Category Archives: Nonfiction

Alice and Freda Forever

Finished Alice and Freda Forever by Alexis Coe.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation—it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.

Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter—and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail—including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.

Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes—painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.”

This book is absolutely heartbreaking.  It’s based on a true story, but one that I had never heard.

In the late 1800s, two women were in love.  Or at least one of them was.  And they were engaged to be married.  Except it was the late 1800s and they were two women.  So things didn’t go well when their families found out and they stopped talking, as their families demanded.  And then one of them ended up dead by the other one’s hand.

There are about a billion different ways this all could have been prevented, not the least of which is by one person (really, almost anyone who knew them) being aware of just how deep their friendship was and how unhinged Alice was at being denied access to Freda and stepping in to keep them separated.

While Alice’s story breaks my heart, she is not the hero of this story.  This story doesn’t have a hero but it has a ton of victims.

This book is so compelling and, while it’s incredibly short, it made me feel like I knew Alice and Freda.  A lot of research was obviously done, and it helps that things were included (love letters, court documents, etc).

This is an amazing book.  Highly recommended.

Bogeyman

Finished Bogeyman by Steve Jackson.  I received a copy for review from the author.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A WildBlue Press original true crime story from the New York Times bestselling author of MONSTER and NO STONE UNTURNED, describing in dramatic detail and with heart-rending poignancy the efforts of tenacious Texas lawmen to solve the cold case murders of three little girls and hold their killer accountable for his horrific crimes.

As you know, I don’t read very much nonfiction.  This book makes me want to change that.

Before reading this, I hadn’t heard anything about David Penton, who is the titular Bogeyman.  I feel like now I know almost too much.  I don’t want to get melodramatic, but he’s one of those people who is just pure evil.

You should know that bad things happen throughout the course of the book but that Steve Jackson doesn’t really go into detail.  I mean, you know what happens, but it’s not gone into in lurid detail.

It’s obvious that Steve Jackson did a great deal of research into this, and that he talked to a lot of people.  While it seems that we hear about things mainly from the police officers’ perspective, we also hear from the victims’ parents and from a few people who had seen Penton and were nearly abducted but got away.  (Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them; he was able to take almost every child he came across.)

This book is not for the easily disturbed, but I found it fascinating.  Also, given all the smears that police officers are facing now, it was nice to read about these officers who went through so much to find this man who was preying on and killing children.  There were a lot of repercussions for them—mainly emotionally, although some marriages suffered as well—and they just would not stop until he was found, apprehended, tried and jailed.

Highly recommended.

Poll

I feel like I always complain about having too many amazing books and not enough time, and yet I keep acquiring more.  (Book blogger problems!)

So here are some of the books I have but haven’t read.  Which ones should I move up?  Which ones can wait a bit?

NONFICTION:

1)  Books, Movies, Rhythm, Blues by Nick Hornby

2)  Young Money by Kevin Roose

3)  Carsick by John Waters

4)  The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

5)  A Year and Six Seconds by Isabel Gillies

ADULT:

1)  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

2)  Never Tell by Alafair Burke

3)  The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

4)  Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

5)  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

NA:

1)  The First Comes Love trilogy by Katie Kacvinsky

2)  Caught Up in Her by Lauren Blakely

3)  Frenched by Melanie Harlow (a recommendation from a friend)

4)  Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

5)  The Marked Men series by Jay Crownover

YA:

1)  Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

2)  The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

3)  The His Fair Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers

4)  Every Day by David Levithan

5)  The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

MG:

1)  Ida B by Katherine Hannigan

2)  Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

3)  Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan

4)  Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

5)  May B by Caroline Starr Rose

I Said Yes To Everything

Finished I Said Yes To Everything by Lee Grant.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal in New York City, actress Lee Grant spent her youth accumulating more experiences than most people have in a lifetime: from student at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse to member of the leg­endary Actors Studio; from celebrated Broadway star to Vogue “It Girl.” At age twenty-four, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Detective Story, and a year later found herself married and a mother for the first time, her career on the rise.

And then she lost it all.

Her name landed on the Hollywood black­list, her offers for film and television roles ground to a halt, and her marriage fell apart.

Finding reserves of strength she didn’t know she had, Grant took action against anti-Communist witch hunts in the arts. She threw herself into work, accepting every theater or teaching job that came her way. She met a man ten years her junior and began a wild, liberat­ing fling that she never expected would last a lifetime. And after twelve years of fighting the blacklist, she was finally exonerated. With cour­age and style, Grant rebuilt her life on her own terms: first stop, a starring role on Peyton Place, and then leads in Valley of the Dolls, In the Heat of the Night, and Shampoo, for which she won her first Oscar.

