Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mardi Gras!

Last Saturday I went to a Bal Masque Mardi Gras party with some of my friends...we all clean up pretty nice!
It was the Bal Masque for the Mystic Krewe of the Druids and this was the outgoing Druid Queen. All my pictures of the Druid King turned out really fuzzy, it was so dark in the theater.
This towering bee was the headliner of one of the acts. I have video which I am currently trying to upload.

This was the first Mardi Gras party I've ever been to and I will definitely go back if I get the invite! I had a great time and it was not too far from home. I stayed at the hotel with my friends so, other than my ticket in, it was a fairly inexpensive evening. I didn't even suffer too much the next day though I was tired.
One of my favorite acts of the evening (I was too tipsy by then to think of getting video) was a tableau in which a gentleman in poncho and sombrero is sitting at the foot of a cactus, his faithful burro grazing nearby. In a nearby cafe, a beautiful senorita is fanning herself. Suddenly, the burro stands up and breaks into song to the tune of Age of Aquarius. Instead, the chorus is Age of the Hairy Ass and it had funny lyrics to go along with it. For the rest of the evening, the joke of the moment had a Hairy Ass somewhere in it, rest assured :) It was SO funny, I just WISH I could remember some of the lyrics!
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Kat Von D book signing

I imagine this was more tattooed people than Barnes & Noble had ever seen congregated within their store...they had us snaking in lines throughout the store. I had an E on my armband so it took awhile, but I was patient (and I shopped)!
As you can see, she shook hands with this person and with everyone who stepped up to the table. Of course, you had to have an armband and to get an armband you had to have or buy a book :) smart marketing there... You can also see the 6 inch platform heels. My feet hurt just looking at them!

I didn't have anyone in line with me and Katie and I lost touch while I was in line so this is me taking a picture of Kat Von D signing my book. Right before she looked up to shake hands and take my book, I set my shopping basket on the floor and shoved it ahead of me. She got concerned that she'd knocked something over and I could feel my face blush when I, in my best and unavoidable Southern manner said, "No ma'am, that was my shopping basket." Those were the only words I spoke to Kat Von D other than to say thank you.

I did not see Nikki Sixx anywhere in the store :)
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things I do to pass the time

1. visit the Hero Factory!
2. Make my hero.
3. Laugh.

Here's mine! (Hey T, we can stick her in the backseat with the cowboy!)

Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

Jo Graham is now on my list of favorite authors!  I found out about her first novel, Black Ships, at a luncheon for the U.S. launch of Orbit (the largest publisher of scifi/fant in the U.K.) when I was in Boston for a library conference a couple of years ago.  Black Ships is a retelling of the Aeneid.  The narrator of the story, Gull, is a young girl raised as a disciple of the Lady of the Dead.  Her gift for prophecy ensures her destiny as a counselor to kings.  I especially loved the mysticism of the story and her newest book, Hand of Isis, has that same mystical quality on set in Egypt.
In Hand of Isis
Graham tells the story of the great female Pharaoh Cleopatra as
seen through the eyes of her half-sister and handmaiden, Charmian.  This book is just gorgeous!  The descriptions of Alexandria and other areas of Egypt make it seem like Graham hopped in her time machine to do the research for this book.  Everything was so immediate and  of clarity I haven’t read in 
some time.  There are many characters with names unfamiliar to 
this western tongue and mind but I had only a little trouble keeping up with the cast.  There are Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Britons, and Jews among the main characters with tales of Alexander the Great, Moses, Julius Caesar, Horus, Isis, and Osiris sprinkled in for good measure.  If you’ve studied this part of history at all, you will not be surprised by the ending but by telling the story from the point of view of one her handmaidens, Graham avoids having to end the story there.  Several religions make their presences known and it was eye-opening to say the least.  I am now encouraged to further study, though I’m not quite sure where I’ll be able to fit that in J

Romance, intrigue, heartbreak, betrayal, joy, and sacrifice interweave to make one hell of a story! This book will be available March 23, 2009!

High Voltage Tattoo by Kat Von D

Yay, yay, yay!  I loved High Voltage Tattoo!  I guess I am biased as I am a tattoo afficionado and love Kat Von D's show, LA Ink, but I liked this book as a reader as well.  The writing is raw, unpolished, and honest and Kat Von D has a great life story as well.  

