Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Women Writers I’d Love to Meet

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share a list of ten authors we would love to meet. In the past, I’ve found that the lists I’ve made like this tend to be fairly male-dominated; instead, this week I’d like to focus on ten women writers that I would love to have a conversation with.

What women writers would you love to meet? What do you think of the writers on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Short Stories that Exceed Tall Expectations

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our favorite short story collections. While I usually prefer reading novels over short stories, I have enjoyed several fantastic collections. Here are a few of my favorites!

Apparently I haven’t read enough short story collections to fill this entire list.. but the ones I have read are excellent!

What are your favorite short story collections? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned here? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Solid Colors, Solid Covers

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is supposed to be books with our favorite color on the cover or in the title. I initially wanted to make a list of books with yellow covers because that’s my favorite color, but alas! Why are there so few yellow cover designs out there?! Instead, I’ve decided to share ten books that have solid color backgrounds on their covers, since that’s a design I’m always drawn to when perusing bookshop shelves. (Great typography is also appreciated!)

What’s your favorite color (on books or otherwise)? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can Never Remember

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is brought to the book blogging community by That Artsy Reader Girl who wants us to share books that we really liked but can’t remember much about. Honestly, there are SO MANY books that I could list here because I’m notoriously bad at remembering tiny details of books. Character names? Plot twists? Basic summaries? They all tend to vanish from my memory as soon as I finish reading the very last page. It’s a shame because these books definitely deserve to be remembered!

What books do you have a hard time remembering? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

ARCs, Books

HEMMED IN edited by M.R. Nelson | ARC Review

Hemmed In is a collection of six short stories written by women, about women. In the words of editor M.R. Nelson, the stories in this collection are about “women, the restrictions on their lives, and the ways they found to make space for themselves despite those restrictions.” When I was offered an ARC of this collection in exchange for an honest review I immediately knew I had to accept. Not only does Hemmed In include a story by Willa Cather, one of my all-time favorite writers, but it also highlights stories and writers that are often forgotten. My favorite aspect of this collection is the common thread that links these stories together: a woman’s role in society, both among men as well as other women. I’ve most often come across short story collections organized by shared time periods or by the same author, but this one struck me as particularly interesting and unique. Since there are only six stories, I’ll share my thoughts on each one:

+ “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell. I was sucked into this story from the moment it began. This murder mystery demonstrates a mutual understanding that can exist among women. It emphasizes the importance of being there for each other, being empathetic, and reaching out before it’s too late to do so. Though we may not always realize it, we share similar experiences that we can all learn and grow from.

+ “A Pair of Silk Stockings” by Kate Chopin. I read dozens of short stories by Chopin for one of my courses last semester and I love the way she manages to captivate the reader in just a few quick pages. This story counters the idea that mothers are supposed to be eternally selfless. How can you take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself, too? By choosing to splurge and spend money on herself rather than her family, the protagonist shows that women are people with needs, desires, dreams, and wills of their own.

+ “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Unlike the other stories in this collection, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is written with a sort of stream of consciousness style as though the protagonist is writing her thoughts in a journal. Though her husband, a physician, repeatedly assures her that time alone will help her “recover,” what she really desires is to play a more active, social role in society. This powerful story of a supposedly “sick” woman illustrates the way women have been trapped physically, mentally, and emotionally. Gilman’s writing is clever, genuine, and really puts the reader in the shoes of the protagonist.

+ “Little Selves” by Mary Lerner. This story is just so, so sweet. Despite the fact that the protagonist is on her deathbed, she nevertheless finds solace in looking back on her happiest memories. Lerner’s optimistic story suggests that women are capable of leading fulfilling lives that they can look back on fondly.

+ “The Leading Lady” by Edna Ferber. I love that the overall message of this story is the importance of camaraderie and friendship among women. It made me want to call up all of my amazing friends who are women and thank them for always being there for me, just as the protagonist finds comfort in speaking with the women she meets in the hotel. This is “girl power” at its finest!

+ “The Bohemian Girl” by Willa Cather. I was thrilled when I discovered that a Willa Cather story is included in this collection. I fell in love with this story from the very beginning, especially because it gives off strong My Antonia vibes. In fact, there are many similarities between this short story and that novel. For instance, there are the familiar conflicts between home and away, rural areas and cities, the past and the present. Both Nils and Jim Burden inevitably return to their pasts on the farm, though with differing outcomes. This is actually the first short story I’ve read by Cather, but it certainly won’t be the last!

