The Girls of Murder City

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Girls of Murder City
Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago
by Douglas Perry

I’ve seen the 2002 film of the musical Chicago, I’ve seen the live stage performance, but I never realized just how much of the story was based on fact. Perry tells the nonfiction tale of the actual murderesses, the crimes they committed and the media frenzy that followed in their wake. I thought the book was fascinating because the true story is even more intriguing than the fictionalized stage version.

In 1924 there were a surprising number of murders committed by women in Chicago. Two of the most famous cases involved Beulah Annan and Bella Gaertner. Both women were arrested and tried for murder and both were acquitted. The two women inspired the characters of Roxie Hart (Beulah) and Velma Kelly (Belva) in the 1926 play Chicago (originally called “Brave Little Woman”).

The play was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins. She covered both trials while working as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. She took a course at Yale on play writing and Chicago was the result. It didn’t become a musical until the 1970s. I did think it was fascinating that Beulah and Belva actually saw Chicago performed live!

The entire time I was reading the book I kept hearing all the songs from the musical in my head. When I read about the defense lawyer I heard “All I Care About” and during the descriptions of Beulah roping her husband into covering for a murder she committed “Funny Honey” was on repeat in my brain.

I related the most to the reporter Maureen. She was originally from Crawfordsville, IN, about 15 minutes from the city where I worked when I was first a reporter at a daily newspaper. I actually covered a few trials in Crawfordsville during that time.

Watkins also reported on the famous Leopold and Loeb case, which quickly overshadowed the coverage of the murderesses’ verdicts. It’s interesting how a piece of news can become a huge deal, or so easily be cast aside depending on what else has happened that day. Like celebrities dying on the same day, Michael Jackson’s death left no room for coverage of Farrah Fawcett’s and the same is true for other major events in history. If it had been a slow news day, the women’s acquittals might have been a huge deal, but instead they were barely noted while all eyes focused on the now infamous Leopold and Loeb case, which inspired the film Murder by Numbers and the play Never the Sinner.

So if you’re looking for a great nonfiction read in the same vein as The Devil in the White City or if you’ve ever been curious about the story behind Chicago, this one is for you.

Wordless Wednesday: Floating Lanterns

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Setting off floating lanterns for my sister's 30th birthday this past weekend.More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Books I Hope People Still Read in 30 Years

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Books Written In The Past 10 Years That I Hope People Are Still Reading In 30 Years

1) The Book Thief
– Seriously people, go read this, then in 30 years make your grandkids read it.

2) John Green’s work
– Green has a way of connecting readers to characters that will never lose its punch. I hope his work still reaches new generations of teens when he’s an old man.

3) The Graveyard Book – I hope this one becomes a classic just like the book that inspired it, The Jungle Book.

4) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – I can’t think of the better book that dealt with the trauma that 9/11 caused. I think that it will be a good representation of the confusion and pain people were feeling at that time to future generations.

5) Interpreter of Maladies – Lahiri’s writing is timeless, as are her themes of blending cultures and coming to terms with living in a new country.

6) Persepolis – This one is 2000, but I’m counting it. I hope people are still reading graphic novels in general. It’s such a wonderful genre and I hope it’s still popular in 30 years.

7) The Harry Potter series – I have a feeling these will be around for a very long time.

8) We Need to Talk About Kevin – Not only is this an incredibly powerful look at the struggles of parenting, it also deals with the acts of violence in schools. We had far too many of those happen in the past 15 years, most notably Columbine and the copycats that followed, and sadly I think that’s something future generations will be curious about.

9) The Year of Magical Thinking – This is the most intimate book on grief that I’ve ever read. Grief is timeless and I think this would resonate with someone who lost a loved one no matter when they read it.

10) The Time Traveler's Wife – I love this book and I hope people never stop reading it.

