Monthly Archives: October 2013

Week 9 Reading: “Guilty Pleasures”

Well, folks – looks like we’ve made it through the month of October (excepting this week). Our last book for this month’s Halloween themed reading is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures, which is the first in a series involving Anita Blake, a vampire hunter in St. Louis.

Image

I had never heard of this series until discussing my Halloween book selection with my good friend, Katrina. I wanted to add something along the line of “modern vampire” (without reading Twilight), and hit on a “chick lit” (books targeted for women). I suggested The Southern Vampire Mysteries (the inspiration for the show True Blood), and Katrina said no way! Then she handed me Guilty Pleasures, and explained the basic premise to me. Anita Blake is living in a world where vampires are part of the mainstream population, and given protection by the law. She works as a consultant for the police department, investigating paranormal events in St. Louis. She is contacted by a group of vampires, and “asked” to perform a job for them, despite their knowledge that she is referred to as “The Executioner.”

Another friend commented that she has read the whole series, and said I should like them, so I’m looking forward to reading this first installment! Hope you’ll read along with me.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

This week’s book, John Berendt’s historical non-fiction, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was the 8th book in our book challenge, and the first non-fiction book of the challenge! With murder, voodoo and… drag queens… Berendt’s novel was a great choice for October’s Halloween themed reading.

Image

Berendt’s novel is less of a “story” and more a dictation of Berendt’s years in Savannah, Georgia. Berendt narrates his own experience in the city, explaining his interactions with the various sides of Savannah society, ranging from the elite, 7th generation Savannahians, to the nouveau riche, to the outcasts of society. Set in the 1980s, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil seems a pretty outlandish story – made even more interesting by the fact that it is true!

A visitor to Savannah, Berendt is immediately swept up by Savannah’s beauty – from it’s gardens to it’s stately mansions – and decides to split his time between Savannah and his hometown, New York City. The longer Berendt spends in Savannah, the more friends he makes, and the more friends he makes, the more exposed he becomes to the underlying tensions in the city. Berendt clearly outlines the still prevalent “caste system,” that places importance not only on socioeconomic background, but on upbringing and, most importantly, race. Savannah may have lead the way in integrating in the 1960s, but it seems it was only to seem “proper” rather than “right.” The defined classes – “old blood/old money, old blood/no money, new blood/old money, new blood/new money, white middle class, white lower class, black” – are ingrained in Savannah more so than the beautiful architecture. These classes also help drive the main drama in Berendt’s novel – a shooting in a stately mansion.

Berendt spends the first half of his book introducing you to the characters. He could have left this out, and the main point of the story (the shooting and the trial) would still have been interesting, but by including such a deep explanation of the characters, Berendt really makes you feel like you are in Savannah, interacting with these people. From the shooter, Jim Williams, to local con-man, Joe Odem, to the “Grand Empress of Savannah” (drag queen) Lady Chablis, Berendt seems to have met everyone of note in Savannah, and been exposed to the various faces of the city. A lot of time and words are spent explaining and introducing characters who have no sway on the main plot line, but these words make the book much richer and much more interesting. It’s hard to believe there are such diverse and interesting people all in the same few blocks of Savannah.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is exceptionally well written! The pages turn quickly, and soon you feel like you are there, walking the beautiful streets of historic Savannah. The story is the perfect combination of drama, snobbery, humor, history and mystery. It really does have something to offer every reader. Personally, I felt the most interesting part of the story was the explanation of the revival of Savannah starting in the 1950s, and how the city was rescued and restored. I’ve always been interested in the beautiful Southern city, and now I’m determined to visit as soon as I can. Berendt tells a wonderful narrative of a typical Southern town – complete with Cotillion balls and elite, membership only organizations – and introduces the “seedy underbelly” that comes with every city – drag queens running a muck, Voodoo priestesses spreading curses. It’s almost too much to believe, but Berendt takes you there.

