Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Softer Side of Griffin in "The Official Book Club Selection According to Kathy Griffin"

Let me say it upfront, I am very “meh” about Kathy Griffin. Most times I find her to be annoying and think that her schticks are obnoxious bordering on rude. Still, she can get a chuckle out of me even if I don’t want her to. I basically got this book because of my partner who is a bit more of a Kathy fan than I am. However, once we started listening to it together, I just couldn’t stop! As far as celebrity tell-all, humor memoirs, go...this is the best of the bunch!!

You know Kathy, she’s the annoying redhead who did too much plastic surgery, stormed out of the Emmy’s, and brought Bristol Palin’s baby daddy to a red carpet event. She can be annoying times ten but what this memoir shows is the softer side of Griffin; the woman who took two gay men who were kicked out of the military because of DADT to a red carpet event. However, this is not a sappy memoir where you find out that the wicked witch of the west has a heart. No. This is a truthful history of Kathy that is narrated by herself and she does what few people (especially celebrities) do...she writes about her flaws.

She brings the reader back to her younger years when she worked various jobs, none of which were on comedy, and took years to barely get noticed. She describes her rise to almost fame and the people who helped her get there. But she also talks about her closest friend who committed suicide, her severely troubled brother, and her ill fated marriage. She lays bare the truth about her plastic surgery, speaks of her regrets, and makes the reader chuckle while feeling her pain. This memoir is incredibly well down in the way that few memoirs are these days. Equal parts humor and heart-wrenching, Griffin does not disappoint. Even if you’re not a fan, try this may change the way you think.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Astonishment At "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"

 There is little I can add to the cacophony of reviews that are already out there. Still, I have to gush about how wonderful this book is. I am typically a fiction reader but often  dip into nonfiction as long as it proves to be interesting and insightful. This seemed like it would be right up my alley, but I shied away from it because there seemed to be so much hype surrounding it. I dislike hype, on principal and try to stay away from most bestseller lists. Actually, I picked this book by default because the audiobook was in my partner’s car. Halfway through the first disc, I was completely enthralled. I even crossed state lines to go to a bookstore and buy a paperback copy so I could read it 24/7. After I finished it, I wanted to so back and read it all over again!

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard about this book. Still, I’ll give you a brief overview just in case you’ve been trapped in a time capsule. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who lived in Maryland when she felt a hard ball on her cervix. Having no health insurance and little money, she went to Johns Hopkins where they removed her tumor and took some of her cells for future testing. However, the doctors did this without anyone’s knowledge or approval. Though Henrietta eventually died from this cancer, her cells became the first immortal cells. Since her death, they’ve been used in thousands of experiments in numerous field. Though people have made millions on Henrietta’s cells, her family saw none of the money and still has no health insurance.
Killing of Cancer Cell

What makes this book so fantastic is that the author takes a holistic approach to her writing. She doesn’t simply focus on the science of the cells but spends an equal amount of time on Henrietta’s family and their history. This adds an emotional edge that left me crying at times, which a book strictly on cells would never do (unless I was crying with boredom). The most exceptional aspect of the book is how well researched it is. Clearly, Henrietta’s family has been misrepresented since the 1950s. Fortunately, the author took years to get to know the family, understand their plight, and write objectively. I could ramble on for pages and pages but I will end by saying this: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is by far one of the best books I have read in my entire life (and I read a lot).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Winner's Circle for Our First Giveaway!

We, at Literary Addicted, would like to send congratulations to our three winners of this month's Subscriber Giveaway!

Below are the names of our lucky subscribers and the books they have won:

Katie K. -- The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

Kristyn -- When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Ranjan -- Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I want to thank all of our subscribers for entering into the Giveaway!

Please keep reading and subscribing because the next giveaway will be announced later this month!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Put Some Ghosts In Your Beach Bag With "The Ghosts of Nantucket"

October is my favorite month. I love apple picking, the chill in the air...oh, and scary stories!! I am always on the hunt for a good spooky tale but too often I get stuck with gory books or stories that fall flat. When I saw this book at my local library, I thought that I would take a shot (even if the book is older than I am!). I am SO glad that I picked up this book because it was the perfect combination of scary, eerie, and chilling. Better yet, there are no dead bodies or bloody corpses.