*Photo from here

Rules of Civility

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles

Sometimes a book can convey the atmosphere of a time and place so vividly that you’re willing to forgive it for a few weaker spots. This is one of those books and I found myself looking forward to listening to it on my commute every single day. 

Set in New York City in 1938, the book has a bit of a Thoroughly Modern Millie feel to it. Our heroine is a young woman, Katey Kontent, who lives with her charismatic friend Eve. Katey has worked hard to move up in the world, whereas Eve was born wealthy. Katey is easy to like; she works hard, she loves books and she’s a loyal friend. On New Year's Eve in 1937, she and Eve meet the charming Tinker Grey and the three quickly become inseparable.
The rest of the novel introduces us to a parade of elegant, but troubled characters; Wallace Wolcott, Ann Grandin, Dicky Vanderwhile, all of whom are fascinating. I found Tinker’s brother a particularly illusive character, and was left wanting to know more about him.

The plot lost some of its momentum towards the end. Characters wandered in and out of the story and it was impossible to maintain the same level of energy from the beginning. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me, in a lot of ways, of a Fitzgerald novel. It has that same theme of doomed relationships and frivolous parties. It’s not a new all-time favorite, but I had so much fun visiting New York City in the 1930s for a little bit. 

“Which is just to say, be careful when choosing what you’re proud of because the world has every intention of using it against you.”

“It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation, than one person alone with a book.”

“But I’ve come to realize that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine”

Check out Let’s Eat Grandpa’s thoughts here.

Image from here.

Reading the States: Maryland

Friday, May 25, 2012

- The Accidental Tourist* by Anne Tyler
- The Poe Shadow* by Matthew Pearl
- Chesapeake by James Michener
- Two Brothers 
- One North, One South by David H. Jones
- Kindred* by Octavia E. Butler
- Song Yet Sung by James McBride
- Timbuktu by Paul Auster
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants* by Ann Brashares
- Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson
- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant* by Anne Tyler

- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* by Rebecca Skloot
- The Other Wes Moore* by Wes Moore
- Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack by Charles Osgood 
- The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Anne Tyler
- Laura Lippman
- James Patterson

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Edgar Allan Poe
- James M. Cain
- Ann Brashares
- Nora Roberts
- H. L. Mencken
- Tom Clancy
- Frank Miller
- Emily Giffin
- Dashiell Hammett

Great Bookstores:
Second Story Books 

*Books I've Read

Photo by moi.

The Shallows

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Shallows
What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
by Nicholas Carr

In our age of twitter, blogging, TV, Facebook, etc. we have instant access to almost anything we want. Yet we can’t seem to focus on any of those things for very long. In Carr’s nonfiction book, he looks at the reason behind this change and the history of media development over centuries.

The book begins with the effect continuous internet use has on our attention span and ability to focus. Then he quickly dives into the history of language and books themselves. He goes all the way back to the history of clocks, writing, newspaper and the impact each of these new inventions had on society.

It’s funny; I started to loose interest in the book in the first third when the author was recapping the history of communication. I was doing exactly what he was talking about; failing to focus on something and wanting to move quickly to the next thing. Soon it reeled me back in and I was fascinating by the discussion, but it was interesting to realize I wasn’t focusing on the material very well.

I loved reading about other “technology” scares in the past. At one point, when newspapers became popular, people predicted that books were on the way out and people would only read newspapers. It happened again with the invention of radio, TV and finally computers; yet books have somehow managed to hang on and remain a staple in our society.

Carr also mention that some people are predicting we might return to a “reading class” society, where only a tiny minority still reads books. That’s a terrifying thought to me. I feel like we’ve already turned into a society where only a small minority read classics for fun, I hope we can at least maintain that.

One of my favorite things I learned in the book was that Erasmus recommended all readers carry around “commonplace books.” These were small notebooks that you could write quotes from what you were reading in. The commonplace books would eventually become a “chronicle of his intellectual development.” I’ve always done this without knowing it had a name. I keep small moleskin notebooks and fill them with quotes from things I’m reading. Over the years the form of the notebook has occasionally changed, but I’ve always maintained one. I think it’s wonderful that this was a concept originated by Erasmus and that he saw it as a way to keep track of the quality and depth of what a person was reading.