Katherine Von Drachenberg was born March 8, 1982 in Nuevo Leon, Mexico,  and had a fairly amazing upbringing.  She and her siblings were brought up with a love of music and classically trained on a number of instruments.  Kat Von D still loves to play the piano (I believe I have talked the Book Diva into teaching me in exchange for my lasagna!). Her teenage years are where she began to really change and it was brought on, as usual, by the love of a bad boy :) I think we can all pretty much sympathize there! Her first tattoo was a momento of that relationship and she still has it and has no plans to cover it.  She left home very early, dropping out of school to do so and the tattoo shop timeline from then to now is best gotten from her book.  I would do it no justice here.  There are great quotes on art and inspiration throughout and some AbSoLuTeLy FaNtAsTiC tattooes and tattoo art as well as a fascinating look into the heavy hitters of the tattoo world.  I should only be so lucky...

I was jonesing for another tattoo anyway but now I don't know if I'll even be able to wait until the library conference in Chicago to get another (I like to get them while I attend conferences in other cities).  If I had any money right now, I'd go spend it on a tattoo.  I have a few things in my head that won't go away and I always research those for future tattooes.

Even more exciting was that she did a booksigning here in Birmingham last weekend so I got my copy autographed by the grand lady herself!  She seems nice on the show, sounded even nicer in her book, and my impression was not changed by the casual meeting.  She stood to shake hands with and greet every person who brought their book to be signed.  She made eye contact and smiled genuinely as far as I could tell.  I choose to believe that she did at any rate.  She is SO TINY in person....a little fey creature in leather and 6 inch platform heels :)

I have pictures but I'm petsitting right now so I'll get them uploaded this weekend when I go home.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

As I mentioned earlier, the Harper Hall trilogy of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels is one of my absolute favorites.  Dragonsinger takes up Menolly's story after she travels to the Harper Hall to begin her training as a Harper.  She has teachers she likes and teachers she hates, much like any school girl, but she can now make use of her musical gifts unlike when she was severely punished for doing so in her Sea Hold.  

I love to struggle with her through making friends in the hall, dealing with spiteful girls who are jealous of her talent, and her travails in finding her place in a craft she had thought denied to her for so long.

Her earliest friend in the Harper Craft Hall is a young boy named Piemur, apprenticed to the voice Master of the Hall due to his unparalleled singing ability.  Her worst enemy is a young lady named Pona, one of the paying students of the hall and a spiteful child who hates Menolly not only for her talent but also for her higher rank as daughter of a Sea Holder.  As she navigates the unfamiliar social mazes of life in the Harper Hall, Menolly comes to realize her own strength and selfworth.  I could go on and on but I will leave it at that, since the end of the trilogy is coming up with Dragondrums.  I'm almost finished with it :)

I'll say again that this is a great coming-of-age story that I enjoyed as a young adult and continue to enjoy today. 

To Seduce a Texan by Georgina Gentry

First off, I have to apologize to all Ms. Gentry's fans throughout the world.

Second, I thought this was one of the worst romance novels of my reading career.  I just couldn't get the honorable Confederate soldier bit.  If you feel so bad about the orders to kill innocent black people, why are you in the Confederate army?  

Also, I came across this in a discussion forum on plus-size heroines.  To me, a plus size heroine does not spend 95% of the book telling herself how worthless and repulsive she is.

So, some "honorable Confederate soldiers" disobey direct orders to murder a military unit of black soldiers who'd surrendered.  Their commander demands $50,000 (the Confederate army is broke after all) or they'll be court marshalled.  So they've travelled out West to rob a bank to get the money.  Unfortunately, the town they've chosen recently built a Union fort nearby and the town is overrun with Union soldiers.  They decide to kidnap the banker's stepdaughter, whom the banker is not sad to see go.  The soldiers find themselves saddled with a helpless young lady who can do nothing for herself.  The banker is delighted that his stepdaughter, who was set to inherit the bank on her birthday, is out of the picture.  Love ensues.  Lies threaten.  Affection prevales.  You get the picture. 