Overall, the entire premise behind a “taster flight” of short stories such as Hemmed In is brilliant and incredibly effective at highlighting a specific point or theme. In this case, these stories work to showcase not only the talent of women as writers but also the perseverance of women in spite of the discrimination and subordination we have faced throughout history. As an added bonus, I have now been introduced to several writers whose work I need to read more of!

Would I recommend this to a friend?: Yes!! I would recommend this to anyone interested in feminist writing, any of the particular authors featured in the collection, or simply short stories in general.

What are your thoughts on this collection? Have any related recommendations based on these authors? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books, College, Short Stories

BAYOU FOLK by Kate Chopin | Review

First published in 1894, Bayou Folk is Kate Chopin’s first collection of short stories bundled together in one volume. After reading this collection for one of my classes, I decided to do a bit more research about its initial critical reception. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a review published in the April 1894 edition of the Atlantic Monthly that succinctly and accurately captures several of my thoughts about this collection.

Almost celebratory in tone, this review highlights the great impact Chopin’s writing had on the reader despite her apparent newness as an emerging author in the literary scene. However, the reviewer also takes care to point out that this is not Chopin’s first outbreak into the limelight, as many of her stories had been previously published in periodicals. Where I think this reviewer hits the proverbial nail on the head is when he comments on the moving force behind the entire collection, remarking:

“It sometimes happens, however, that a distinctive power is not fully recognized until scattered illustrations of it are brought into a collective whole” (558). 

Each story on its own is like a snapshot, providing the reader with a glimpse into Chopin’s world but unable to show us the larger picture. Bound together in Bayou Folk, these stories weave themselves on a loom of class, race, gender, and identity. These common themes sharpen with the clarity offered by repetition as they are reflected and refracted in an immense cast of diverse characters. One character that stands out to me is the former slave after whom the story “Old Aunt Peggy” is named. In just over a single page to text, Chopin manages to transform Aunt Peggy from a woman into a representation of the peculiar institution itself, a one hundred and twenty-five year old system of labor whose legacy lingers on long after the war has been fought. Characters like Aunt Peggy breathe life and power into Chopin’s stories, giving them the force to resonate with readers long after the pages have been turned.

Another great point that the reviewer makes is the skillful way she wields the usage of various forms of dialect throughout these stories. Because location and culture are integral components of her writing, it only makes sense that she would endeavor to capture the sounds of local speech as well. This incorporation works to Chopin’s advantage, as the reviewer remarks:

“Her reproduction of their speech is not too elaborate, and the reader who at once shuts up a book in which he discovers broken or otherwise damaged English would do well to open this again” (559). 

Although the variations in language may seem a bit confusing at first, the reader quickly becomes acquainted with the dialects used. Not only do they contribute to creating depth in characters, but they also help build the setting and make it come to life.

The end of the glowing review reads:

It is something that she comes from the South. It is a good deal more that she is not confined to locality. Art makes her free of literature” (559). 

This passage stumped me at first. What could the reviewer mean by that final sentence? Does he mean that literature in general is usually restricted by locality, but in these stories she somehow liberates herself from those boundaries? I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m choosing to interpret this statement as a celebration of Chopin’s writing ability. Her writing brings a warm feeling of culture and energy and life to literature, one that readers of all backgrounds can surely connect with in some way.

I highly recommend the short stories of Kate Chopin’s Bayou Folk, whether you read them separately or bound together in this fantastic collection. Chopin is a writer that is often forgotten in the midst of the male-dominated Western Canon, but these stories prove that her position in the literary world is undoubtedly well-deserved.

Have you read any of Kate Chopin’s stories or other works? Do you have any favorites? Any other short story collections that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

MARCH 2017 | Wrap-Up

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Ah, March: the green month of transition from winter to spring in which we all experience a sort of underlying current of excited anticipation… no? Just me? March has always seemed like one of those “in-between” months to me, standing alongside May and November as the chaotic calm before the storm of the months to come (if chaos can even be considered placid?). Regardless of how you feel about March, it’s time to once again say goodbye with another monthly wrap-up.

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In March I read a total of 5 books:

  1. How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky
  2. As You Wish by Cary Elwes
  3. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North & Erica Henderson
  4. Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin
  5. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I read some fantastic books this month, but heads above them all was How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky. This collection of personal essays was incredibly engaging, hilarious, and thought-provoking. One of the reasons I loved it so much is that it made me think about some of the quirky, unexpected experiences in my own life. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that there isn’t just one right path that everyone follows– for some, life can involve smuggling narwhal tusks across the border and getting in trouble for aggressively rapping at a teacher (true story– read the book!). Whether or not you’re a fan of Watsky’s music (which you should be), I highly recommend reading How to Ruin Everything. 

