Old Books and Other Literary Obsessions.

If you’ve got any book lovers in your life, you’ve probably noticed their little fetishes and obsessions. Of course, we are all obsessed with books in general, but some of us have these particular interests and niches. Some love collecting book marks, others like to buy books with interesting cover art, and others only buy hardcovers.

My particular interest is in old school books. I don’t know why I love these slim little readers, they’re not particularly engaging in any sort of way, but I do love collecting them and seeing how children of days gone by learned to read and write. Most of the school books that I’ve bought have children reading passages and answer a set of questions about the passage. For example, I found this old school book from the 1920’s at a garage sale this morning and some of the questions were about where the capital I’s and lowercase C’s were.

I don’t remember learning how to read, but I know this wasn’t how our teachers taught us during elementary school. It’s hard to imagine, but looking at these books make me think that in 50 years or so people might think the way I learned my school lessons will be just as archaic as I think these 1920’s schoolbooks are.

What is the best way to learn how to read? How can we get more people engaged with reading? I’m not quite sure. Some people thrived with rote learning. Others doing well when they work in groups and engaging with technology. Maybe with today’s society we need find a way to combine the old ways with the new. After all, sometimes the old ways are the best.

What are you obsessed about in the book world?

If You Like Pride and Prejudice, Read These Books.

pride-and-prejudice-2I have to admit, I didn’t like Pride and Prejudice when I first read it. It was 2005 and I had to read it over the summer for my AP English class for the 2005-2006 school year. The latest Harry Potter book had come out right before I had to finish the book and trying to get through it so I could see what adventures Harry was getting into was making me antsy.

Then the new Keira Knightley version came out 5 months later and when I went to see it on New Year’s Day, I was enthralled. The characters and all their relationships started to make sense and even the story line became more clear to me. Shortly afterwards, I decided to re-read the book and to be quite honest, the book became more clear after seeing the movie.

Ever since then, I became obsessed with reading Pride and Prejudice spinoffs. Some of them were great, others…not so much. If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, whether it’s the movies or the book or just Jane Austen in general, check out some of these books.

  • Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
  • An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker
  • Death Comes to Pemberely by P.D. James
  • Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
  • Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Darcy’s Passions by Regina Jeffers
  • Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliot
  • A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith

5 Terrible Motherly Figures in Literature

When we think of mothers, we often think of the loving, nurturing types who want nothing more than for their children to grow up healthy and successful. Unfortunately, there are mothers out there who are less than motherly and that can be said for mothers in literature. Look out for these terrible literary mothers, you probably wouldn’t want to leave your children with them.

Medea – Medea by Euripides

How far is too far? Euripides has shown us that this title character will stop at nothing in order to exact her revenge. When Medea’s husband, a king, dumps her for another woman, she decides to get back at him by killing the children they had together.

Mrs. Wormwood – Matilda by Roald Dahl

A lot of kids complain about their parents being too involved in their lives and not giving them enough privacy. Mrs. Wormwood takes the opposite extreme. She sits in front of the t.v. all day and only gets up when it’s time to heat up frozen dinners for the family which she brings back to eat in front of the television. If that’s not bad enough, when Matilda wants to be excused so she can read, Mrs. Wormwood punishes her. Add to that her general neglect in Matilda’s education and life in general gives way to a bad motherhood cocktail.

Corinne Dollanganger and the Grandmother – Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Corinne is probably the classic example of bad motherhood. She’s so enthralled with the possibility of inheriting her parents’ fortune that she’s willing to allow her children to be locked up in an attic for several years. And when they do escape, she obsessively searches for them in order to be involved in their lives. In my opinion, the grandmother is just as bad. She not only forces her child to lock up her children, she also enforces the idea that the sin of the mother is the sin of the children until they eventually succumb to the sin that she was accusing them of all along. Talk about a messed up family.

Petunia Dursley – the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

When I think of Petunia Dursley, I think of all the horrendous things she does to Harry as his surrogate mother. She locks him up in a small cupboard under the stairs, starves him, forgets his birthday, and punishes him for showing magical ability. But she is also a horrible mother to Dudley in a way. She overfeeds him, spoils him, and allows him to do horrible things that eventually backfires.

Mrs. White – Carrie by Stephen King

If you’re Mrs. White, just being a female is a sin and Carrie is unfortunate to be her daughter. I’m surprised Carrie went for as long as she did before she snapped. To be locked up in a room full of dark religious art as punishment is bad, to be punished for starting your period and developing breasts is even worse. Definitely not a mother I’d like to have.

Browsing the Nonfiction Aisle.

NonfictionIf you asked people on the street what they think about nonfiction, they’d probably tell you that it’s dry and boring. Why read something so tedious when you can pick up the latest bestseller and escape into a fictionalized world?

Recently, though, nonfiction has been given a bigger emphasis. More authors are writing their subjects in such a way that the average person will pick up the book and feel engrossed in what’s being said. Especially since books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Lost City of Z becoming movies, people are beginning to see nonfiction writing as equal contenders to that in the fiction world.

I have to admit that I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. When I read, I want to get lost in a world not quite like my own so that when I finish reading, I can face the world with new eyes. I’ve noticed when I look back over the years, the few “true” books that I’ve read were on topics that I was already interested in.

Even though I probably won’t completely go over to the dark side, I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction just to see what’s out there. With the right kind of storyteller, nonfiction can read just as quickly as a beach read. Right now, I’ve started reading The Lost City of Z and I hope it will be enthralling.