In the end, the conclusion is that the internet is not bad. It has some wonderful benefits and can exercise your mind in wonderful ways, but like anything else in life, moderation is the key. If you spend all of your time in front of a computer screen (which is incredibly easy to do), you will lose some of your cognitive functions and the ability to concentrate on a single thing at a time.

BOTTOM LINE: I think that this is one of those books that would spark fascinating discussions. I’d recommend it for book clubs or for anyone who is interested in the history and development of media.

“It is the very fact that book reading under stimulates the senses that makes the activity so intellectually rewarding. By allowing us to filter out distractions, to quiet the problem solving functions on the frontal lobe, deep reading becomes a form of deep thinking.”

“What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization. We are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest.”

"As we externalize problem solving and other cognitive chores to our computers we reduce our brain's ability to build stable knowledge structures, schemas, that later can be applied in new situations. In other words the brighter the software, the dimmer the user."

"What makes us most human is what is least computable about us, the connections between our mind and our body, the experiences that shape our memory and our thinking, our capacity for emotion and empathy."


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm deviating from my regular Wordless Wednesday post today to announce that I'm joining a readalong of The Stand this summer. I might be crazy but that's okay, it will be fun!

Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting a readalong (or as she's calling it, a Standalong) of Stephen King's epic novel The Stand. After years of having this one recommended to me I've decided to buckle up and read it. King is not an author I read frequently and I've never read one of his big books so I'm a bit nervous, but it will be fun. We're starting tomorrow, June 1st, and finishing at the end of July. Join in if it sounds fun to you.

Trish's Standalong Get to Know You

1. What makes you want to read The Stand?
People have been recommending it to me for years.
I'll say, "But I don't like horror." They'll say, "Read it!"
I'll say, "I scare easily." and the response is still, "Seriously, read it."
So I think I need to read it.

2. Describe your preconceived notions of The Stand.
It's scary and dark and I'm not sure I'm going to like it.

3. What was the last scary(ish) book you read or movie you saw?
I read "The Passage" last year and I watched and read The Woman in Black recently.

4. Which version of the book will you be reading from?
I'm reading the 1980 paperback shown in the picture above. I know there is an original version and an uncut version. I had already bought my paperback when I figured that out, but I decided to do a bit of research to see which one more people recommended. It was split pretty evenly down the middle, but I decided to read the original version. One major complaint I tend to have with long books is that I wish they had a better editor. It sounds like the uncut version is more suited for people who are already big fans of King's work.

Original vs. Uncut version debate. Do you guys have a preference? If a bunch of you say the uncut version is the way to go then I will definitely get a copy.

5. What are you previous experiences with Stephen King?
In high school I read On Writing, his nonfiction book about his experience as an author, and I loved it. In college I read his short story collections Different Seasons (which includes the story that Shawshank Redemption is based on) and Everything's Eventual. More recently I picked up his screenplay Storm of the Century and his first novel, Carrie. At this point I've decided he's a talented writer, but he's a bit dark for me. I've never read one of his mammoth books. I've always loved his Entertainment Weekly columns (he used to write a monthly one), where he recommended audiobooks, music and movies.

6. Anything else you'd like to add (bonus points for being extra random).
I'm kind of a baby when it comes to scary stuff, but I'm hoping this one isn't bad. I'm kind of nervous about this one because King definitely has a stigma of being pretty dark.

Also, the three scariest movies I can think of off the top of my head are Rebecca, The Ring, and The Bad Seed. I think psychologically scary stuff is much scarier than a bad man chasing you is (like Halloween). I also don't do gratuitous violence scary movies, like Saw. I just can't handle those. 

Readalong info here, second photo by moi.