The author has compiled a beautiful collection of stories that was born out of an oral history project. Perhaps this is the reason why the different tales come together so well, because she is not writing for the sheer scream factor. Additionally, she allows the people to speak for themselves without ever making them sound crazy or delusional. Due to this, the book is spine-chilling and that chill is perfect for cooling you off during this hot summer!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sh*t My Dad Says: Even Funnier When Heard

When I was driving across the country this summer, I tried to find audiobooks that would make me laugh and keep me awake. I took a chance on this book because I had heard some of Halpern’s one liners and they made me giggle. After reading the back, it didn’t sound like there was much to this book but I hoped that at least it would keep a smile on my face. Fortunately, Halpern far surpassed my expectations!

As I am sure everyone knows by now, the book is based on Halpern’s tweets regarding his father. He reached over a million followers on Twitter and decided to take his cyper writing to the published page. In addition to his father’s quips, Justin also tells about how he found himself living in his parents’ house at the age of 28. Though Justin’s father is gruff, he clearly has great love for his son.

What is so refreshing about this memoir is that it’s not your typical memoir. Recently, memoirs have been very “in” but typically focus on drug addicted, alcoholic, quasi-celebrities who turn their lives around and make good. Halpern’s is a breath of fresh air!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Subscriber GIVEAWAY!!! Free Books!

Hi All,

Literary Addicted would like to say "thank you" to all of our subscribers by giving away three free books!

For current subscribers, simply complete this survey (Subscriber Giveaway) before JUNE 1st and you will be entered to win one of three different books.

If you are not a current subscriber, no worries! You can subscribe today by entering your email address where it says "Addicted in Your Mailbox" on the right. Once you receive your confirmation email, simply complete this survey (New Subscriber Giveaway) and you're in the running!

The survey will close at midnight on June 1st and the winners will be revealed on June 4th. You can only enter once, but you have THREE chances to win.

Good Luck and Happy Reading!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Everything We Ever Wanted" Was Not This Book...

In the past five months, I have read four books about high school scandals. There must be something in the air that has turned so many people’s attention to these events. Of course bullying is in the forefront of everyone’s mind these days and I think that many of these books do justice to such a complicated topic. Unfortunately, there are other novels that fall short and do not add anything to this canon of literature. Sadly, Sara Shepard’s “Everything We Ever Wanted” is one of these works.

The story is told from various viewpoints within the Bates-McAllister family. First, is the matriarch of the family, Sylvie Bates-McAllister whose family established a private prep school in Pennsylvania. Two months after her husband dies, Sylvie receives a phone call from the headmaster of the school informing her that her son has been involved in a hazing situation. Sylvie’s son, Scott, is the school’s wrestling coach and was in fact adopted by the Bates-McAllister’s when he was young. Due to this, he has never felt like he fit in with the rich and famous with whom he was raised. Sylvie’s other son, Charles, is devastated that once again his adopted brother has dragged the family name through the mud. Watching all of this unfold is Charles’ new wife who has striven most of her life to become a Bates-McAllister and still is made to feel on the outs. The family must attempt to come together during this time and face their past demons in order to save their name, the school, and their family.

Clearly, there is a lot going on in this novel. I would like to say that it is handled well...but it’s not. There are far too may issues for a book that is under 300 pages and with characters that lack any development. The plot is horrifically predictable which would not be such an issue if the characters were more realistic and grew during the novel. The relationships portrayed are very thin and therefore hinder the novel from progressing or being meaningful. Though one can easily see where the book is leading you, there are many questions left unanswered. However, this is not like other pieces of literature where you mull over the ending and discuss with friends what really happened. Instead, this is as if you’re doing a crossword puzzle and someone forgot the clue for 39 can still figure out the answer but it’s annoying and you lose interest. Personally, I will not be recommending this to any friend, book group, or family member. I give it two stars because I believe Shepard could make this into a decent young adult book, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t already been done...and done better.

"The Wonder Years" Meets "Stand By Me" in "Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea"

This book is the complete package; sorrowful, humorous, inspiring, dark and filled with love. I believe that this is Morgan Rogers’ first novel and it couldn’t be better. She has already been compared to Fannie Flagg and Elizabeth Stroud but I will go out on a limb and say that she is better!