I really enjoyed this week’s reading. As I said, the beginning of the story was a little slow, but getting to know the characters made me feel like I was really part of the story. I hope anyone who read along with me enjoyed this book, and look forward to your thoughts on this book!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

November Reading List

Wow! We are rapidly approaching the end of October (where did the time go?!), and our Halloween reading is coming to an end. One book (Guilty Pleasures) and two reviews (Guilty Pleasures and this week’s reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) left, and then it’s time for our November reading. I figured I should probably release the list (which just got finished now) so you can pick up the books you need if you are following along! Remember, the library is a great resource (and will more than likely have all of these books), or you could more than likely find these books at a used book store and save some money!

November’s theme is the “Month of Travel.” I don’t know why I thought that up, but… we’re stuck with it. I was having a hard time making selections, but I think I put together a good list:

Nov. 3 – 9 – Letters from Amelia – Jean L. Backus

Image

Backus uses real letters from Amelia Earhart, the famous and doomed pilot, to piece together Earhart’s private life. I’ve always found Amelia Earhart to be an interesting subject – mostly because of the mystery surrounding her death – and thought this would be a good chance to pick up a book about her life. The book is a biography, and will be the first biography of our reading challenge.

Nov. 10 – 16 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Image

This “travel” book takes place in outer space, and is a great sci-fi comedy book to add to our reading list. When you pick this one up at the library, don’t be intimidated by the size. The book is the first of a series, and has been grouped together with the subsequent books to make one gigantic volume (you might find it under The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but we’re just reading the first part, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for this reading challenge. If you continue reading the other books, that’s great! I hope you do (and I hope I’ll get a chance to eventually, also).

Nov. 17 – 23 – Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

Image

I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never read this classic novel! I’m looking forward to picking this one up … especially because my new 17th and 18th Century British Literature class requires me to read it this semester, so I’ll be knocking out two birds with one stone! I swear I had this book picked out and paid for (yay used book store $1.50) before this class opened (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it at all because it’s in my textbook). I’m looking forward to reading this book for the first time, and discovering all about Gulliver and his travels.

Nov. 24 – 30 – The Sea Shall Embrace Them – David W. Shaw

Image

This book is a historical, non-fiction account of “The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic.” Shaw writes about the 1854 collision between two steamships, and the “harrowing events” that followed. The book came with a wonderful recommendation from my mom (thanks, Mom!), and was passed on to my husband (who needs to be really bored to read a book), so I am making good use of it and putting it into our book challenge. If my mom liked it, I know I will!

So there you have it, folks! Our reading list for November. It’s hard to imagine we’re so close to the end of 2013 already! Head out to your library and get prepared to read along!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: Vintage Slang #2

I’m excited to post my second Throwback Thursday post, with another hip slang word from my Vintage Slang Flashcards. These cards are hilarious, and include slang from the 18th century and beyond. The card are brightly colored, creatively designed, and include fun illustrations that go along with the words, but are drawing of modern situations.

Image

According to the back of the box: “Vintage Slang Flashcards employ ginchy learning techniques to get you chinning like a hepcat without a bobble“…. Whatever you say, flashcards… This week, I chose one card at random (out of the 60 in the pack), and happened to pick out the card on the front of the box: Spizzererinctum.

Image

According to the back of the card, spizzerinctum hails from 1891, and means “spirit, ambition, will, fortitude, energy” as in “He’s a billionaire now – he always had such spizzerinctum.” Synonyms include: vim, get-up-and-go, razzle-dazzle, zip, punch, sock, oomph, moxie (a word I LOVE and insist on saying with a 1920s radio broadcaster from Chicago voice), zizz, vigor, pep, pizzazz, and zing. The image is of a group of sports fans (slang for fanatics) who are displaying loads of spizzerinctum at a sports game, complete with beer hats and #1 foam fingers.

Image

My challenge to you is to try to incorporate “spizzerinctum” into your vocabulary! Your friends will think you’re making things up, but you can prove them wrong and tell them they’re just uncultured!

Check out my last Vintage Slang Flashcard post, Duck Soup.