Top Ten Blogs/Sites You Read That AREN'T about Books

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Blogs/Sites You Read That AREN'T about Books. These are ten fun ones you should check out.

1) Awesome People Hanging Out Together: It’s exactly what it sounds like, old photos, new photos, movie stars, authors and politicians.

2) Family Balance Sheet: Recipe tips, cleaning tips, all the things I need to know because I’m helplessly awful at all things domestic. I’m getting better though!

3) Heart of Light: Recipes, DIY projects, great photos.

4) ThxThxThx: Great reminders to appreciate the little things in life.

5) First Milk: All things lovely and sweet.

6) English Muse: Beautiful photos and thoughts and the occasion photo of Colin Firth.

7) A Cup of Jo: I know, everyone reads this blog, but it was one of the first I ever found when I started reading blogs and we were planning our weddings at the exact some time.

8) Little Brown Pen: A little taste of Paris.

9) Stage Write: This is actually my other blog, I review theatre in the Midwest, but it is one of the blogs I spend the most time at that’s not related to books.

10) Old Love: Entertaining photos of people who used to date or be married.

Image from here.

Mini Reviews on Nonfiction Reads

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Color of Water
by James McBride

The author tells the true story of his amazing mother’s life. She was an Orthodox Jewish woman, the daughter of a rabbi, who married a black man in 1942. She was molested by her father and eventually ran away from home. She raised 12 children who never knew her story until they were adults.

One of the most fascinating and enthralling looks at race in America that I’ve ever read. It’s a completely unique view. McBride’s mother was white and Jewish and his father was black. Mix in there the fact that there were 12 kids in his family and the author’s desire to succeed in both the world of music and literature and you’ve got one hell of a book. It’s hard to have too many preconceived notions about race when you come from such a diverse background.

Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes
Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson

A great read for any married couple. The authors take case studies with honest answers from a variety of couples and they apply economic principles to their problems. They manage to do it with humor and make the potentially boring subject incredibly entertaining and relatable.

I’m not big on self-help books, marriage books, etc. They just never seem to interest me enough to read the whole thing, but I couldn’t put this one down. Think about it as Freakonomics for marriage. I loved hearing about the issues couples were dealing with. Some were ones I could relate to, others weren’t, but all of them were interesting.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
by Donald Miller

I read Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz, a few years back and was surprised to find some I could relate to so easily. This one is no different. He struggles with his faith, etc. and is completely honest with his thoughts. He also recently got a puppy, which made his story particularly accessible for me.

He talks about searching for his father, traveling to Manchu Picchu, helping mentor kids, getting into shape and working on a screen play for a movie version of his book. He suggests that people will live better lives if they think of them in terms of making them a “better story,” which is an interesting concept. One friend decides to do just that and moves his family to another country to work as a missionary. There are no earth-shattering realizations in this book, just interesting observations and experiences that can be applied to almost anyone's life.

The Year of Great Reading

Saturday, May 19, 2012

(Gratuitous pic of Oliver sleeping)

It's my birthday today! I'm officially 28 and to celebrate I'd like to talk about my greatest year of reading.

Have any of you had a year of truly great reading? When I graduated from college and had settled into my first "real" job I had a remarkable year of reading. It was 2007 and I had always read classics voluntarily, but I didn't have a good idea of other genres I loved.

Before that I would occasionally stumble upon great books like, Franny and Zooey, The Hours and Catch-22, but I also read a lot of John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson. I just didn't know what was out there and so I read whatever I could find. I didn’t enjoy half the books I was reading, but I didn’t have a good idea of what I would like yet.

Somehow it all came together in 2007. I ended up reading so many amazing books that year that it defied all my previous years of reading. It was also the first year I read books by David Sedaris, Mary Roach and Neil Gaiman (I read 3 of his that year). It really helped me discover what kind of books I loved and helped me find a dozen new authors whose work I still explore.