Florine Gilham is an only child living in a coastal village in Maine during the 1960s. She has a motley crew of friends who also grew up on “The Point” with whom she gets into trouble, falls into love, and leans on in times of need. When Florine’s mother goes missing, Florine’s entire world is thrown upside down. Florine and her father disagree about the grieving process which further alienates her from what is left of her family. She moves in with her paternal grandmother where she finds the love and acceptance that she craves. Sadly, her relationship with loss and grief is not done with Florine or her family.

When trying to explain this novel to others, I describe it as “The Wonder Years” meets “Stand By Me”. It captures all of the hope, security, and love of the 1950s and 1960s while always hinting at the changing times and future hardships. The setting of coastal Maine is perfect as Rogers compares the simple lives of the year-round residents with the glamorous lifestyle of the seasonal visitors. In doing so, she investigates issues of class, familial relationships, and the meaning of home. Her characters are wonderfully dynamic while remaining real. At times you disagree with their stances, dislike their attitudes, and become angry with their choices. Yet, you can’t help but love them. When you come to the last page, I’m certain you’ll be as sad as I was to have to say goodbye to the characters and The Point. You’ll want to re-read it all over again...

Summer of '39: Almost As Scary As I Know What You Did Last Summer

Wow. That’s all I can say. I finished this novel about two weeks ago and it’s taken this long for me to put my words on the page. This novel is fantastic in the way that only good literature can be; it’s dark, depressing, exquisitely written and filled with compelling characters. My only disappointment is that it took me this long to read it!

Nancy is part of an old Boston Brahman family where she has been ignored and abused by her family. When her brother dies during WWI, Nancy’s life becomes exponentially worse. Her only solace comes when she visits her aunt and uncle in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Sadly, when these visits end, Nancy’s mother sends her to NYC. Once there, she meets Chance. Chance is the epitome of bohemian Greenwich Village (he runs his own publishing company from the printing press in his apartment). But when the couple becomes entranced by philosophical poet Isabel March, there are violent and destructive repercussions for the whole family.

I have to say that when I finished the novel I was even more depressed than at the conclusion of “The Bell Jar”. I had so many complex feelings that it has taken me two weeks to sort through them. While I found the story to be incredibly disturbing, it truly is great literature. The writing is just about flawless, the characters are deep, and the language is beautiful. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book! But if you’re depressed by the end...don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What We've Done to Honest Abe: Lincoln, Inc.

Because of Lincoln’s assassination, he has been heralded as a hero and anyone who disagrees is viewed as anti-American. Lincoln is the American Dream personified and because of that, he is idealized in all mediums from TV, movies, biographies, novels, t-shirts, and bobble heads to just name a few. This idolization is similar to that of Che Guevara. however, it’s to an even greater extent with Lincoln because he died almost 150 years ago and yet teachers still teach their students to act like him.
Lincoln on an Episode of "American Dad"

The author also hypothesizes that maybe how we view Lincoln is actually how we want to be viewed. He was born in the rags of lower class Kentucky and made it to the riches of being president. He brought people together during trying times, played peacemaker, and reunited a torn country. Clearly, we have turned him into a character with Mary Todd Lincoln acting as the antagonist. As the times change, historians and scholars have “dug up” new information on Lincoln such as his possible issues with depression and closeted homosexuality. The author explains that perhaps we’re fascinated with these new aspects about Lincoln’s character because we’re dealing with these issues today. However, we are doing an injustice to Lincoln by using him as the poster child for America and the American Dream. Due to this, we have never had a truthful portrait of the 16th president and maybe we never will.
Lincoln alongside JFK, Cleopatra and Gandhi in "Clone High"

The author’s views and opinions are fascinating and possibly groundbreaking. She has certainly made me a believer in her thesis. Her evidence is overwhelming and at times the reader wants to hit his/her head for not seeing something so obvious on their own. For the first half of the book, I was completely hooked. However, it eventually became a bit redundant and I felt as if I was progressively being hit over the head. Each chapter focuses on a different way that we “sell” Lincoln which is interesting and insightful but also overwhelming. For sociologists, anthropologists, and history buffs, this book is for you! For Lincoln-lovers, it is essential reading even if it might piss you off.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spoon River Anthology Takes It To The Stage!