I was not convinced.  The Waco's hokey, fake Texan dialect (yes, his nickname is Waco because that's where his ranch is), Rosemary's constant laments about how worthless and repulsive she is, and a host of other weak plot points just withered any interest I had in the book.  I skimmed to the end just to make sure there were no surprises.  All romance has a reader, else Harlequin would not still be doing business, but this title was not for me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

I've read many books in McCaffrey's legendary Dragons of Pern novels, though none of the more recent that she has been writing with her son or the Acorna books I'm sad to say.  Out of all the one's I've read, the Harper Hall Trilogy is my absolute favorite.  These people are like family to me and I read and listen to the audiobook of this trilogy AT LEAST once every year...I like it that much!

Dragonsong is the first in the trilogy and introduces most of the cast of characters that you will come to love in the next two novels, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums (which of course I'm listening to now and you will get here in coming weeks!).

*Note-my spelling may be off from time to time, please forgive me*
Menolly, at 15, is the youngest daughter of the Sea Holder of Half Circle Sea Hold and the only one truly unhappy to be there.  Gifted musically, she spends her days tending to the sea hold's elderly Harper, Petterin.  I guess I should back up and say that the Harper craft is one of the most venerable on Pern.  Also, They are the teachers, singers, and keepers of history for the planet pretty much.  After Petterin passes away, Menolly has no support of her musical gifts at all and is persecuted for them in fact.  Her father believes that girls cannot be Harpers and that Menolly's music is simple tuning and twiddles.  

Another bit of background for those new to the series.  The Pernese people have bred a race of dragons to fight the menace of Thread, spor-like thingies thrown down on Pern when the Red Star passes close enough.  Thread dissolve/eat anything organic and you can imagine the havoc that causes I'm sure.

I won't describe every single thing that goes on because that would not be fair to new readers but suffice it to say that Menolly decides that death would be preferable to living without music and she decides to live Holdless.  She gets unexpected help from an indigenous species of the planet that had long passed into mythical status.  She learns to live on her own, gets to play her music, and has friends galore in her cave by the sea.  It is only when she is rescued from Threadfall and taken to the local dragon weir that her life truly begins to change for the better.

I have not done a credible job at all of conveying how lovely these books are but I hope you are intrigued nonetheless!

Theodore Roosevelt by Louis Auchincloss

I am officially in love with this series of books after having read only one of them!  The American Presidents series, put together by General Editor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (preeminent political historian and the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Humanities Medal), prides itself on striving

"to present the grand panorama of our chief executives in volumes compact enough for the busy reader, lucid enough for the student and authoritative enough for the scholar (from their website)."

A host of notable authors lend their talents to these compact and lucid volumes including (but not limited to!) Louis Auchincloss, Robert Dallek, Elizabeth Drew and Douglas Brinkley.


The bookgroup I lead at work is meeting at the end of the month to discuss presidential biographies and I chose the volume on Theodore Roosevelt written by Louis Auchincloss from the American Presidents series and it is WoNdErFuL!  I will be the first to admit that I was intimidated when the group selected presidential biographies as a topic but what a delight to find this series.  Each volume is more an essay than a scouring biography.  The website describes it best:

Each volume will be an incisive, meditation-length biographical essay that focuses on the subject's presidency, even as it offers a distillation of his life, character, and career.

I found the information accessible and interesting, artfully arranged and compulsively readable. 

Teddy Roosevelt was a man quick to anger and quicker to love.  An avid hunter, TD on safari was an angel of death who racked up considerable kills: nine lions, eight elephants, twenty zebras, seven giraffes, and six buffaloes.  Yet during his tenure as president, TD increased our national forests from 42 million acres to 172 million (much to the disgust and dismay of the timber industry) and created fifty-one national wildlife refuges.  

It is this internal opposition that Auchincloss's essay is best at portraying.  He asks the reader, more than once, to consider TD's words and deeds not only within the context of his time but also in ours.  Would the same actions fly in our current time?  Would speeches and opinions such as TD's make him a pariah in the 21st century?

I love a book that takes me outside of my comfort zone and this one, despite being nonfiction, did that as well as some of the best fiction I've read.  I'll say again that I really liked the way that Auchincloss engages the reader, asking, in active language, he/she to consider how TD would fare in today's world or how the reader might fare in TD's.  Auchincloss has piqued my interest in TD's battles with William Howard Taft (unfortunately, not represented in The American President's series!) and Woodrow Wilson (I have requested this volume from another library!).  I don't know that I'll get to them before my bookgroup meets, but I'm going to give it my best shot!