Here are my favorites from that year:
The Book Thief, Howards End, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Jane Eyre, The Shadow of the Wind, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Water for Elephants, The Thirteenth Tale, Fahrenheit 451, Me Talk Pretty One Day, A Man Without a Country, Rebecca, Interpreter of Maladies, Bel Canto, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Middlesex and The Awakening
Do you guys have any years like that, one that turned your whole perspective on reading around?

Photo by moi.

Reading the States: Maine

Friday, May 18, 2012

State: MAINE

- A Walk in the Woods* by Bill Bryson
- Fellowship Point* by Alice Elliott Dark
- Olive Kitteridge* by Elizabeth Strout
- The Magic Ship by Sandra Paretti 
- Lucy by the Sea* by Elizabeth Strout
- A Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
- More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon
- Empire Falls* by Richard Russo
- Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
- Stern Men* by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman
- Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan
- Evening* by Susan Minot
- Birdie's Lighthouse by Deborah Hopkinson
- The Cider House Rules by John Irving
- Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers

- Coastal Maine: A Maritime History by Roger F. Duncan
- The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw
- One Man's Meat by E.B. White 
- Elsewhere* by Richard Russo 

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Stephen King

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Richard Russo
- Lois Lowry
- E.B. White
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Great Bookstores:
Fine Print Booksellers
*Books I've Read

Photo by moi.

V for Vendetta

Thursday, May 17, 2012

V for VendetV for Vendetta
by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

The first time I saw the movie V for Vendetta was only a few weeks after I’d moved home from living in London. I still had Anglophile fever and was reminiscing about my recent celebration of my first Guy Fawkes Day in England. So it’s no surprise that I loved it and it remains one of my favorite movies to this day.

Now onto the graphic novel: the original comics were published in the 1980s and depict a near-future society where a totalitarian government with strict enforcement has taken over England An anarchist who calls himself V and wears a Guy Fawkes mask sets in motion a plan to destroy the ruling group’s leaders and return the power to the people. My expectations were high, not just because I adored the movie, but also because I loved Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen.

At the beginning of the story, V saves a young woman named Evey. After that, she becomes involved in his revolutionary world. It’s actually Evey’s journey that is the most interesting aspect of the plot. She begins as a scared helpless girl, but her character evolves throughout the story and that transformation is amazing to watch. It makes the story much more personal and left me wondering what I would do in a world like that.

There are a few minor plots that I didn’t love, like Derek and Rosemary Almond’s story. They all make points that are important to the story, but they also take you out of the action and can be a bit confusing.

Bottom line, I don’t think this is the best graphic novel to start with if you’re new to the genre. But if you already love them and you’ve enjoyed other politically driven stories, V for Vendetta is a fascinating look at an out of control government and the power that one person can have when they take a stand.

p.s. If you haven’t seen the movie, see it immediately, it’s wonderful! I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this one so much if I hadn’t seen it first.

Wordless Wednesday: My Brother's Wedding!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My brother got married this past weekend!
I decided to share a few shots from the wonderful day.

LEFT: He and his beautiful bride share their first dance.
MIDDLE: The Huz and I at the wedding.
RIGHT: My niece and nephew were the flower girl and ring bearer.

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Authors I'd like to See on a Reality Show

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Authors I'd like to See on a Reality Show (and which reality show). To be honest, I kind of hate reality TV… a lot. But I looked up a giant list of shows and played along for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. So I probably haven’t seen most of the shows I mention in this post, but I get the basic idea.

1) Neil Gaiman: Cribs – I don’t know if this show is still around, but I’ve seen photos of his amazing library and I would love to see more of it!

2) Bill Bryson: Survivor – The man is a travel writer, so he should be used to uncomfortable locations and situations… right? Nope, his version of uncomfortable usually includes a pair of shows that aren’t broken in right or a subpar cup of tea. I don’t think he would last long on Survivor.