First Edition

I am a huge lover of Spoon River Anthology! It is by far one of my favorite books. So when I heard that it had been turned into a play, I was a bit suspicious but also curious. I was pleasantly surprised. Though nothing can compete with the original!

Basically, this play picks up where the play “Our Town” left off. For those who have not read “Spoon River Anthology”, it takes place in a town cemetery in which every inhabitant of the cemetery gets a chance to speak about their life and death. These soliloquies are compact and are typically about ten lines of free verse poems. Many of the poems are connected with others as the majority of the inhabitants of the cemetery are related to others. Due to this, each verse gives a clearer picture of the town’s residents as well as the town itself.
Takin' It To The People!

In regards to the play, each poem is read by its subject which include adulterers, bastards, widows, town drunks, murderers, and a whole gang of colorful residents. Similar to “Our Town”, there is minimal stage direction which places the focus of the play on the story’s strong and emotional content (where it belongs). That being said, there are few interactions between characters but those that do occur are pivotal. The poems in the play are only a selection from the original book but they are still very moving and just as dark and depressing as the original book. Despite the serious tales, there are a few glimmers of hope.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Classic Makes a Return Appearance: The Tunnel

I am extremely disappointed that this is the first I have come across Ernesto Sabato because he is FANTASTIC! He has been compared to Gogol, Camus, Mann, and Greene and he certainly deserves that place amongst the greats. For the first time in almost 30 years, “The Tunnel” is being reprinted and it would behoove you to pick up a copy. I’m only looking out for you on this one!

Though it was written in 1948, the story couldn’t be more contemporary. The narrator, Juan Pablo Castel, is a successful artist who falls for a woman he sees at one of his exhibits. His adoration for her quickly becomes obsession and eventually paranoia which could put his love and life at risk.

The story is exceptional. It is dark, eerie, and has a very heavy atmosphere. Basically, it’s everything that I look for in a book. The language is sublime and not a single word is wasted. Still, the most amazing aspect of the book is the narration. At first, it seems very straight-forward in which Castel speaks directly to the reader about his past infractions. However, it quickly becomes clear that Castel is not a reliable narrator and his paranoia has made him delusional. Therefore, the novel changes from being about a heinous act and becomes a psychological drama that spirals further and further into Castel’s own psychosis. It is beautiful!

Thank You For Smoking: Movie AND Book Review (2 for the $ of 1)

I chose to read Thank You for Smoking when I stumbled upon it at a book sale and was able to pick it up for 25 cents. Ever since then, which was about a month ago, I have been dying to read this novel and I am thrilled that I finally found the time!

The plot of Thank You For Smoking revolves around Nick Naylor and his work at the Academy for Tobacco Studies in Washington D.C. Basically, he is the spokesperson for the company and spends the majority of his time defending cigarettes and trying to debunk the “myth” that cigarettes are bad for people. Though the majority of people would find this job to be immoral, Nick is able to pull it off splendidly to the point that it appears he actually believes the lies that he tells the public. Nick is as alienated in his personal life as he makes himself in his professional life. He is divorced and though he helps to support his ex-wife and son, he has little to do with either. The majority of his support comes from the self-proclaimed “Merchants of Death”, also known as the Mod Squad, which is made up of Nick and his two closest friends one of whom is a lobbyist for the alcohol industry and the other is a pro-gun lobbyist. Nick’s boss and co-workers are even less helpful in giving him a moral balance to his character. BR, Nick’s boss, is driven solely by money and power and has no qualms about casting employees aside if they refuse to help him in either of these ventures. Even more dubious is Jeanette who is BR’s office love interest and has had her eye on Nick’s job. Though the characters are interesting in themselves, the action in the novel really begins when Nick is brought on the Larry King show where a caller threatens Nick’s life.

Overall, this is a great novel! It has everything that an enthralling tale should: sex, lies, deceit, and redemption. A lot of the humor is tongue and cheek and the majority of the dialog is sarcastic. All of the characters are cynical and do not hide their prejudices which leads to some hilarious situations. Most of all, I loved the characters. I thought that Buckley did in excellent job in making almost every character seem to be without a conscience and yet the reader is encouraged to root for “the enemy”.

Less than 12 hours after I finished this novel, I ran out and rented the movie. Though they share the same title and some of the same plot points, the novel and movie are completely different. In order to make the movie stay within in an hour and a half, the director/screenwriter took out a main character who was crucial to the novel. In doing so, the film has a completely different feel than the movie. The moral of the book is to basically watch one’s back because a friend or co-worker could be your greatest enemy. However, the moral of the movie is that you should never tell anything to a reporter even if you are sleeping with her and she seems sweet. In other words, the enemy is from the outside. Due to this, the ending of the novel and that of the film are almost exact opposite of each other. While the film eliminated a pivotal co-worker character, it added Nick’s son. Though the scenes between father and son were humorous, I don’t believe that it added anything to the movie. In contrast, the book only mentions Nick’s son once or twice which further shows Nick’s alienation from his family and any kind of love. Lastly, the novel puts a great emphasis on Nick’s relationship with the owner of the Academy of Tobacco Studies (known as the Captain). It is this relationship that gives Nick any hope for the future and the Captain acts as Nick’s only ally. Yet in the movie, the profoundness of this relationship is stripped down. Overall, I think that the movie and the book are wonderful! I fully enjoyed both. I have to say that I might have even enjoyed the movie a bit more than the book (but the jury is still out on that). However, they are so different that they must be viewed as entirely different entities that merely share the same name.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Memoir of Hollywood Horrors You WON'T Find on A&E

Today seems to be the era of the memoir and while I adore reading, I do not also adore  memoirs. However, I am always willing to be proven wrong and recently...I have been proven wrong many many times! I was on a memoir high when I decided to take a stab at this one. The synopsis that the published released sounded very appealing to me because it sounded a great deal like mine and my mother’s life with some of our relatives. I found a great deal of closure in this memoir for myself and even lent the book to other members of my family. Unfortunately, for the average memoir-reader, I don’t know that this book would be that appealing.

To say that the author Laurel Saville had a tumultuous relationship with her mother, Anne, is to say that the Crusades were unpleasant. Laurel begins her mother’s story by telling of Anne was found murdered in possibly sexually assaulted in an abandoned building in West Hollywood. Upon hearing this news, Laurel decides to shelf the matter as dealing with her and her mother’s past will only hurt Laurel. When Laurel’s father becomes ill, she finally decides that it is time to come to terms with her mother’s death and her life. Laurel decides to research her mother’s murder and in doing so pulls the curtain back on her own damaged childhood. She writes about the long line of destructive and abusive men that tramped through her mother’s life; the fluctuating emotions that her mother had when drinking (and she was always drinking); and her inevitable decision to move to the other side of the country in hopes of releasing herself from her mother’s grasp. Anne’s erratic behavior, narcissistic nature, and inability to raise her children led to fractured family in which Anne was always the child and expected to be taken care of by either her grandparents or children.

While it is difficult to read such a story, it is even more arduous to have any kind of compassion of sympathy for Anne. Yet, Laurel is not the kind to be victimized or vilify her mother. Instead, she presents the facts and makes sure that the reader understands that they are presented from her point of view. Additionally, she presents the memoir in an anti-chronology. Instead of starting with her birth or her mother’s upraising, she begins with her mother’s death. She then jumps around in time between her childhood, her adulthood, Anne’s childhood, and Laurel’s adolescence. For some readers, this may be distracting and difficult to understand. However, I thought that is matched the memoir perfectly. She presents her stories as memories which are no sequential. It might make it harder for the reader, but it’s more true to life and memory.

While I was pretty entranced by the memoir, I cannot fully endorse it. The reason being that I don’t know how many people will really enjoy. As I previously stated, I could relate to the story and therefore found it merits. For those who have not had a fractured family such as Laurel’s, you may find the memoir self-indulgent or even tedious. Additionally, this is not a memoir specifically about Anne so if you are looking for a story about the dark side of Hollywood as seen through the eyes of a 1960s model...this is not the book for you. This is just as much Laurel’s memoir as it is her mother’s. Personally, I think that the book could benefit from some photographs. Many of the descriptions of Anne focus on her great beauty and eventual disintegration, similar to Dorian Gray. Unfortunately, there aren’t any photographs to back this up. I was able to find some online, but it’s a bit of a hassle when they easily could have been printed in the book. Lastly, while the writing was beautiful and I found the story to have worth, it seemed more like a personal project that had somehow been published. I am sure it was a catharsis for Laurel but I don’t know how well it will play out with larger audiences. I do believe it has a future, I am just unsure what or where that is.