Monday, February 16, 2009

! ! ! this just in ! ! !

I just read a review for a book called "Salmonella Men on Planet Porno" and also one for "Rancid Pansies" which I thought at first said "Rancid Panties"...I love my job ;-)

that is all.

Dan Simmons giveaway

I am newly enamored of Dan Simmons after starting his spectacular new book, Drood, about the last few years of the life of Charles Dickens.  I've never read about a London quite as icky as this :)

anyway, I stumbled across a blog giveaway of one of his other titles, The Terror, which I've been wanting to pick up for quite some time.  Has anyone (who happens to stumble across this post!) read The Terror?  What did you think?  Click on over to Marta's Meanderings and enter to win a copy for yourself!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I'll start by saying that I LoVe Susan Elizabeth Phillips!  I think her books are a great blend of humor and romance that really is very entertaining.  It Had to Be You, Nobody's Baby but Mine, Dream a Little Dream, This Heart of Mine, Ain't She Sweet?, Match Me If You Can, Natural Born Charmer...I loved all of those.  I haven't gotten to all of her books yet, but those are my favorites so far.  All I can say is that apparently this is an early effort on her part that has been reissued.  Sandra Brown does it and so do alot of other writers in the romance genre.  When you hit it big, start reissuing early work in shiny new packaging.  I don't fault her for that.  

So, Glitter Baby.  Belinda is essentially a movie star groupie who moves to sunny Cali in search of her personal obsession, James Dean.  Instead, she finds Errol Flynn.  A torid affair ensues but eventually Flynn tires of her, leaving her to the machinations of his arch enemy Alexi Savagar.  Belinda finds herself pregnant with Flynn's child and decides that Savagar is the perfect patsy.  She is unable to pass the pregnancy off as a product of she and Savagar's marriage and the relationship crumbles, though Alexi won't hear of divorce.  What he makes Belinda do is worse and the little girl, Fleur, is brought up in a convent school.  From there, we sort of move on to Part 2 where the tall, gangly Fleur has grown up into a beautiful teenager whereupon Belinda decides that a career in modeling is just what they need to get away from Alexi...of course, it's the only thing she can think of that would allow Fleur to make enough money to support them both.  Movie prospects follow Fleur's runway success, bringing her into orbit of Belinda's latest obsession, movie star Jake Koranda.  Belinda is convinced that Jake is James Dean reincarnate.  Belinda wants him.  Fleur has a crush.  Chaos ensues.  Dreams scatter before reality.  Hearts are broken.  Alexi does something vile.  Belinda whines.  She whines again.  She whines some more.  Fluer mopes.  Jake broods.  Fleur makes a friend or two, pulls herself up by her bootstraps.  Then you have about 10 more chapters to go before the plot is resolved but I'll stop here.

I hated Belinda and Alexi of course, as the reader is supposed to I guess but this story drug on and on and on long past the point where the main characters lives started to ebb in importance.  This book needs to be shortened.  There was simply too much angst, denial of the faults and shortcomings of others, and not enough real emotional pay off for me.  The real problem I had, the very thing that made me not like this book as much as I have her others, is how much I disliked Belinda as a character.  It drug the whole story down for me.  I was SO glad that Fleur was able to overcome that and am just sorry it took so damn long.  If you like your romance with a healthy dose of melodrama, you will love Glitter Baby, but it was too much for me.  I'm eagerly awaiting Phillips' next book, What I Did for Love.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Am I the only one excited to see the new Friday the 13th remake?  Am I the only one in the known universe that like Rob Zombie's Halloween?  Do I care if I am?  :)  I still haven't seen My Bloody Valentine 3D and I can feel the clock ticking...maybe I'll go see it tomorrow after work...

Moving along, here is a GrEaT article on all the stats you ever wanted to know about the Friday the 13th franchise via those fine folks at Cinematical!