3) David Mitchell: Jersey Shore – Because after reading Cloud Atlas, I’d like to see this author interact with Snooki and the gang and then watch their little brains implode.

4) John Green: Dirty Jobs – Let’s face it, Green would be great on anything! I think he would make this show both entertaining and educational.

5) Anthony Bourdain: Hell’s Kitchen – I think he and Gordon Ramsay would have a massive show down.

6) Jonathan Franzen: Wipe Out – I’m just not a fan of his and I’d like to see him taken down a notch.

7) Garrison Keillor: American Pickers – Can't you just imagine him talking about each thing they find and its signinficance in American culture as they dig through dilapidated barns and old sheds looking for antiques.

8) Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss: Man, Woman, Wild This married pair of authors probably wouldn’t fare as well as the married couple on the show, but it would be entertaining.

9) David Sedaris: The Osbournes – I’m sorry, but just picture that for a second. Imagine him trying to have a conversation with Ozzy Osborne. Bahaha.

10) George R. R. Martin: So You Think You Can Dance – He doesn’t strike me as very fleet of foot, so this would be hilarious.

Image from here.

Cold Comfort Farm

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons

This book is supposed to be hilarious. I heard over and over again how funny it was. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at all those morose “finding oneself in the English countryside” novels. But I just didn’t think it was funny. I felt about this book the way I felt about A Confederacy of Dunces; on paper I should have loved them, but in actually reading them, I couldn’t make myself like them. 

The characters in Cold Comfort Farm were too hollow, too fake to enjoy. Flora is a silly orphaned young woman who decides to live for the next 30 years sponging off her relatives. She moves to Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex with the intention of spending a few decades “gathering material” for a book she will one day right. 

Once she moves in with her distant relatives, the Starkadders, she starts trying to fix everyone’s lives. She gives her cousin Elfine a makeover and introduces another cousin, Seth, to a movie producer. 

The crazy old matriarch of the family spends all of her time shut up in her room telling everyone who comes near her that when she was young, she “saw something nasty in the woodshed.” Ok, we get it, and yet with all that moaning, we never find out what she saw!
Add to that Judith’s wailing and Amos’ preaching and the detestable advances of Maybug and it just didn’t work for me. The entire novel is built around characters you don’t like. I know it’s supposed to be a satire, but I just didn’t enjoy it. It’s one of the few times in my life that I’ve found the movie to be better than the book. The 1995 version is entertaining, but I still didn’t love it. 

There are definitely some funny lines, but for such a short book, it really dragged for me. So tell me people, what am I missing?

“My idea of hell is a very large party in a cold room, where everyone has to play hockey properly.”

“One of the disadvantages of almost universal education was the fact that all kinds of persons acquired a familiarity with one’s favorite writers. It gave one a curious feeling; it was like seeing a drunken stranger wrapped in one’s dressing-gown.”

Reading the States: Louisiana

Friday, May 11, 2012


- A Confederacy of Dunces* by John Kennedy Toole
- The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood* by Rebecca Wells
- A Streetcar Named Desire* by Tennesee Williams
- A Lesson Before Dying* by Ernest J. Gaines
- The Awakening* by Kate Chopin
- Interview with the Vampire* by Anne Rice
- All the King's Men* by Robert Penn Warren
- Property by Valerie Martin
- No Place, Louisiana by Martin Pousson
- Cane River by Lalita Tademy
- Bad Moon Rising by Katherine Sutcliffe
- The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
- Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
- Out of the Easy* by Ruta Sepetys 
- The Vanishing Half* by Brit Bennett

- Zeitoun* by Dave Eggers
- The Earl of Louisiana by A. J. Liebling
- Mardi-Gras... As It Was by Robert Tallant
- Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans
by James Gill
- Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell
- 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose
- Managing Ignatius by Jerry Strahan
- Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean
- Mardi Gras ...As It Was by Robert Tallant
- Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans* by Dan Baum
- Five Days at Memorial* by Sheri Fink

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Anne Rice
- James Lee Burke
- Ernest J. Gaines
- Truman Capote
- Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse series)

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Rebecca Wells
- Tim Gautreaux
- Yusef Komunyakaa
- Elmore Leonard
- Bret Lott

Great Bookstores:
Octavia Books
Garden District Book Shop
Faulkner House Books*

Literary Places to Visit: 
Carousel Bar 

*Books I've Read

Photo by moi.