Want Some Grits With This Southern Novel?

Let me get this out in the open first: I love southern literature, I love southern writers, and I can’t get enough of books set in the South. So when I heard John Milliken Thompson speak, I knew that I had to be first in line for his novel. I read it the first time when it had just come out and I have to say that I felt a bit bogged down. There seemed to be a lot of characters and descriptions that I could have done without. Two days ago, I picked it up again because it was the only book in my car and I needed something to read. I have to say that my second reading was nothing like my first!! I found the novel to be incredibly compelling, the descriptions placed me right in the action, and the characters were fantastic.

When a young woman is found floating dead in the reservoir, the officials in the sleepy town assume that it is a suicide. Upon closer examination, they find that not only was it a homicide but the young woman was pregnant! The little town goes wild as nearly every resident tramps through the local almshouse to see the body of this mysterious woman.The novel then cuts to Tommie, the murderer, who is the beloved son in his family. As a college-educated, soon to be lawyer, he far surpasses his brother, William, who is kind and gentle but far from scholastic. The story continues to bounce between Tommie, William, and various towns members as the tension builds and Tommie is brought back to the sleepy town where he possibly committed unforgivable acts.

Some have described this novel as a mystery but I believe that to be a misnomer. It’s no more a mystery than “To Kill a Mockingbird” is. Some have described it as a courtroom drama. I also believe this to be false as it is no more a courtroom drama than “Midwives” is. It is, however, an enthralling piece of historical fiction about the post Civil War years. Even more important, it is a story about family, kinship, and community. Tommie’s guilt or innocence is not the driving force of the story. Instead, it is his relationship with his brother, his aunt, and himself that truly make the novel. The fact that the novel was based on an actual case is fascinating but not surprising as Thompson’s descriptions feel so real and almost tangible. In many ways, I reminded me a great deal of “Midwives” in which the driving force of the novel isn’t the character’s guilt or innocence but the overall concept of guilt and innocence and the many ways in which a person can be put on trial.

A Ghostly Graphic Novel (don't's not scary)

I love ghost stories. I love stories of haunted houses, spooky encounters, and ghostly meetings. When I saw a book with “ghost” in the title, I requested it from the library without even reading a single review. Because of this, I had no expectations and this graphic novel certainly exceeded any that I did have.

Anya is the epitome of misunderstood; her mother wants to fatten her up with traditional Russian cuisine, her best and only friend makes fun of her crushes, and school is far from being a cake walk. One day, while on her way to school, she falls into a well where she meets a friendly ghost. Emily, the ghost, has been trapped in the well for 90 years and can’t wait to escape with Anya. The two become fast friends until Emily’s guidance takes a nasty turn. Anya must uncover Emily’s past before Anya’s future is jeopardized.
But not as friendly as this "friendly" ghost

This graphic novel has very few flaws. The illustrations are in grays, blacks, purples, and whites which become progressively oppressive as the story becomes darker. Anya is a very relate-able character as she is your typical fish out of water teen. I think teen readers will sympathize with Anya and when Emily starts to improve Anya’s life, readers may even be envious that they don’t have a ghostly pal. However, a dark twist occurs that causes Anya to give thanks for her typical teenage life. Thus causing the reader to do the same. I found the investigations into Emily’s past to be the most interesting aspect of the graphic novel. Overall, this graphic novel teaches a good lesson while remaining interesting and a bit eerie.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Can Anyone Even TRY to Write a Biography Worth of Hoover's Insanity?

I love graphic novels. I think that they’re a fantastic medium to explore a multitude of topics. Sadly, besides memoirs, there are very few nonfiction graphic novels (I am aware of the contradiction in that statement). So when I stumbled upon Rick Geary’s graphic biographies, I felt like the graphic novel deities had granted my wish. Sadly, I don’t think that this series is all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I would stick to his series on Victorian era murders.