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Good old spring break– could you hear the relieved sighs of thousands of college students in mid-March? I spent my spring break reading, blogging, and reading sonnets for my Renaissance Poetry class (SO. MANY. SONNETS.). It was great to spend some time at home with family and friends, especially after enduring midterms the week before. Transitioning back to campus was a little difficult, but we’re all finally back in the swing of things now.

The highlight of this month was definitely when I went to New York City with some of my friends. We spent the day roaming around the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), which I had never been to before this trip.

I’m not going to lied, I was fairly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of art that is in this museum, as well as the size of the museum itself. We spent hours meticulously combing through each exhibit, but even then I felt as though there was so much I was missing because there simply wasn’t enough time to look at everything. I loved seeing the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware (which is also HUGE) as well as one of the paintings they have by Claude Monet (probably my favorite painter). We also had a great time posing next to a bunch of the statues on display, as you can probably tell from the picture to the left.

I love going to museums and definitely wish that I had the opportunity to visit them more frequently. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough this semester to be able to visit two museums, which is more than I typically get around to visiting in a single year. If you ever get the chance to visit the Met, I highly recommend going– it’s amazing!

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Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month (there were SO MANY!!):

How was your month of March? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books, Short Stories

“THE STORY OF AN HOUR” by Kate Chopin | Review

Published in Vogue in 1894, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” tells of Louise Mallard’s entrance into and exit from sudden independence. After being told that her husband has passed away, Louise is overwhelmed by a rush of freedom that she has never felt before. Unfortunately, this liberty is wrested from her grasp when she discovers that her husband is alive after all. In an unexpected turn of events, Louise is the one who no longer has the will to go on and immediately dies as her husband walks through the door.

Recently I read this story in one of my English literature classes as part of an exploration of feminist criticism. The brilliance of “The Story of an Hour” lies in its simplicity, conciseness, and ability to surprise the reader in a quick turn of events at the very end. One can’t help but feel for Louise and her surprising plight: she’s been subservient for so long that she doesn’t know how to handle   such an abrupt eruption of independence. How quickly her thoughts change as she realizes what she has been suppressing all this time: the desire to live.

“She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.”

Then, just when she begins to come to terms with her new position in life, that very same independence is wrested from her grasp with the return of a looming patriarchal figure. Despite the fact that this story was written at the end of the nineteenth century, it nevertheless remains undeniably relevant today. Personally, I know that I have definitely felt the tension between my own determination to be a strong, independent woman and society’s clashing expectations of how I should act and behave. It’s frustrating and insulting and  confusing, but works like “The Story of an Hour” remind us why it’s so important to keep talking about and fighting for gender equality.

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Just some deckled edges among the trees 🌲🌲

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While I was heartbroken to witness Louise’s death on the page, part of me can’t help but believe that it had to occur. After all, what would Louise done had she lived? There was no place for single women in society during this time period– at least, no position that could compare in value or comfort to that of a married white woman. Though the death of Louise’s husband granted her emotional and domestic freedom, it simultaneously condemned her to societal captivity. Only in death could she truly become an autonomous woman.

Kate Chopin wrote dozens of stories, but this one is high on my list of favorites. It succinctly captures the stifling feeling that can sometimes accompany being a woman, not to mention demonstrates the frustration of constantly being at odds with one’s position in society. This story is an important text that should be further emphasized both within and beyond discussions of feminist criticism.

Have you ever read this story before? What are your thoughts on other works by Kate Chopin? Any recommendations for stories or books that I should read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors of Short Stories

Happy Tuesday!! Since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is one that I’ve already done recently, I decided to go with a bit of different twist. Today I’ll be sharing ten of my favorite authors who have written excellent short stories. I don’t read short stories very often– mostly just when I’m assigned to read them for courses– but some short stories and collections in particular have really stuck out to me over time. In no particular order, here are ten authors whose short stories are definitely worth reading:

What authors are your favorite short story writers? What are some of your favorite short stories? What do you think of the authors on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: New Authors I Read in 2016

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Happy Tuesday! Now that December is here, it’s that time again when we start reflecting on the past year and all of the wonderful books we read. This week we’re focusing on the writers of those wonderful books by sharing the Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016. Thanks to all of the assigned reading that I have to do for my classes and awesome recommendations from friends, I have been introduced to a lot of great writers whose work I might not have otherwise picked up.

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Overall, I read work by some amazing new-to-me authors this year, and I can’t wait to see what new authors 2017 will bring!

What are your favorite authors that you read for the first time this year? What do you think of the authors on my list? Any other books by them that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY