back to my desk where Chief Yellowhorse Lives On!.

Later, on the journey home, I bought A Book of Secrets

because I have Faith, then, settling down for the evening,

I picked up The Complaints

and studied The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

before saying goodnight to the The American Heiress.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was very peaceful and relaxing and now it is back to work tomorrow before another short break at the new year. Enjoy your week, friends!

Christmas Reading: A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie

My continued craving for holiday reading brought me to A Holiday for Murder, also known as Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I’ve seen the tv version of this mystery novel, but couldn’t remember who the culprit was so thought it would be safe to read it. It isn’t really a Christmas story – the murder takes place at Christmas, but there is hardly any mention of the holiday or the traditions surrounding it. That was okay, though, because reading it reacquainted me with Agatha Christie, whom I haven’t read in many years.

This novel finds Poirot spending Christmas with Colonel Johnson when they are called to Gorston Hall, the scene of a horrific murder. Simeon Lee, the wealthy patriarch of a bickering family, has had his throat slashed. His four sons and their wives, plus two unexpected guests, have assembled for Christmas and they all become suspects as the room Lee was killed in was locked from the inside and the window closed. The assumption is that an intruder would not have been able to leave the house unseen.

The usual interrogations and sly Poirot ‘conversations’ soon give him all the information he needs to reveal the killer of Simeon Lee. It is a very tricky outcome and I definitely didn’t guess who the culprit was.

Agatha Christie is a forceful writer and I’d forgotten how colorful her characters are. I wouldn’t recommend this novel if you are looking for holiday cheer, but it is a good example of the ‘locked room mystery’.

I’d like to read some of her other novels next year – do you have a favorite Christie novel? What is her best mystery?

endpapers designed by Peggy Skycraft.

Persephone Secret Santa Day!

This was my first year participating in the Persephone Secret Santa event and it was a blast. My Santa was extraordinarily generous and sent me some splendid gifts that I am thrilled about.

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple was my Persephone book and it is just what I wanted. I can’t wait to start reading it! She also sent a gorgeous Christmas tree ornament and a scrumptious box of Ferrero Rocher (which is already gone, by the way).

And look at these glitter greetings! They are nifty postcards of vintage London with glitter embellishments. I love the card pictured on the case of Queen Elizabeth in all her glory.

AND she also sent Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and a beautiful bookmark featuring ‘Reading on the Rocks’ by John George Brown. I am so excited to read the literary essays in Ex Libris and the bookmark is just lovely.

Isn’t everything wonderful?

Who was the amazing giver of this bounty? Danielle from A Work in Progress! Thanks so much, Danielle! I feel fortunate to have received so many fantastic gifts.

Thanks also to Claire and Verity for hosting and organizing the entire event. I hope to participate again next year!