In other news, last night I watched what I consider to be officially the silliest movie ever created, Death Racers. I apologize in advance for the trailer, sorry kiddos. So four teams in modified cars are going into this compound to kill a hack-actor menacing villain. I won't go into extravagant detail but one of the teams is called Vaginamite and the Insane Clown Posse decided to join the fun. Good times, good times. I haven't seen this much fake blood...evah! The whole 90 something odd minutes floats along on a cloud of obscenities and bad camera angles. Sick Nurses was better and it was by no means good...death by purse decapitation must be a horrible way to go :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

day trip 2.0

So Tuesday was library field trip day!  KT's bookgroup read Nancy Horan's biographical fiction novel, Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney Borthwick's affair in the early 1900's (when such things just DiDn'T go on in broad daylight).  Just our luck, there is one Frank Lloyd Wright designed home in Alabama and it is within daytrip distance.  We got some of KT's bookgroup members and a passel of other people, loaded up a 57 passenger bus, and headed to Florence, Alabama to see the Rosenbaum House!  It was incredible to see the architectural elements and designs that hithertofore I had only seen in books or documentary films.  

We actually watched the first part of the PBS Ken Burns documentary on FLW on the way up and the 2nd half on the way home.  I had the same feeling of awe as when I visited antebellum homes, the Lincoln Memorial, Walden Pond, Blarney Castle and Mount Vernon.  As I mentioned in my post on visiting the museums in Atlanta, history is so different when you confront it face to face than when you read it in a book!  

The Rosenbaum House is apparently the only FLW designed home in the Southeast that is open to the public so you should visit if you can!  I took pictures of the interior but the images on their website are better so click through that if you want a peek inside the house!  KT and I were v.v. impressed with the house and many of the space-saving aspects of it, though I wouldn't be comfortable living in all that compactness.  Low ceilings, tiny rooms, and itty bitty doorways don't make for spacious living.  

day trip!

Last Saturday, M, T, her niece A, and I went to Atlanta for a whirlwind tour of some of the ancient world.  We began our journey at the High Museum for the exhibit of some of the terracotta soldiers from the funerary army of the First Emperor of China.  Excellent exhibit!  You should see this if at all possible!  The exhibit will be at the High Museum through April 19th so I highly recommend that you plan a trip or research to see if this exhibit will be traveling to a museum near you...SO good!

I took this little video outside the High Museum and it is my only photo-type item of the day.  M (wearing the denim overshirt) took most of the photos and has promised (!!!) to email them to me.  I was enchanted with this sculpture, even more so when I got close and could actually see how it was constructed.  It changed shape as you walked across the courtyard but is was only if you cut across the grass and got close that you could see what made it work, v.v. cool I thought.

After the High Museum, we partook of a car trunk picnic (in my super special Sound of Music worthy picnic basket).  T made some AwEsOmE chicken salad and I brought some deli sliced colby jack cheese, Parmesan and garlic pita chips, crackers, Mediterranean herb and garlic goat cheese, rosemary and olive oil Triscuts, and peanut butter cookies.  I briefly considered the whole salmonella thing but we're all still alive and unill.  It was a super better lunch than we could have afforded plus we ate in the parking lot of our next stop, in the shade of a pine tree and feeling the nice breezy, warm, sunshine filled day.  You can't buy that with money (IMHO).

We then went to our next exhibit, King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, at the Atlantic Civic Center.  It will be there through May 2009 and should DeFiNiTeLy be on your to-do list if you are anywhere near enough to make the trip!  There were so many beautiful things I can't even describe them all but I will say that there were a few things that I recognized from the photographs in books of Carter's cataloging of the things found in Tut's tomb when he opened it.  VERY VERY VERY powerful and impressive and everything else in the superlative.  I get goose bumps even now when I think about some of the things I saw in that exhibit.  Wooden chests that looked like any other antique I've seen in someone's house, except these were thousands of years old....

Anytime I hear of King Tut now I think of one of my favorite patrons, Mrs. G.  She is a call-in patron because she is blind and it's difficult for her to get out of the house on a whim.  She was 9 years old when Carter opened Tut's tomb and she and her friends read about it every day it was in the newspapers.  They giggled and pretended to be Carter and associates digging in the Valley of the Kings, scaring themselves with thoughts of the musty, creaking, dusty mummies rising from their sarcophagi to stalk the living tomb invaders.  Can you imagine?  She did have to live through nearly every war this nation has been involved with but she has also told me such wonderful stories over the years of our acquaintance.  Her grandmother and mother were from France and spoke little English around her as she was growing up.  She was in Europe for some time when her husband was stationed there and she has a story about having to keep and prepare chickens that I giggle about even now.  The image of her chasing chickens in the muddy French soil with a knife in her hand is priceless.  She's such a delicate, petite, perfectly Southern Lady that it's hard to imagine her ever getting dirty like that.  She also still refers to the American Civil War as the war of northern aggression and we've had our arguments about that is well.  I believe everyone should have a Mrs. G in their life.  Find an elderly person you can talk to about their life.  It's fascinating and so much more helpful than a textbook.  You just have to keep in mind, like Mrs. G's war of northern aggression, that you are getting a piece of history from a very specific perspective and bias.  

I want to have memories like that when I'm 96 too.  I want something other than the Challenger space shuttle, my brother's death, 9/11, and our current economic crisis.  I'm only 31 (soon to be 32), so I do have 65 years to make those memories if I plan on keeping up with Mrs. G :-)

evenin' ya'll!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Watermind by M.M. Buckner

I was very intrigued by the premise of Watermind...a blob of trash comprised of all the debris from our society's disposable electronices (cell phones, appliances, genetically modified foods, stem cells, old computers, defunt televisions, etc) composes itself into a water-borne neural net and starts to explore the swampy environment of the Louisiana bayou.  I know, cool huh?  Unfortunately, this book could have done with some serious additional editing.  The choppy date and time chapter divisions made the pacing tedious, all the characters pissed me off except Max, and there were a couple of purely superfluous characters taking up space that could have been shaved off.  What the hell did Rayette contribute to the story?  That whole plot line could have been wiped out to the shortening and betterment off the story. 

The Publisher's Weekly review on Amazon has summed this up for me:  "Despite the suspense and nonstop action, unlikable characters make it hard to root for anyone, and the scientifically sound ending is narratively unsatisfying. The story succeeds best when it traverses Louisiana's geography, and only indifferently when it traverses the human heart."

Exactly. It was a great idea, but it was sloppily handled. Lots of repetitions of points, too many characters who didn't do anything but carry a Creole surname, too little action spread out over way too many pages. If the story were tightened up...maybe half the length, a novella or trade/mass market, then I believe it would have been much better. It feels, to me, like a short story that someone pushed to novel length without enough material. Well, now I'm repeating myself so I'll stop there. I was disappointed.

a new meme - Ten Things!

I came across this on The Book Lady's Blog and asked to join in the fun!  I left a comment for Rebecca and her Randomizer picked the letter "V"!  

If you want to join in, leave me a comment and I'll randomly assign you a letter of your very own!  Once you have your letter, you must list 10 things you love that start with the assigned letter!

1. vacations
2. vidalia onions
3. vodka martinis, filthy
4. my vision
5. vampire fiction
6. Vermeer paintings
7. vanilla extract
8. vinegar & salt potato chips
9. violin music
10. ventriloquist Jeff Dunham

Who wants to be next???

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Widow's War by Sally Gunning

The bookgroup I'm a member of chose The Widow’s War for our February title and I had never heard of it or the author, Sally Gunning, beforehand.  I’m always excited to pickup something new and unheard of…reading wise (and from my perspective obviously, sorry all you Sally Gunning fans out there!).  

What a great, strong female character we have in Lyddie Berry!  She loses her husband to the whaling industry on page 1 so I don’t really feel like I’m giving anything away by telling you that. It’s the aftermath of this that warrants the title.  Lyddie is now at the mercy of man, and I don’t mean that in a mankind sort of way.  I specifically mean that gender.  She cannot own the home she shared with her husband; that has now been deeded to her closest male relative, her son-in-law Nathan Clarke.  He wants to sell, but that would leave her entirely dependent on him and Lyddie’s daughter is clearly not happy with Lyddie in the house.  There are consequences if she stays, consequences if she goes, and consequences if she marries and Lyddie is becoming tired of the consequences of men’s decisions for her and about her.  Can one woman gain independence in such an environment ?  Why would she even want to?  

Nearly 100 years before the Seneca Falls Convention in New York kicked off the women’s suffrage movement, Lyddie Berry’s existence after her husband died is direct testimony for how far the plight of women has advanced.  I am glad to live a life when I don’t remember a time when women were not allowed to vote or get any just about any job they want to have.  There is the pay issue going on now, evidenced by President Obama’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act just a few days ago, but we’re always moving forward.  I can hardly wait to here the discussion surrounding this title when my bookgroup meets next week! 