Set amid the New York theater scene of the fifties and the star-studded parties of Malibu in the seventies, I Said Yes to Everything evokes a world of political passion and movie-star glamour. Grant tells endlessly delightful tales of costars and friends such as Warren Beatty, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Sidney Poitier, and writes with the verve and candor befitting such a seductive and beloved star.“

This book is absolutely captivating.  I haven’t seen very many of Lee Grant’s movies (although I’ve seen a few and plan to see more) but you don’t need to to appreciate this book or its stories.

After reading this, I get the feeling that Lee Grant would be a fantastic person to be friends with.  I also believe that there could be another whole book full of Hollywood stories; as fun as this one was, you can tell that it didn’t even scratch the surface of the things she could say.

Recommended.

In Which Kelly Tries Graphic Novels Again

Pretty recently, my Facebook friend Cindy Beth posted an article of five best graphic novels to try. I have not been a fan of this but I decided maybe I should give them another shot.

I picked the two that were complete novels (as opposed to part of an ongoing series).

The two I read were This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Andre the Giant by Box Brown.

Of the two, I prefered This One Summer, which isn’t surprising. I generally avoid nonfiction.

Andre the Giant is exactly what you’d expect: a biography of Andre the Giant, partially told via anecdote of those who knew him. I was hoping there’d be more on The Princess Bride (one of my most favorite movies) but I can’t complain. That was a few months of his life, so it’s unrealistic to expect more than I got.

The thing that sticks with me from that is an anecdote from Mandy Patinkin (and echoed from several others), just how sad his life was. Everywhere he went, people would stare. And generally they’d make fun. Apparently making The Princess Bride was a bit of a respite because no one stared at him.

This One Summer describes being a young teenager so perfectly. It’s about this girl whose parents are on the verge of splitting up and the three of them still go on vacation to the place where they go every summer. Rose’s summer BFF is a girl named Windy, who’s a little bit younger. Generally this isn’t a huge deal but Rose is a bit trapped between childhood and adolescence.

Rose is the biggest, moodiest brat. And it’s a hard, confusing summer.

I enjoyed both, but I think it’d be better if they were actual books. I won’t say I’ll never read another graphic novel, but I think for me, the stories matter more without the pictures. Even so, both these books are really good.

How To Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way Of Life

Finished How To Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way Of Life by Melissa Hellstern.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On many occasions, she was approached to pen her autobiography, the definitive book of Audrey Hepburn, yet she never agreed. A beloved icon who found success as an actress, a mother and an humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn perfected the art of gracious living.

More philosophy than biography, How to Be Lovely revisits the many interviews Audrey gave over the years, allowing us to hear her voice directly on universal topics of concern to women the world over: careers, love lives, motherhood and relationships. Enhanced by rarely seen photographs, behind-the-scenes stories, and insights from the friends who knew her well, How to Be Lovely uncovers the real Audrey, in her own words.

While she would have been the last to say so, Audrey Hepburn was an expert in the art of being a woman. How to Be Lovely imparts whatever wisdom and insight she found along the way to the millions who grew up, or will grow up, wanting to be just like her.

Published to coincide with Audrey Hepburn’s would-be seventy-fifth birthday, How to Be Lovely offers a rare glimpse into the woman behind the mystique and the definitive guide to living genuinely with glamour and grace.”

This book is basically full of Audrey Hepburn quotes (mostly by her, but a few are by her friends and family).  There are a few biographical notes, but not very many.

It’s probably not very surprising, then, that after reading this, all I wanted to do was watch Sabrina. (Yes, I know everyone’s favorite is either Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Roman Holiday or My Fair Lady, but mine’s Sabrina.)

I know a lot of people feel this way, but I absolutely love Audrey Hepburn.  (Probably second only to my love of Katharine Hepburn, who is probably slightly more attainable as a role model for me.)  She was in these great movies and people absolutely adored her, but she knew who she was and what she wanted and she followed that, even though it would have been easier to stay in Hollywood and make a ton of money.  (She walked away to spend more time with her kids growing up.)

I also very much respect the fact that she spent so much time helping other people in the world—especially children—through her work with UNICEF.

This book is super fast reading.  Recommended.

Film In Five Seconds

Finished Film in Five Seconds.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In today’s jet-fuelled, caffeine-charged, celebrity-a-minute world, who actually has the time to watch a film from start to finish? Let’s face it, life’s too short. Now, Film in Five Seconds lets you fast-forward to the best bits so you can enjoy all your favourite movie moments in – literally – moments.

Design studio H-57 have taken over 150 iconic films and cut away all the useless details, boiling them down into ingenious pictograms and creating hilarious visual snapshots that are witty, provocative and to the point.

From Batman to Bridget Jones, Grease to The Godfather, King Kong to The King’s Speech, via slapstick, sci-fi and superheroes, you’ll laugh out loud as you identify some of the greatest screen moments of all time. This is the perfect book for film buffs and anyone with a sense of humour or a short attention span.”

This is the perfect present for anyone who loves movies.  There are over 150 pictures representing movies (ranging from classics to more recent films) and it’s incredibly fun trying to figure out what they are.