Readers are the best!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Readers are the absolute best people! Through this blog I met Anne, a wonderfully sweet woman whose comments pop up here and there. She emailed asking if I had a specific book, offering to mail me a copy if I didn’t. Instead of a single book I received a big box of books from her!

I can’t explain how much it meant to me. It’s not the books themselves or even the card that came with them. It’s what they mean in the big scheme of things. That package reminded me of why I blog. I do it not because I have to write down my thoughts for every book or something. I blog because of the incredible people that it connects me to.

Through blogging I’ve been introduced to readers in countries around the world. I’ve had books recommended to me that have become new favorites. I’ve been challenged to read things I never would have picked up in the past and I’ve had a blast doing it.

So here’s my small thank you; to Anne for the amazing package! And to all of you, for reading this blog, for your comments which always make me smile and for being the fantastic readers that you all are!

*Photo by moi.

Wordless Wednesday: NYC Public Library

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The reading room in the New York Public Library
(a.k.a. heaven)

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for my Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books.

1) “Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life…And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

2) "You must never feel badly about making mistakes, as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong than you do by being right for the wrong reasons." — The Phantom Tollbooth

3) “I realized that you can get so used to certain luxuries that you start to think they’re necessities, but when you have to forgo them, you come to see that you don’t need them after all.” — Half Broke Horses

4) "The world is a great book...they who never stir from home read only a page." — St. Augustine

5) "What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.” — The Uncommon Reader

6) “But we are living in a skeptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generations, educated or hyper-educated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belong to an older day.” — Dubliners

7) “By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourself of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip into the stream." — A Room of One’s Own

8) “Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.” — I Capture the Castle

9) “It could be said that they are still people who consider a bookshelf as a mere storage place for already read books and do not think of the library as a working tool.” — A Passion for Books

10) "I ordered a coffee and a little something to eat and savored the warmth and dryness. Somewhere in the background Nat King Cole sang a perky tune. I watched the rain beat down on the road outside and told myself that one day this would be twenty years ago." – Notes From a Small Island

“America has never quite grasped that you can live in a place without making it ugly, that beauty doesn’t have to be confined behind fences, as if a national park were a sort of zoo for nature.” — The Lost Continent

"That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence Voldemort knows and understands nothing." – Harry Potter Book 7

“No one knows how greatness comes to a man. It may lie in his blackness, sleeping, or it may lance into him like those driven fiery particles from outer space. These things, however, are known about greatness: need gives it life and puts it in action; it never comes without pain; it leaves a man changed, chastened, and exalted at the same time – he can never return to simplicity.” — Sweet Thursday

“The writer's way is rough and lonely, and who would choose it while there are vacancies in more gracious professions, such as, say, cleaning out ferryboats?” — Dorothy Parker

Image from here .

A Streetcar Named Desire

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams

Blanche is a southern belle whose youth is beginning to fade. She goes
to visit her younger sister Stella in New Orleans and quickly finds
herself out of her element in the city. Stella is married to a Polish
brute named Stanley who is none too pleased to have his waifish
sister-in-law in his home. He’s determined to expose Blanche’s true
nature and the problems she seems to be hiding.

Blanche’s life fell apart when her young, sweet husband committed
suicide. Since then she’s slowly lost control of things, but chooses
to pretend that everything is going swimmingly; ignoring her problems
in the hopes that they’ll disappear. She clings to her long absent
aurora of virginal innocence in the hopes that ignorance really will
provide bliss.

