Category Archives: Nonfiction

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.

I Don’t Know What You Know Me From

Finished I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer.  I received a copy from the publisherIn case you legitimately don’t know what you know her from, click here.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Like Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and other (bestselling) co-stars, Judy Greer is taking pen to paper and in her honest, self-deprecating, and hilariously relatable way reminding us why she’s not America’s sweetheart but America’s best friend.

You know Judy Greer, right? Wait, what was she in again? The Wedding Planner, 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, The Descendants. Yes, you totally recognize her. And, odds are, if you’re like most women in America, you feel like she’s already your friend. Thankfully, Greer has finally written a book of essays about all the moments, topics, observations, and confessions that you would hope to hear from your best friend. How a midnight shopping trip to CVS can cure all? What it’s like to have stepchildren? And how she really feels about her mother? Yes, it’s all in there. But Judy Greer isn’t just a regular friend-she’s a celebrity friend. Want to know which celebs she’s peed next to? Or what the Oscars were actually like? Or which hot actor gave her father a Harley Davidson? Don’t worry—that’s included, too. Besides being laugh-out-loud funny, you’ll love her because she makes us genuinely feel like she’s one of us. Because even though she sometimes has a stylist and a make-up artist, she still wears (and hates!) Spanx. Because she starts her book like this: “This is who I am. This is what I think about things. This is stuff that happened to me, that could have just as easily have happened to you. I’m not that special, and we’re probably not that different. I think I am really lucky to be where I am in life, but I’ve never really lost that feeling that I don’t fit in, and if you have, will you please email me and tell me how you did it? I’m serious.“

If you watch movies or have a TV, you know who Judy Greer is (whether or not you know it).  TV-wise, she’s been on Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory and House, MD to name just a few.  In terms of movies, she’s been in 13 Going On 30, The Descendants and the remake of Carrie (again, this is a small sampling).

What you may not know is that she’s also a really funny person.  I laughed out loud reading this book so many times.  It’s sort of like a human version  of that US magazine feature about how stars are just like us.  Except Judy Greer really IS just like us.  (It’s not like how Jennifer Aniston is just like us except crazy rich and can get pretty much whatever she wants.)

There are three parts to this book: her childhood and college years, Hollywood and what I will call her real life.  I love movies so I liked the Hollywood part best, but the entire book was funny and smart and endearing.

I would’ve liked a few more set stories (especially from 13 Going on 30, which is one of my favorite movies) but that didn’t make me enjoy the book any less.

Highly recommended.

Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s: Why Don’t They Do It Like They Used To?

Finished Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s: Why Don T They Do It Like They Used To? by David Roche.  I received a copy from the publisher on Netgalley.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In “Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s” author David Roche takes up the assumption shared by many fans and scholars that original horror movies are more “disturbing,” and thus better than the remakes. He assesses the qualities of movies, old and recast, according to criteria that include subtext, originality, and cohesion. With a methodology that combines a formalist and cultural studies approach, Roche sifts aspects of the American horror movie that have been widely addressed (class, the patriarchal family, gender, and the opposition between terror and horror) and those that have been somewhat neglected (race, the Gothic, style, and verisimilitude). Containing seventy-eight black and white illustrations, the book is grounded in a close comparative analysis of the politics and aesthetics of four of the most significant independent American horror movies of the 1970s–“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead, ” and “Halloween”–and their twenty-first-century remakes.

To what extent can the politics of these films be described as “disturbing” insomuch as they promote subversive subtexts that undermine essentialist perspectives? Do the politics of the film lie on the surface or are they wedded to the film’s aesthetics? Early in the book, Roche explores historical contexts, aspects of identity (race, ethnicity, and class), and the structuring role played by the motif of the American nuclear family. He then asks to what extent these films disrupt genre expectations and attempt to provoke emotions of dread, terror, and horror through their representations of the monstrous and the formal strategies employed? In this inquiry, he examines definitions of the genre and its metafictional nature. Roche ends with a meditation on the extent to which the technical limitations of the horror films of the 1970s actually contribute to this “disturbing” quality. Moving far beyond the genre itself, “Making and Remaking Horror” studies the redux as a form of adaptation and enables a more complete discussion of the evolution of horror in contemporary American cinema.”

First a caveat: I was expecting a fun discussion of horror movies, and instead this read like a PhD thesis.  And this is published by a university press, so…clearly I’m an idiot. :)

But it’s always fun for me to read about horror movies and this gave me a lot to think about.

He chose to focus on originals from the 1970s and remakes from 2000s, which means that many film franchises aren’t qualified (Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street premiered in the 1980s).  He chose to focus on the originals and remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween and The Hills Have Eyes.  Of those, I’m most familiar with the remakes of TCM and DotD and the original of Halloween.

He discusses the movies in terms of economics, gender, race and class differences and puts them in context of their respective eras.

I’d never really considered a lot of what he pointed out (especially TCM in terms of economics) and it was interesting and fun to think about these horror movies on a deeper level.

I’m not recommending this book to many people, mainly because most of my friends aren’t huge on horror movies anyway, and especially would not be interested in majorly in-depth discussions of them.  But if this sounds interesting to you, absolutely read it.  I had a fantastic time. :)