Friday, March 29, 2013

God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian

Author: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Title: God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian
Publication Date: 1999
Number of Pages: 79
Geographical Setting: The Pearly Gates, Execution Chamber in Texas (lethal injection facility)

Time Period: 1990s
Subject Headings: imaginary conversations --death --humor --short stories --ficto-journalism
Appeal: thought provoking, lyrical, humorous
Summary: In this short fictional piece, Vonnegut becomes a "reporter on the afterlife" and works with Dr. Kevorkiaan to have "controlled near death experiences." He straps himself to a gurney and lets Dr. Kevorkian work his magic in order to go to the pearly gates and interview people. While in the "blue tunnel" Vonnegut befriends Saint Peter and gets to interview dozens of people such as: John Brown, Hitler, Eugene Debs, William Shakespeare, Isaac Asimov, Sir Isaac Newton, and many more. The interviews are quite short and humorous ranging from one to four pages in length. Each story imparts some sort of moral or irreverent value and shows what a genius Kurt Vonnegut really is. It's an insanely quick read and showcases Vonnegut's zany and brilliant writing style.

If you haven't guessed by now, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is one of my all time favorite authors. If you haven't read him, do so! Immediately!!
Similar Works:
1. Fiction: (via Goodreads)
¨ Coffin Humor by John Brinling
¨ Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
¨ Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
¨ Bagombo Snuff Boxby Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

2. Non-Fiction: (via WorldCat)
¨ And So it Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields
¨ Prescription: Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death by Jack Kevorkian, M.D.
¨ “I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagiani was philosophical. He said it sure beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Viet Nam War.”
¨ “During my most recently controlled near-death experience, I got to interview William Shakespeare. We did not hit it off. He said the dialect I spoke was the ugliest English he had ever heard, “fit to split the ears of groundlings.” He asked if it had a name, and I said “Indianapolis.””
¨ “I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great, spectacularly prolific writer and scientist, Dr. Isaac Asimov in that essentially functionless capacity. At an A.H.A. memorial service for my predecessor I said, "Isaac is up in Heaven now." That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. It rolled them in the aisles. Mirth! Several minutes had to pass before something resemble solemnity could be restored.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Behind the Candelabra

This will be filed as one of the most bizarre and impulsive reads I've embarked on this year. I was inspired to read this memoir after reading an article in last week's "Entertainment Weekly" about the upcoming HBO movie on Liberace's life and lover starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglass. I was so intrigued that I went out and got the book, even though I know little to nothing about the legacy of "Mr. Showmanship." This book told me everything I ever wanted (and didn't want) to know about the private and hidden life of one of the world's most notorious and high paid performers.

This memoir was written by Liberace's ex-lover, Scott Thorson, several years after Liberace died of AIDs. In Liberace's lifetime he vigorously denied he was gay, even up until his final moments, Scott Thorson howver, tells a different tale, the real nature of Liberace's life.

Scott was eighteen when he was wooed and seduced by Mr. Showmanship, a man forty years his senior. They had a love/ hate relationship and within five years this poor foster kid was living a more opulent lifestyle then he could ever imagine. Fur coats, priceless jewels, multiple cars, hanging with celebrities. It's every kid's dream. That dream however, turned into a nightmare when Scott underwent plastic surgery to have his face resemble Liberaces (clearly Liberace was a vain man, who makes their lover undergo surgery to look more like themselves?!?!) and as a result became addicted to drugs. The nightmare came to a close when Liberace cheated on him and then kicked him to the curb.

This tell all tale is morbidly fascinating and I can't wait to see the HBO version. Read it, you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Scorch Trials

Well after finishing "The Maze Runner" I obviously had to pick up the next installment and boy am I glad I did. It's just a fast paced and relentless as the first book and you hit the ground running.

James Dashner doesn't let you rest for a minute. Just when you think everything is fine and all the questions have been answered, BAM, another trial. As if these poor kids didn't go through enough in the first book, they're about to go through another round of hell. Only this time they must team up with some Cranks (you'll find out about them soon enough), and Theresa is on the other team. Everytime Thomas, Newt, Frypan, and Minho think they have something figured out about WICKED (the group conducting experiments and trials on them) they discover that they are horribly mistaken. The Maze was only the beginning, the scorch trials are going to test their sanity, their strength, and their will to survive.