I am not going to rely the entire biography of J. Edgar Hoover here. If you’re interested in his life, go see the new movie or Google it. Instead, this review is going to focus on this specific biography. Like Geary’s work in his other series, his graphics are used to illustrate the very dry text that he supplies. In fact, the book reads more like a timeline than an enthralling biography. At just about 100 pages, there really isn’t enough room to really delve into the conflicting aspects of Hoover’s character.
Hoover in 1959. Courtesy of the FBI

Personally, I had never read anything about Hoover so I was hoping to learn a great deal from this book. Unfortunately, the facts came at me rapid fire and I had difficulty remembering them once I closed the book. That being said, I think that people who are familiar with his life may enjoy this book as a refresher. The graphics are typical Geary but they somehow lose their charm in this book. Of course this is not a comment on all of his graphic biographies (though I took a stab at the issue on Trotsky and couldn’t get through it). For me, I’m going to stick with his previous series instead!

Similar Reads (but better): The Victorian Murder Series by Geary

The Bloody Benders -- Graphic Novel Without Being Graphic

I know that I said the Axeman of New Orleans was the best in the series, but I lied! Bloody Benders is by far the best. The illustrations are far more complex and intriguing. The story kept me hooked and strapped to my seat. In all due honesty, I had never heard of the Bloody Benders so some of my excitement could have come from being introduced to the legend. Still, this adaptation of the legend is very intriguing and perfectly fits the mysterious story.

In case you're like me and don't know the story, I'll rely it here. In 1870, John Bender Jr. and John Bender Sr. staked their claim in Kansas along the Osage Trail. Within a year, they have built a house, a grocery store and have sent for their family. The parents speak very little English and count on their beautiful daughter, Kate, to help them survive. The family dabbles in spiritualism and holds seances that have the potential to become violent. Yet, it isn’t until dead bodies start appearing in nearby towns that the Benders become #1 on the suspect list. That is if only the authorities can find them.

I absolutely love the graphics in this book; they're stark and eerie. Though they're in black and white, Geary is able to solicit great emotion and depth. The illustrations are simple, but they're far from being dull or drab. The clean lines and use of black and white (even without any gray) work well with the subject matter and atmosphere of the empty and vulnerable prairie.

Illustration of the Benders' Cabin Contraption

This one is a bit different because from the rest of the series because the murders are clearly known. Instead, the mystery is where the Bender’s fled to and if they will ever be found. Still, like the other issues in the series, it is like watching an episode of unsolved mysteries with a little bit of a history lesson.

Similar Reads: The Rest of the Victorian Murders Series

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes -- the FANTASTIC double entendre is just the beginning

Though I haven’t read a single page written by James Joyce, I have always been fascinated by him and his life. It is for this reason that when I saw a graphic novel was coming out about Joyce and the relationship with his daughter, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. I was not disappointed. In fact, I intend on buying more copies to give out to friends and family because I think this graphic novel has an audience wider that Joyce fans or graphic novel readers.

This graphic novel actually tells two stories; that of Mary Talbot and that of Lucia Joyce. Mary, the author of the graphic novel, had a tumultuous and at times an abusive upbringing. Her father was one of the leading Joycean scholars who suffered from depressive bouts and violent outbursts. Interwoven with Mary’s story is that of Lucia Joyce who has a similar relationship to her own father as Mary had to hers. For those who do not know about Lucia’s history, she was a free spirit who was misunderstood by her parents and therefore suffered a tortuous life.

There are striking similarities between Lucia and Mary who both came of age during pivotal times in history; Mary during the 1950s and 1960s right on the cusp of women’s liberation, and Lucia during the 1930s which socially mirrored that of the 1960s with changing roles for women. Yet both women are hindered by their parents’ own failed dreams and subsequent anger which kept them from encouraging their daughters. Instead, they wished to see them cloistered in a traditional setting despite the societal changes that were taken place. Both of their fathers struggled intellectually and this was played out in their troubled relationships with their daughters; forever changing their daughters’ lives.

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and adds greatly to the story. Lucia’s story is told in illustrations that are defined but blend into each other as memories typically do. This was an interesting technique and very effective for her story.  Mary’s story is told in sepia while Joyce’s story is told in shades of blue. This technique works perfectly as sepia brings to mind old photographs while shades of blue conjures up melancholy feelings which fits each story. There are images of “today” which are in full color and have very defined panels. This only adds to the feeling of remembrance in the other sections.