Williams had such a brilliant way of painting the most vivid, broken
characters. He creates stories built around life’s disappointments and
heart-breaks and pulls you into the characters’ dysfunctions.

Here’s the thing about reading plays, they’re not meant to be consumed
that way so you really need to judge them by a different scale.
Obviously you aren’t going to have three paragraphs describing the
characters’ relationships and struggles; it’s all about the dialogue.
You have to think about the way they would be staged and the emotions
that would be conveyed when you saw it live. I’m especially reminded
of this whenever I read Shakespeare. His work is brilliant, but so
many innuendos or intense moments are missed when we skim a line of
dialogue on the page.

That being said, I really enjoyed Streetcar. I watched the movie years
ago, but I really wish I could see it performed. There’s something so
visceral about that infamous scene when a drunk Stanley (Marlon Brando
in the film), stands in the street screaming for his wife,

BOTTOM LINE: I really liked it, but as it is with any play, I have no
doubt that it’s better on stage than the page.

“Oh you can’t describe someone you’re in love with.”


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Oh Pinterest, how I love thee. Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity had the great idea to host a challenge to encourage everyone to start doing some of the things they are pinning. The month of May is a bit nutty for me, so I’m not joining in the fun, but I thought I would share a couple things I’ve already completed that I’ve pinned.

Here’s a few things I’ve used and loved via Pinterest:

1) I made an awesome wreath for my library from dictionary pages (see above)
2) I made a Christmas ornament with salt dough of our puppy’s paw.
3) I put a lazy susan under my kitchen sink to help organize my cleaning bottle.
4) I used lemon, white vinegar and baking soda cleaning tips I found on Pinterest
5) I started using bread clips to label my electric cords.

I know there are a few others, but that's what came to mind. Pinterest is such a wonderful resource for planning parties and finding recipes, but I tend to spend most of my time admiring bookish photos. 

So come find me here on Pinterest.

And then go join Trish's challenge if you feel up to it!

*Photos by moi

Reading the States: Kentucky

Friday, May 4, 2012



- The Coal Tattoo by Silas House.
- River of Earth by James Still
- Hannah Coulter* by Wendell Berry
- The Memory Keeper's Daughter* by Kim Edwards
- Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Patron Saint of Liars* by Ann Patchett
- A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House
- Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
- Uncle Tom's Cabin* by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason 

- Night Comes to the Cumberlands by Harry M. Caudill
- Blood Horses by John Jeremiah Sullivan 
- Hillbilly Elegy* by J.D. Vance
- The Bluegrass Conspiracy by Sally Denton

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Wendell Berry

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Hunter S. Thompson
- A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
- Sue Grafton
- Barbara Kingsolver

Great Bookstores:
Carmichael's Bookstore
Coffee Tree Books
Poor Richard's Books

*Books I've Read

Photo by moi.

A Lesson Before Dying

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Lesson Before Dying
by Ernest J. Gaines

Set in 1940s Louisiana, a young black man, Jefferson, is wrongly convicted of committing a robbery and murder and is sentenced to death. Jefferson’s godmother convinces a local teacher, Grant Wiggins, to visit Jefferson before he is executed to help teach him to value himself.

I just couldn’t get into this one. None of the characters are likeable, especially Grant. He seemed so bitter and angry and had no desire to help anyone around him. I wanted to know what Jefferson was going through and what he thought about the whole situation, but we don’t get a glimpse into his mind until the book is almost over. It felt like Tuesdays with Morrie with racism on death row.

I never felt like we were given an empathetic character to connect with. I found some of the minor characters, like Jefferson’s godmother and the prison guard, etc. more interesting that the main players. I would have liked to know what they were thinking.

The book gives readers an important look at how flawed the justice system was in the 1940s. It can’t possibly be considered a jury of one’s peers when your own race is nowhere to be seen in the group. But the story lacked heart and because of that I don’t think it will have a lasting impact.