Trust me, read this series. I will be picking up the next book later on today. They're impossible to put down.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Tattooed Lady: A History

Tattoos have always held intrigue for me (working in #8 this month!) and I was delighted to stumble across this gem, Academic librarian, Amelia Klem Osterud, pieces together a largely forgotten/overlooked past female tattoed performers and accompanies the text with beautiful photographs and illustrations.

Amelia does an excellent job describing the early tattooed beauties and their influence on women's rights, tattoos, and stereotypes in America's past and current culture. This collection is truly amazing and I enjoyed learning about some of the reasons why women covered themselves in ink and joined the circus and fled the "norm" female lifestyle. Many times it was for survival, being a tattooed woman allowed for a freer lifestyle and a relatively good income. Learning about the style and technique of tattooing was also quite fascinating (thankfully this has changed drastically).

The first generation of tattooed ladies (Nora Hildebrandt, Irene Woodward, Annie Howard - 1880's) and the second generation (Betty Broadbent, Lady Viola - 1920's) helped pave the way in how people see and understand tattoos and inspired women to rise above their status and lived in relative freedom compared to their female counterparts of the day. The author summed it up well, "These tattoed ladies made a literal mark on future generations of women, and that mark is a reminder that difference is beautiful."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silver Lining's Playbook

Literally could not put this bad boy down!! From the first page I was hooked. Nancy Pearl couldn't have endorsed a better novel (I knew she was an awesome librarian for a reason!). I absolutely cannot wait to see the movie adaptation of this. I just know it's going to be fantastic!

Pat Peoples is convinced that if he gets in shape, reads more, and is kind to people then he can leave "the bad place" and end his "apart time" from his wife Nikki. He believes that as long as you work hard enough you will always get your happy ending/silver lining.

Pat starts to learn the hard way that is not always the case. He returns from the mental institution to live with his family and while at home keeps a strict physical routine to get him in shape for Nikki. Lifting weights for many hours and jogging upwards of 10 miles everyday make him feel confident that he is on the right path to win Nikki back. He can't fathom why no one in his family will discuss Nikki with him but that doesn't deter him. Nothing does, not even beautiful, Tiffany, who begins to take an interest in him. Tiffany has problems of her own and soon these two form an interesting friendship. Soon he'll discover that he has to rely on his friends, family, Eagles football, his therapist, and Tiffany to get him through. Silver Linings aren't always what we think they are.

Simply stunning, excellent character development. I fell in love with every character. Matthew Quick does a fantastic job getting into Pat's head and making his mental problems understandable. A tour de force in a culture that surrounds mental health with such stigma. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Western - Allingham

Author: John C. Horst
Title: Allingham

Publication Date: 2013
Number of Pages: 266 pages

Geographical Setting: Arizona
Time Period: mid-nineteenth century

Subject Headings: wild west, police officers, criminals, cowboys
Appeal: fast paced, character driven, dark and graphic

Series: n/a

Summary: John Horst really got in his stride in his latest (and in my opinion, so far greatest) Western novel. This is John's first stand alone novel since his critically acclaimed Mule Tamer series (Amazon top 100 Bestselling Western  for the Kindle) and I really enjoyed getting to meet new characters. As usual, Allingham is a masterfully character driven novel. The plot goes in and out, but his wonderful, relate-able characters move the story forward.

Sergeant Allingham, a solitary and generally unlikable police officer, decides to move out west to Arizona when he finds that due to cancer he has only has months to live . His doctor assures him that Arizona's dry heat is much better suited for his condition then the cold unpredictable weather of New York. He figures that being a marshall in the Wild West will give him an easy way out, he can go out in a blaze of glory rather than wasting away in a hospital bed.