Some are incredibly easy and some had me kicking myself later.  This book is incredibly fun (except for the ones that made me hate myself for not guessing).

Recommended.

I Heart My Little A-Holes

Finished I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Popular blogger Karen Alpert shares her hysterical take on the many “joys” of parenting – I Heart My Little A-Holes is full of hilarious stories, lists, thoughts and pictures that will make you laugh so hard you’ll wish you were wearing a diaper.

I was very excited to get this book even though I don’t have kids.  It seemed to be the kind of book that anyone could appreciate and, even though I’m not a mom, I’m an aunt and a godmother (to non-a-holes, btw).

This is more like a series of vignettes than an actual book.  Each entry is only a few pages (and the book is pretty small) so you can tear through this very quickly.  (Even if you only have a few moments of privacy/quiet time a day.)

I would also like to point out to anyone offended by the title that it’s very, very clear that Karen Alpert loves her kids.  I think that tales of chaos are more fun (and certainly more funny) than, say, the other aspects of parenting.  But it’s definitely obvious that she loves being a mom and adores her kids.  So don’t call CPS on her.

I loved this book and laughed out loud more often than I could actually count.  (I will say, though, that it didn’t do much to change my “no kids for me” stance.)

Recommended.

God and the Gay Christian

Finished God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to some-day share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he’d been taught, condemned gay relationships.

Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. With care and precision, Vines asked questions such as:

• Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not?
• How should we apply the teachings of Jesus to the gay debate?
• What does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah really say about human relationships?
• Can celibacy be a calling when it is mandated, not chosen?
• What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same-sex relations?

Unique in its affirmation of both an orthodox faith and sexual diversity, God and the Gay Christian is likely to spark heated debate, sincere soul search¬ing, even widespread cultural change. Not only is it a compelling interpretation of key biblical texts about same-sex relations, it is also the story of a young man navigating relationships with his family, his hometown church, and the Christian church at large as he expresses what it means to be a faithful gay Christian.”

I absolutely loved this book.

My only quibble—and it’s a small one—is that I would’ve preferred if we had seen more of a personal side to it.  But I absolutely understand why Matthew Vines made the choices he did: the people he’s trying to convince are more likely to be swayed by Bible verses than by stories from his life and from his family.

I would recommend this book for anyone, but especially for gay kids who are in a Christian church.  Obviously this is a great book for their families, too, but if there’s anything that gay kids in those churches need to hear, it’s this: “Don’t listen to the people who say otherwise.  God loves you.  God values you.  You matter.”  And I can say it (and so can all the gay celebrities) but this book can back it up with verses and historical context.

It’s also incredibly nice for people to know that you can be both Christian and gay.  You don’t have to choose between dying alone or forfeiting your beliefs.  You may have to change churches, but that’s not a horrible thing.

This is a book that could literally save lives.  Highly, highly recommended.

The Haunting of the Gemini

Finished The Haunting of the Gemini: A True Story of New York’s Zodiac Murders by Jackie Barrett.

Summary (from Goodreads):

” On a sweltering summer day in 1992, the body of Patricia Fonti was found in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Highland Park.

She had been stabbed more than 100 times.

The Zodiac Killer had struck again.

Renowned psychic medium Jackie Barrett is no stranger to visits from the dead. But when the spirit of Patricia Fonti comes to her twenty years after her death, Jackie finds herself caught in an unexpected battle for the restless, schizophrenic soul of a murder victim. Here is Jackie’s first-person account of her connection with Patricia Fonti and her murderer, New York Zodiac Killer Heriberto �Eddie” Seda, whose early 1990s killing spree paralyzed the city with fear.

In exclusive letters, drawings and recorded telephone conversations from prison, Eddie divulges things to Jackie that have never been made public, including how he killed and why. Her astounding interviews with the man who calls himself �The Soul Collector” give rare insight into the recesses of a very dark mind. And while Jackie struggles to help Patricia Fonti find peace, Eddie insists he and Jackie are two halves of a whole, that together they make up the astrological sign of the twins—the Gemini….”

This is easily one of the most unsettling books I’ve ever read, and I’ve been watching horror movies since I was nine and reading scary stories for about that long.

I first heard about Jackie Barrett a few years ago when a documentary on her relationship (for lack of a better word) with Ronnie DeFeo was on TV.  Last year, she released a book on it.

Jackie Barrett is psychic and deals with the darker side of life.  She speaks with murderers and their victims, and is privy to things that most of us are not.  Most of us are able to debate whether or not there are angels and demons, and most of us can’t answer that question definitively because we’ve never seen or experienced one.  Jackie Barrett doesn’t debate; she knows.

I said all that to say this: in this book, she communications with the Zodiac (New York one, not west coast one) and one of his victims, and almost loses herself in the process.

There are parts of this book—probably something like 85%, actually, so a little more than “parts,” right?—that sent actual chills down my spine.

This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re curious about the paranormal, you need to check out her books.  Highly recommended.