Trying to find something in the nonfiction aisle that will catch your family? Here are some that I’ve read that has captured my attention:

  1. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
  2. Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard by Laura Bates
  3. Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison
  4. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  5. The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House by Steven LaChance
  6. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
  7. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
  8. Conviction: The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars by Juan Martinez
  9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  11. The Stranger Beside Me: The Untold Story of Ted Bundy by Ann Rule

Are there any nonfiction books you think people should be reading? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Title: Gwendy’s Button Box
Author: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Date Read: 25 May 2017
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 3 Stars

In the summer of 1974, you can find Gwendy Peterson doing her daily run up the Suicide Stairs. On one particular day, she comes to the top and meets a man in black by the name of Richard Farris. He informs her that she’s been chosen as the recipient of a little button box. Each color pops out something different, each with its own magical and mysterious powers. Thus starts the beginning of Gwendy’s new adventure, one filled with perfect grades, perfect body, and perfect life. But there is one button that she doesn’t want to push at all; it’s a button that could potentially destroy the world if she wants to.

Unlike other books by the King of Horror (no pun intended–okay, maybe a little), this is a small novella of about 200 pages AND co-written with another author with whom I know nothing about. King is one of those authors that I read every couple of years or so and even then his books are hit or miss for me. I picked this book because it was his newest release and didn’t look like it’d take very long, probably an afternoon if you have one readily available, at the most a couple of days.

This story reminded me a lot like Pandora’s Box, in a way. Gwendy’s not sure what she might find inside and whether or not she can put it back into the box once it’s ready. The concept of this book was intriguing because it bears the following question:

Are the events of our life the result of our choices and actions, or are we under the influence of some unknown power?

I don’t know what King’s religious views are but it seems to propose that maybe it’s a mixture of both. We have some control of our lives, but we are also at the mercy of others’ views, choices, and mental states, especially when they cross our path and their actions conflict with ours. Maybe it’s even a mixture of both. It’s up to the reader to decide.

What I like about this book is the fact that it’s self contained. You’re given just enough information to know what’s going on in Gwendy’s immediate world, but it’s not bogged down with to many characters and sub plots. With another author, this would fall flat, but in this book, you’re able to race through the book and ponder why there is a button box, etc.

This is the one time where I wish I had more information. I wanted to know more about Mr. Farris and even about Gwendy’s parents. It wasn’t necessary for what was being written, but I wouldn’t have minded reading more.

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Immortal LifeTitle: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Date Read: 20 May 2017
Genre: Nonfiction/Science
Rating: 4 Stars

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman from Virginia was diagnosed with cervical cancer. During her initial surgery to remove the tumor, doctors took several of her cells without her knowledge and used them for study. Known as HeLa, Lacks’ cells became an important tool in aiding medicine’s progression including finding a vaccine for polio. Rebecca Skloot weaves between the history of modern science and one family’s obsession in finding out about the mother she never knew.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a book that has been on my to read shelf for many years. I’ve even started reading it several times only to return it to the library because the beginning was too slow for me. However, as with all books these days, Henrietta Lacks is being turned into a movie and I finally brought myself to work through my initial objections and I’m glad that I made myself work through this one.

It’s hard for me to define this book because it can fall into a few different categories that would interest a wide range of people. Skloot touches on social sciences, medical/scientific history, and family history. Throughout the book we learn about Henrietta Lacks and her family since the 1950s and how they lived and were affected by what happened to their family member. We learn about the medical progress that has been made using the HeLa cells and how black Americans were often forced to partake in this progress.

I liked this book because it made me think about how medical science has progressed through time. It’s a delicate subject to broach because many people have strong opinions about what happens to their blood, cell, and tissue matter. Should people be told what their bodily matter is used for and should they get reimbursed for any medical progress? This is something I’m afraid to touch on with my own opinion because there will be people who would be opposed to my thoughts no matter what side on.

Regardless of what conclusions you come to by the end of the book, Henrietta Lacks makes you think about race relations, medicine, and what our rights should be as patients. For this alone, I give the book 4 stars.

 

Should Historical Fiction Be Accurate?

I don’t remember the first time I heard about Philippa Gregory, but I remember the first book that I read by her. I was always interested in Henry VIII and his many wives, so The Other Boleyn Girl captured my special interest. Needless, to say, I was sucked in from the first word. If you don’t know much about it, the story is told through Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary and her rise to become the king’s mistress and then be cast aside for her sister. It was something that enraptured me because I never quite imagined Anne having any siblings or how she became to be the woman that Henry broke the church regulations for.

Aside from the historical period that the books are set in, I love Gregory’s books for her storytelling. It’s hard to tell the story of famous women in history because so many people believed that a woman’s story wasn’t worth documenting in the history books. Gregory uses the information that she can glean from historical records and fills in the information from legends and her own speculation of what might have happened.

This has caused a lot of criticism from a lot of people. A couple years ago, someone I knew at the time didn’t read her books or watch The White Queen because she thought it was grossly inaccurate. Fun, but not good enough for her tastes.

And this is where I diverge from book snobs. When a book is labeled as historical fiction, that is exactly what it is: fiction. Obviously the book is going to be based on some historical fact or a period of time not contemporary to the writer, but because it’s fiction, the author has some liberties to smudge certain facts or use legend to interweave with the story at large. It doesn’t matter to me because I’m reading it to enjoy rather than to educate myself. As long as the author has a note at the end of the book saying what is real and what has been changed, I really don’t care what happens.

A historical fiction novel should be there to get you interested enough in the subject matter to go out and find out for yourself if you’re that interested. If I really wanted my fiction to be accurate, then I would’ve read nonfiction instead and there has been some historical fiction that has made the reading dry and boring and very uninteresting.

I hope Gregory continues to write more books. I’ll continue to read them.