Canyon Diablo is more of a challenge then he expected, it is filled with the lowest of men, people shitting in streets, whores, pimps, and gamblers, having the run of a town. In no time at all Allingam gets to work and starts to clean up the town. It's citizens are amazed, they've never had a sheriff that lasted than more a few weeks and they've certainly never encountered anyone that was capable of improving the town. Instead of dreaming about dying in a blaze of glory, Allingham discovers that he's actually starting to enjoy himself and wants to help this town get's back on his feet. For the first time in his life he is happy. He has good deputies working under him and has found himself trying to impress the impossibly beautiful Rebecca Halstead. With everything starting to go so good at the end of his life, nothing can go wrong.... or can it???

Like I said this book is wonderfully character driven. I immediately fell in love with Francis (one of the young deputies) and his funny stories that amused the Marshall and the crew ("I'll be go to hell!"). I even found myself warming up to Allingham who really starts to develop as a character as the story progresses. He starts off cold and impenetrable but as he starts to help Canyon Diablo he lets his guard down and shows us that he really has a heart. I even found myself tearing up at the end.

John C. Horst has done it again. He's created a western that is perfect for everyone because it has a little bit of everything, it has mystery, a little romance, and historical intrigue. Give it a try!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ask the Passengers

I really, really enjoyed this book. I started reading it without looking at the summary of it, so I literally had no idea what I was getting into. Boy was I in for a treat.

This story follows Astrid, a teenager that doesn't quite fit in with the town or her family or even her friends. Her mom is an uber-bitch that wants nothing to do with Astrid, her sister is an insanely unempathetic human being and her dad is just a big stoner. Her best friend Kristina is a closet gay and Astrid keeps her secret for over two years. The only thing is Astrid has a secret of her own, something so secret she doesn't know if she can admit it to herself. She is gay as well.

Throughout the book she keeps questioning it, and she really doesn't know if she's gay or not til the end. She enjoys kissing Dee but does it make her gay? With the help of her imaginary friend Frank Socrates (the Greek philosopher who has been graciously given a first name by Astrid) she starts to think about everything in a new light and really begins to question everything. She so used to just passing her love along to others (she lays on the picnic bench and sends love up to all the airplanes that fly overhead, resulting in surprising side stories from airline passangers. It's really an interesting storytelling technique) that she has hardly saved any for herself.

This is really a great read. Like for real. It's my first GLBT teen novel and I thought it was fantastic. For everyone out there who has stereotypes, this book isn't just for gays. It's must read for everyone who has ever questioned anything in their life. It's a very insightful read and you'll be the better for it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Audiobook Review for the Library Journal

Thackeray, William Makepeace. Barry Lyndon. 11 CDs. unabridged 13 ½ hours. Naxos Audiobooks. 2013. ISBN 9781843797081.

In this 1844 classic, English author William Makepeace Thackeray, delights readers with the tale of Barry Lyndon, a classically "unreliable narrator." Lyndon is an Irish rogue who joins the British army after an ill-fated love affair and then goes on to fame and fortune as a fashionable gambler. As in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair, Thackeray presents his characters accurately and realistically. His portrayal of the dissolute, unscrupulous Barry, a degenerate who thinks he is royalty amongst men, is masterful. Barry Lyndon may be unlikable, but the beauty of the words and the depth of the story make for a fantastic read.  British voice artist, Jonathon Keeble, also helps brings this amusing tale to life with his rich and wonderfully faceted voice. Recommended for all fans of classic English literature. – Erin Cataldi, Franklin College, Franklin, IN

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Blood Meridian

Holy cannolli, this was definitely one of the hardest books I've read in a while. Not only because it was a difficult writing style but because it was so graphic and gut wrenching.

This story follows the adventures of "the kid" and "the judge" as they wreak havoc across Mexico and the American border. It's loosely based off historical fact which makes it all the more disturbing. When the fourteen year old kid falls in with the judge and a group of other ruthless men he finds out firsthand what the price of Indian scalps are worth. The story mainly takes place over a year and chronicles the massacres, debauchery, and savagery that this band of men conflict on many innocent and other savage men. The writing style is so graphic and detailed that you feel as if you're with them in this mid-nineteenth horror story.

It's a rough read but I can easily understand why it's been chosen as one of the top one hundred books of all time. McCarthy vividly brings to life one of the most ruthless and captivating stories of all time.