James Joyce ca. 1918
At under 100 pages, this graphic novel accomplishes a great deal in very little space. There is not a wasted word or image. This is quite possibly the best graphic novel I have read all year. If you know anything about me, you know that Seth is my favorite graphic novelist...well now he has some serious competition as this book rivals my love for Seth’s work. I am buying a copy for every woman, literature-lover, and historian in my life (which is basically everyone in my life...). Though I have seen this labeled as a children’s book in various places, it is far from it. It is more mild than other graphic novels but it certainly deals with issues of abuse and mental illness which is for a more advanced audience. I really think that this graphic novel will appeal to graphic novel readers and non-readers alike. The book is very approachable and the story flows easily without any jarring transitions that could throw off those who are not typically readers of graphic novels.

Similar Reads: The Fun Home

Maine Isn't Just For Maine-iacs

If you like your beach reads to have sand, an old house, and generations of family dysfunction (like I do!)...then this is the book for you! It conveniently fits into your beach bag even with all of the baggage the characters are carrying.

The novel follows four women in the Kelleher family during a monumental summer at their beach house in Maine. Alice, the matriarch, is a strong willed and loose tongued woman who feels little affection for her family. She finds it difficult to relate to her children and grandchildren despite the fact that they are her blood. Her sections flash back and forth between the current summer at her house in Maine and an event from her past that still plagues her with guilt after over 60 years. Kathleen, Alice's daughter, is the misfit in the family. She is a recovering divorce with two children and a worm farm in California that she runs with her boyfriend. Her and Alice have always butted heads which was only exacerbated with Kathleen's father died. However, a momentous event causes Kathleen to uproot herself from her peaceful life in California and come east one last time to face her demons...and her mother. Anne-Marie, Alice's daughter-in-law, is the character everyone loves to hate. She was a stay at home mom who is a stickler for proper manners and etiquette. Though she was from the wrong side of the tracks, she has abandoned most of her past in hopes of becoming an upper-class socialite. Her only problem is her dysfunctional children and distant husband. Maggie, Kathleen's daughter, has always looked for love in all of the wrong places. Unfortunately, this last place left her pregnant and alone. She goes to Maine in an effort to get back to herself and plan her next move. When these four women are forced to share a house (or two), fights erupt, skeletons are unleashed from closets, and their love of family is tested.

Don't be fooled by the rocks that Maine "got", those waters are treacherous!
I know this sounds like a lot of material, but Sullivan pulls it off without ever confusing the reader. Each character has her own dynamic and personality which is a feat when writing a novel that is constructed of all female narrators. Interestingly, none of the characters are likeable but I was still hooked on their every word. Perhaps the reason is that every family has an Alice, Kathleen, and Anne-Marie. The dynamics between the four women was fascinating and completely real. I would have enjoyed some insight from the men in the family, but I think that's another book as this one is all about the Kelleher matriarchy. Some reviewers were annoyed that the book didn't have more to do with Maine and wasn't really a beach read. Both of these statements are true. If you're looking for chick lit complete with a quirky main character and prince charming, this is absolutely not your book. If you're looking for a book that drops the names of various town and restaurants in Maine so if you have been to Maine you can feel like you're "in the know"...this is not it! This is a reasonably dark family drama that just happens to be set on the beach. Unfortunately, I could not give this book five stars because some of the Kathleen sections were a bit cliched or clunky. I felt that all of the other women were well developed and unique. However, I felt like I had met Kathleen before in many novels and Lifetime movies. Still, it didn't hurt my opinion of the novel which I will certainly be recommending.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Home Sweet Book

Hello and welcome to Literary Addicted where I am addicted to all things literary, literally. By browsing the directional bar above this post, you can see that I offer all kinds of ways to get involved with this blog and with reading! Home Sweet Book is where you can come for up-to-date information on what I am reading and how I feel about it. And let me tell you, it's not all warm and fuzzy. Typically, I review everything from fiction to nonfiction, plays, poetry, graphic novels, and the like. I am an equal opportunity reader. That begin said, I reserve the right to love or hate any book! But enough about me, let's start BOOKING!