Book Buzz: Lost Items, Successful Suffragettes, and Proper Gothic Murders

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For April, we’re looking at a touching tale of things lost and things found, a history of how women won the right to vote in the United States, and a Gothic series about a 19th century woman with an unusually comprehensive knowledge of anatomy. . . .

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Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Caitlyn Doughty is a lot more famous than your average mortician. She’s the author of two books, hosts a YouTube series where she answers viewer questions, and is an advocate for reform in the funeral industry. Late last year, she released her second book, From Here to Eternity, which looks at funeral practices around the world, and that’s gaining a fair amount of buzz. But at the library, we’ve also been buzzing about her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Jen suggested it to me a few weeks ago, and it’s an excellent, thought-provoking read! (Thanks for the great suggestion, Jen!)

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Books Abuzz: Literary Noir, (Allegedly) Fraudulent Ghosts, and Crooked Saints

Happy New Year! We’re ringing in 2018 with a new feature — “Books Abuzz.” We’ll be regularly profiling recent releases that have been getting attention or deserve to be getting more attention. This week, we’re looking at a unique historical novel, a nonfiction tale of fraud and (maybe) ghosts, and a young adult fantasy.

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From Page to Screen: Bonnie and Clyde

Jeff Guinn has rapidly became my favorite nonfiction writer. Late last year, I read his excellent book about the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral and then back in May I read and profiled his most recent release, a superb examination of Jim Jones and Jonestown.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I read another Guinn book, his examination of infamous Depression-era bandits Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Mary-Esther has urged me to read it for years–she’s the one who put Guinn on my reading radar–and thanks again to her for introducing me to such a wonderful writer! (Thanks also to my dad for buying me the book. He couldn’t resist reading it himself before he gave it to me, which is just about the best endorsement of the book I can think of. Thanks, Dad!)

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From Page to Screen: Freaks (1932) and Truevine (2016)

Call me crazy but family secrets, tell-all tales, and circus freaks do go together . . . at least in this movie and book combination!

Last year, one of our library patrons, Vernon, watched 1930s cult classic circus film Freaks and told me, while he was returning it, that it was one of the strangest movies he’d ever seen. He encouraged me to watch it. I imagine because he wanted someone else to confirm that, yes, it’s an odd movie.

So, I did watch Freaks, and about the same time, our library director Julie told me that she had just read a book (Truevine) that mentioned several of the circus performers featured in Freaks. I was not doing “From Page to Screen” features at the time, but I already was thinking about doing something like it and filed this away as a potential combination to write about it in the future. (Thanks to both Vernon and Julie for the suggestions!)

Usually I write about the book and then the movie, but I am reversing that order for this blog. My blog, my rules!

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Leo Marks’s Between Silk and Cyanide

Between Silk and Cyanide

Since we’re focusing on letting the light shine on long-held secrets this month, I have a soon-to-no-longer-be secret secret confession: I love reading nonfiction about WWII-era espionage and cryptography. I blame this love on J.C. Masterman’s The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939 to 1945. It’s not in our library system, but it’s well worth requesting through ILL if you also like reading about history and/or espionage. In it, Masterman meticulously and matter-of-factly details the espionage system he ran for British intelligence in turning German agents in Britain into British double agents.

It’s a fascinating book, but it also permanently ruined espionage thrillers for me. I’ve never found a spy novel (or movie, for that matter) that captures the sheer boredom punctuated with sheer terror and the anxiety of the spy life that lurks between the lines of Masterman’s book.

That is, I hadn’t encountered it until I read Leo Marks’s insightful, hilarious memoir Between Silk and Cyanide.

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Oddly Specific Genres: Campus Confidential

Everyone’s going back to school this month, so we figured we would too, with these books set in boarding schools and residential colleges.

I’m not sure what it is about boarding school stories, but they seem to really resonate with American readers, despite most Americans never having attended one. Perhaps that fact is the very thing that makes them so exotic and appealing.

I certainly am not immune! I strongly suspect that I would not have liked boarding school, but that didn’t stop me from working my way through and enjoying many a tale of rich people–or not-so rich people with a scholarship–having awkward adolescent experiences far from home.

“Campus confidential” is the oddly specific genre we are going for so be forewarned!

Thanks to Mary-Esther for helping me research this post!

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