Dalí & I: The Surreal Story by Stan Lauryssens

Dalí & I: The Surreal Story doesn’t lie…it is indeed VERY surreal.  I’m always suspicious when a memoir has this much prose.  I had the same feeling about Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.  When I think back on my childhood and early life, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of telling you what the clouds looked like, or what I was thinking at the time or what I ate for breakfast that day.  So, when the author describes landscapes, meals, thoughts, feelings, and conversations from the late 1970’s and 1980’s as if they were yesterday, I hope he kept a thorough diary.  

That being said, I LuRvEd this little book.  It is an up-close, no-holds-barred, can’t-turn-away, train wreck look at the life and work of…well, Stan Lauryssens.  He sold fake Dali artwork for many years and got in a good bit of trouble doing so.  It is not so much what he does, but who he meets over the years that makes this delectable little book float along.  

Um, not for the faint of heart.  We are talking about surrealist art in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and we are talking about Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, and various other outsiders to any kind of status-quo.  Mr. Lauryssens goes to great lengths not to hide a bit of the outrageous sensibilities, sexualities, and spending sprees of the day, so consider yourself warned.  This is gossip of the juiciest variety.  I have no idea if it’s authorized, but I imagine not.  Some one else can research that.  If Lauryssens is to be believed (or rather, his sources, I suppose) MOST of the Dalí works in existence are fakefakefake, painted by studio assistants while Dalí was…um…occupied.  

Am I the only one in the world who hasn’t heard any of this?  I started reading up on Dalí after I heard Robert Pattinson was portraying a young Dalí in the film Little Ashes.  Now, I think I know a bit more than I cared to but if it ever comes up in conversation I won’t be at a loss, that’s for sure!

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

I can’t say enough good things about Robert Hicks’ The Widow of the South.  I’ve read good reviews and I’ve read some tirades as well but I personally loved this book.  I liked this book just as much as I did Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and that is possibly my favorite book of all time!  

Hicks’ tale centers on the small town of Franklin, Tennessee and one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War that took place there on a frosty November day in 1864.  He draws history to fictionally fill in the gaps in the life of Carrie McGavock, wife of a Franklin plantation owner.  On that day, 9,000 casualties (Confederate and Union combined) resulted from the day’s battle and her house was requisitioned as a hospital.  I won’t go into detail but Civil War medicine was a nasty business on many levels.  Over half those who died did so from sepsis and disease.  Over 1700 Confederate dead were hastily buried in a nearby field after the battle.  When the owner of the field decides to return it to cultivation, Carrie and her husband move all the soldiers to their property, creating the only private Confederate cemetery.  So, all of that is the real story.  Hicks’ takes this framework and imagines a life for Mrs. McGavock, her family, and some of the soldiers that you will find in no history book yet it provided me a glimpse into what that time might have been like, unpleasant as it no doubt was.  It is not an easy topic, nor is Mrs. McGavock all that easy to like but she does mature into a character I can respect.  There is a great Author’s Note at the back with some additional information on the Battle of Franklin as well as archival photos of the McGavock plantation, Mrs. McGavock herself, and the cemetery. 

The Chopin Manuscript by Jeffery Deaver et al

The Chopin Manuscript is a weird little book in a couple of ways: 


  1. It is only available as an audiobook as far as I can tell.  That’s how I stumbled across it and Amazon doesn’t list a monograph version.  It won the 2008 Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year from the Audio Publishers Association and I can see why.  The narrator, Alfred Molina, was one of the best I’ve heard, though I did have a bit of a problem isolating his female character voices.


  1. It has about 15 different authors.  Jeffrey Deaver writes the first chapter, outlining the major characters and plot points then 14 authors (and it’s a star-studded lineup, make no mistake) each write a chapter to move the story forward.  Mr. Deaver steps in after that to wrap things up.


It was a fairly exciting story that kept me interested until the very end, but those different authors and different writing styles began to take their toll after awhile and choppiness abounded.  I expected more Da Vinci Code and less agonized introspection.  The bad guys didn’t seem quite as bad as I wanted them to be (except for one VeRy bad guy…and I never saw that one coming) and the good guys always got out of trouble immediately.  I know they were going for a tense, DVC-esque tale of intrigue, and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t tense and edgy either.  In the end it didn’t resonate with me in any way, it was just a decent story.  Again, Molina is a great narrator!  I’m going to have to look him up and see if he has any other work.