Vintage Slang Flashcards are made by Knock Knock, and can be found at www.knockknockstuff.com … they’d make an excellent gift for the reader in your life… or someone who needs to expand their vocabulary (think about that while you’re doing your holiday shopping this year)!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Fall 2013: Semester 2

New classes started today! It’s always so exciting! Think about the possibilities! New “classmates” (I put this in quotes because I’m taking all of my classes online), new professors, new subjects, new BOOKS! I always feel so worn out at the end of a semester – of my professors, of my work, of the monotonous assignments – and starting new classes is like entering a wonderful new world where everything is full of hope and excitement.

And then I open the syllabus……

This semester I am taking two upper level English classes – Renaissance Literature, and 17th and 18th Century British Literature – and one class for my journalism minor – Public Relations Theory. After looking in the syllabus, I realized what a great deal of reading I have assigned to me this semester, and thought, “How am I going to manage these classes along with my book challenge and blog writing?” Then I thought, “Well, I managed it last semester… when I was taking three lower level classes….” These classes will have much more reading than I had last semester. I’m going to have to really buckle down and schedule “school” reading time, and “book challenge” reading time. I’ve found that I’m most motivated to tackle school work first thing in the morning, and get more enjoyment from my “pleasure reading” after I’ve put my kids to bed at night.

Now I remember why my book count dropped this year – my brain can only handle so many words per day before it wants to stare at a TV screen for the rest of the night (and let’s be honest… all the good shows are back on now that it’s Fall).

Any recommendations on how to fit personal reading into a busy school schedule?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Week 8 Reading: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

As we move into Week 8 (sorry… day behind here, folks! It was a busy weekend!), we’re picking up John Berendt’s non-fiction book (yay! first of the challenge) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Image

The story revolves around a crime that happened in Savannah society, and should prove to be both thrilling and intriguing. I’m excited to read this book. I found it in the mystery section of the used book store, and both the cover and the title made me think of the book as a good (and different) selection for our Halloween themed reading for October. The exciting part is that the book is non-fiction, and the crime in it actually happened!

I hope you are reading along with me, and if you are, I hope you’ll discuss this book with me at the end of the week!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Book seven (in as many weeks) down! In keeping with our Halloween theme for October, I took the recommendation of my friend Shannon (hey, Shannon!) and picked up Seth Grahame-Smith’s mock biography, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Image

What a fun book! Grahame-Smith introduces us to the “secret” journals of the late great president – journals that catalog Lincoln’s hidden life as a vampire hunter. Grahame-Smith uses real experiences in Lincoln’s life (a multitude of deaths and disappointments) to support the fake plot line, where Lincoln seeks to avenge his loved ones by ridding America of vampires.

The vampire slaying was funny… and very bloody. It was interesting and exciting, but the best part of the books were the real excerpts and letters from Abraham Lincoln himself. Everyone knows the man was a genius, but not everyone knows what a beautiful man he was. Lincoln’s words about his first love, his losses, his children… they introduce us to the man behind the iconic photos and statue in Washington D.C., making us fall in love with the great man, and appreciate his struggles all the more. He was a passionate man who grappled with a rough life and bouts of severe depression, and parts of his journal brought me to tears. These words were, of course, balanced out by the dark humor of Grahame-Smith’s vampire-slaying-plot, which bordered at times on ridiculous

I enjoyed the book mostly for the truth and history it told. I learned a lot about Abraham Lincoln, and have been inspired to learn more about the man. This book would be a great one to introduce to a teenage boy (or man/boy) who doesn’t like to read “boring historical fiction.” It introduces just enough excitement to keep a reader engaged, and teaches a lot of history about a man who lived an exciting life, as well as a very important time in American history. The “hard part” (that isn’t really that hard) is separating the vampire plot from the history (again… not that hard). I did like the ending of Grahame-Smith’s novel MUCH more than the real ending of Lincoln’s story.

I’m happy I read this book! It was a fun break from the more serious books in my challenge so far, and I actually learned more than I expected to.

So what about you? If you read along, or read it in the past, did you like it?

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized