Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: "A Voyage for Madmen" by Peter Nichols and Weekend Roundup.

This title is no lie. You'd have to be a crazy person to attempt this.I don't mind boats at all but I don't think I could even REMOTELY handle this voyage.

In 1968 a group of men embarked on the Sunday Times Golden Globes Race. It was kind of 2 races within a race. The first winner would be whoever could get around the whole globe without stopping, by yourself, the fastest. The other winner would be whoever got there first. (A little confusing, but they are different...I think? Just go with it). No matter what everyone is by themselves with no help from the outside world. They can communicate with people on other boats, through the radio, or with people on the shoreline but nothing that was not brought on the ship when the race started can come aboard. (This includes things of no real material value, like mail from home. When one of the racers realizes this he's devastated and cries and cries.) Though competitors could give stuff to passing boats, like mail or film. One competitor would use a slingshot to shoot film canisters onto boats.

Do you know how long it takes you to sail around the world with no extra help, by yourself? (Take a moment to guess...) Answer is about 10 months, give or take conditions, boat, sailor, etc etc. Just keep that in mind.

Only 9 people were crazy enough to do this, only one finishes. (And no I'm not going to tell you who wins!) But shit gets real pretty fast, and it's not gonna end well for most of our 9 competitors.

Barely a month in and 2 of the competitors are out, one due to ship damage and another due to the fact that he's vomiting blood from an ulcer. One competitor sinks and has to be rescued.One man finds his soul. Quite a few quit when they realize they are out of their league and stop before they get themselves killed. (P.S. One of those people had NO SAILING EXPERIENCE when he left port. So I can't believe he didn't die the first week). One man mysteriously vanishes. I don't want to go into too much detail because the whole time I had no idea who was going to win and it made it quite exciting.

One of the men accidentally splashes battery acid in his eye. He was not far from a port so he knew he could get help. However he decided that "winning would be worth an eye!"

One of the men is a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater and creates a fake log book, and radios in fake positions. He never actually leaves the Atlantic Ocean. Don't worry, he's not the one who wins.

One of the things that causes problems for nearly all the competitors is the loneliness.You could go for weeks being out of radio range,not seeing any land, just you and your own thoughts. This does a lot of mental damage to several of the competitors.

I don't generally include quotes in my book reviews, but it seemed like at the end of every chapter there was some great, ominous closing sentence. This one is about one of the competitors who had become quite melancholy. He thought that it might have been because he hadn't been taking his "daily milk and vitamin" drink. When he started taking it again he felt better. Then comes the ominousness "It's possible that Nigel Tetley's low spirits were revived by vitamins and minerals, as he believed, but there would come a time when no amount of milk would save him".

Not your savior.

I know that this is kind of a weird choppy review, but I don't want to giveaway to many detail about who people are and what happens to them, or else why read the book?! (It's a fine line that the book bloggers walk, let me tell you.) You don't have to know much about boats or sailing to enjoy this book but I'd think some vague familiarity would help. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5. It's opened my eyes to an event that I had never heard of, and it was a thriller wondering what would happen to whom!

So this week my sister and I went to visit our dear friend who lives just outside Indianapolis. (This coincided with the Elite 8 being in town, which we didn't realize until a few days before we left. We did not partake in any NCAA activities. I did say "woohoo!" when I saw the Badgers won. Not really because I care but it seemed like I should. ANYWAY).

Mostly our visits center around how much delicious food we can eat, how many delicious beverages we can imbibe and how much slobber we accumulate on ourselves from Lucy the bulldog. And while we did all of those things, we also got a little bit literary.

First order of business, we went and saw Divergent. Neither myself, nor our friend (both of us readers) had read the book. My sister, who does not read much at all, actually had listened to the audio book. It felt like opposite day, me asking her how things were in the book vs the movie. I spent a chunk of the movie trying to decide if I thought Four was really good looking or not.

Anyway, I hadn't planned on reading the books and now I have to because I'm curious. I'm not like consumed with curiosity like I was with Hunger Games, but curious enough to put other books on the back burner to start these. Though I'm on a pretty long waiting list at the library...

The more I see him I become happier about this casting of Four.
I decided he's normal guy looking handsome. Like if you saw him in the grocery store you'd give him a second look but he's not like super movie star good looking. Which I think is good and works for the story.

 Second order of business. I follow an author named Ben Winters on twitter. I love his writing style and the last book of his Policeman trilogy comes out soon and when it comes out, and I rapidly read it there will be a trilogy review. Anyway, Ben lives in Indianapolis and had tweeted last week about a used bookstore/brewery that had just opened outside of Indianapolis. (It's fresh, like opened last week fresh). Well tasty alcohol and cheap books are some of my favorite things, so I managed to get Books and Brews worked into the weekend itinerary. I'm not generally a person who buys books unless I'm in love with them but the prices were so incredibly reasonable I walked out with an armful of books. Including 2 that I'd just added to my Goodreads TBR list the day before, "The Long Walk" and "A Prayer for Owen Meaney".

We didn't partake in libations because it was pretty early in the day, but maybe next time! Anyway, if you live in the Indy area swing by and say hello and buy some books!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bloggiesta Wrap Up. How did I do on my to-do list? And Guest Post Week Wrap Up

Well my first Bloggiesta has come to an end. I'm sad because I thought it was so fun and interesting but Im excited knowing that there are more coming up in the future. I look forward to participating in the future. Thanks to everyone who put in so much time and energy to make this such a success!
So want to see how I did on my list?

Here's my list:
  • Figure out of I need another page on the blog up by my "about me" and "review policy". I feel like there should be at least one more thing up there but I don't know what! Done and Done! Two things up there and at least one more idea in the pipeline.
  • Get in on some Twitter chats Got in on 2. One was from the car on my sisters wi-fi while driving through Indiana!
  • Start following at least 3 new blogs  Also done! For the curious they are "Curiosity Killed the Bookworm", "Giraffe Days" and "Reading in Twilight"
  • Try to fill in the gaps in blog scheduling for April/May Um, kind of? I went to a bookstore and bought a bunch of books I've never read (and a few I have) so I think those will plug a few holes, just got to get them read and organized.
I kept my list pretty small because I knew I was going to be out of town all weekend, however a lot of other mini challenges intrigue and are things I'm going to be doing in the future! Thanks to everyone who wrote the mini challenges and gave such great tips and ideas!

Going on at the same time as Bloggiesta was guest post week! If you missed any check them out.
Ashley talks spin offs
Jen talks brains
Sarah talks literary future fashion
Ollie talks all things that go boom

I also had a fun and literary weekend that I'm looking forward to sharing with you in part on a post tomorrow. Thanks everyone!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest Post: Oliver reviews "American Guns: A History of the United States in Ten Firearms" by Chris Kyle and William Doyle

Alright, we're ending our Guest Poster week with a BANG, literally and figureatively.My dear friend Oliver is guest posting today on the blog. I met Ollie about the same time as my husband, since the two of them are close friends, along with the husband of guest poster Jen. It's a bromance (eye roll). Anyway, I'll let Ollie take it from here!

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and guns.
Lots and lots of guns.

Whether you lean more to the left or the right, or what your view is on one of the more controversial punctuation marks in history, no one can deny the impact of firearms in writing history. Nowhere is this more evident than in the history of the land of the free and home of the brave.
American Gun is one of those books where you honestly could judge a book by its cover, not that I encourage that. Its subtitle states, “A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms,” and it’s exactly what it delivers. Upon opening the front cover, you’re immediately shown the ten guns the text focuses on. They are displayed as black and white line drawings reminiscent of old-time patent applications. For those with knowledge of firearms most are immediately recognizable: a Kentucky long rifle, the Colt 1911, a Smith & Wesson .38 special revolver. Even those without any firearm knowledge would be able to pick out one or two: the notorious Thompson “Tommy” sub-machine gun, or perhaps the modern M16 rifle. That is this book’s strong point. It manages to tell the story of how technological advancement impacted war within the United States while not alienating a reader who knows nothing about firearms. At the same time, it remains educational and entertaining to those who have an existing knowledge of US history and firearms.

True, if you are a hardcore firearm enthusiast or historian this book would leave you wanting for more information, but that reader isn’t the target. Having read, or more accurately tried to have read, other books on the history of specific firearms, American Gun doesn’t even begin to get close to the level of detail as other books. And that’s a good thing. I never finished those other books because frankly they read like dull text books. Long lists of production numbers and nuanced changes that differentiated the various models from each other filled their pages. Kyle’s greatest success is weaving the story of the gun with the history of the people around them, both those who pulled the trigger as well as those being targeted. Not just recounting a string of battles or simply telling how a particular model came into existence but how it influenced the battles they were used in, or in some cases not used in, and how they lead to military victory. And as well all know the Victors write the history. Spoiler alert: the victors have the better guns.  

As a non-fiction book it’s not exactly a page turner, the “ok-one-more-page-then-I-sleep” kind of book. But, with it being laid out chronologically with each firearm/section of US history assigned to its own chapter, it’s very easy to read. It’s a “read until you’ve had your fill of guns and glory” book that you’re able to set down then pick up right where you left off days later and not have to re-read a thing.

All that being said I really enjoyed American Gun, but that isn’t surprising in the least bit. Anything history or firearms related is pretty much my wheelhouse. Put them together and you’ve got a winner. I give it four of five stars. It’s an easy read, shares its points without getting too political, and for a history type book maintains a good pace while staying true to the topic.  That said I can’t honestly recommend it to everyone simply because it’s just not going to everyone’s thing. However, if you have any interest in US or firearm history American Gun is a great read that serves as an excellent overview of US firearms.

A note on the author:
American Gun: A History of the U.S in Ten Firearms is Chris Kyle’s second, and sadly final, foray into the publishing world. His first book, American Sniper, hit the New York Times bestseller list by chronicling his career as a Navy Seal Sniper. After his military career, Kyle became very active in supporting those wounded in combat as well as those struggling with PTSD. Tragically one of the people whom he tried to help cope with what they were told was PTSD fatally shot Kyle and another veteran Chad Littlefield while at a gun range in Kyle’s home state of Texas*. American Gun was in the final stages of publication but not yet completed at the time of his death. To honor their fallen friend many of the people who worked on and contributed to his first book came together and readied Gun for publication, with authorship being credited to Chris Kyle with William Doyle.

*For more on this check out this excellent New Yorker article; In the Crosshairs

 Thank you Ollie for taking the time to read and write for LE, I truly appreciate it! That's the end of guest post week but Bloggiesta is still going on. I'm trying to get in on one more Twitter talk and then I'll show you how my list panned out on Sunday night!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sarah from Neroli Blossoms Guest Posts: When Fashion and Fiction Collide the results are Fabulous!

Hi I'm Sarah and I blog over at Neroli Blossoms. I met Wesley in college through mutual friends, and even though we live across the country so we can't physically hang out, she's my good friend and go-to guru for anything book related.

Wesley usually has pretty intellectual things to say about books, but we're going to dip our toes in the shallow end and talk about book clothing and style. Stay with me here, I promise I have a good resource for you.

One of the features I used to run on my blog (and the reason I first started my blog) was called Literary Inspirations. These started back when I was working my first real job right out of college. It was 8 straight hours of photoshopping clothes and required no mental engagement. It didn't take long for my ipod to get boring and they had blocked Pandora (or maybe it wasn't around yet? I forget how old I am).

Anyway, my boyfriend/now husband introduced me to my lifesaver: This site is amazing. If you're not familiar, it's a website of free public domain audiobooks, ready for download. Hear that? It's free! People volunteer to read the books so you get all sorts of readers. Some sound professional while others...not so much. But most books have several versions so you can find your preferred reader and download that version. (My personal favorite is Mark F Smith - I've found he's one of the most natural sounding readers, done a ton of the classics, and read the whole of Huck Finn in a southern accent. Sold.) So that's how I passed my working hours and Literary Inspirations began. I started wondering if you could take the idea or feeling of a book and translate it into a modern day fashion/home/style collage. Some books worked better than others. Some books had actual clothing descriptions that you could go off of, and others were based on the story. Life has been more hectic lately and I haven't done one in a while. So when Wesley asked if I'd like to do one for her blog, I jumped at the opportunity!

The book we're getting inspired from today is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I have to say, I thought this was going to be easy - it has exact clothing descriptions - but wow, was this difficult to create without it looking absolutely ridonkulous. And maybe it still does?

We're talking dystopian society, almost the entire world broken into a caste system (in which humans are pre-determined and conditioned from birth), families non existent ("mother" and "father" and the equivalent of curse words), humans are grown in a lab, and you dress in the color that is assigned to your caste system (sort of like homecoming week in high school, right?). Enter the "Savage" to shake everything up. But in the end the house always wins. Or in this case, society.

Literary Inspiration - Brave New World

So on to the fashion. No. Just no. "Alpha children wear grey...Gammas...wear green, and Delta children wear khaki...Epsilons...wear black". Our subject for today is the main female character, Lenina, who is a Gamma. We even get a full description of one of her outfits, but I don't think anyone can save this and turn it into something we'd wear today.

"Her jacket was made of bottle green acetate cloth with green viscose fur at the cuffs and collar." Uh, ok I couldn't find anything with green fur, but here's a jacket with more natural cuffs, we'll go with that.

"Green corduroy shorts and white viscose-wollen stockings turned down below the knee." No. You're getting military green capris for this, Lenina. And no knee socks.

"A green-and-white jockey cap shaded Lenina's eyes; her shoes were bright green and highly polished". No, no, NO. Ok, the cap we can do. But shiny green shoes with this? Trust me girl, we're giving you tennis shoes instead. They have green on the bottom, that should suit you.

"Around her waist she wore a silver-mounted green morocco-surrogate cartridge belt". Uh...I don't even know what that is, so here's a nice shiny belt for you instead.

And apparently, this was HOT in A.F 632. (After Ford, as in Henry Ford, of the Model T and assembly line fame. Which, if using his death as a standard of measurement, puts Lenina at 2579 A.D. Is this our future?!?!)

So there you go. If you'd like to see more (slightly less confusing ones) check out the Literary Inspiration tab on my blog. Thanks to Wesley for inviting me over, and happy reading everyone!

 Everyone, seriously check out the literary fashions on Sarah's blog. I love the American Girl ones the best, sentimental favorite! Thank you Sarah for being here!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge! Pinterest for you book blog...

I shudder to think about how much time I've spent on Pinterest since I joined. My boards are full of ambitious recipes (cilantro lime ranch salad dressing), sewing projects I don’t have the skill set for (“make a dress out of an old sweater in a few easy steps!”) and of course funny pictures (mostly corgis looking adorable.) But I discovered a way of spending time on Pinterest without the guilt of feeling like I’m wasting time. I made a Pinterest account for my blog!

Funny Confession Ecard: The feeling of accomplishment you get when you are notified of all the repins on Pinterest. You are all welcome for my amazing finds. You. Are. Welcome.

At first I didn't know if Pinterest would make sense for a book blog. I don’t have beautiful pictures to go along with my posts like you see with so many DIY, food or lifestyle blogs. However I think there are plenty of ways to draw attention to your blog and have fun doing it.

First, when settings up your blog’s account make sure your profile picture is your blog’s logo or header. Make sure that your blog’s name is clearly displayed for easy reading.Utilize the space they give you in the banner area to put lots of information about your blog. Be sure to fill in your URL in the space provided too!

This is what I've done for boards and what I've found works for me. Be sure to tweak and change things so that it works best for you and your blog!

I have 11 boards:
     Books Reviewed on Library Educated: I pin every book I review or talk about on Library Educated. Simple as that!

    Gear for Book Lovers: I pin things that look like good presents for book lovers. Most of it also doubles as a personal Christmas and birthday list! I try to pin a lot of things from Etsy to support the indie crafters.
        Quotes About Books: Quotes that inspire the book lover in all of us!
          Book Tattoos: This board has been my most popular. The tattoos are book quotes, book characters, books and more. Though I don’t have a tattoo this board makes me consider it!
          Book Party: Party ideas that utilize book themes. Cakes, favors and decorations for weddings, baby showers and more!
          Book Crafts: * I know that some people are divided on using books as a craft medium. I personally don’t have a problem with it if the book is damaged beyond saving or is headed to the dumpster/recycler for some reason. I made a book page garland out of old law books that were destined for a land fill and I love it!* This board contains crafts that utilize books or crafts for books.
           Book funnies: Bookish things that make me laugh!
     Books at home: Fun ways to display your library in your residence.
     Books in the world: Beautiful libraries and book displays that you won’t find in an average home.
          Posts on Library Educated: This is my newest board and it isn't fully up to date. I just pin each of my posts!
     These Things Aren’t Book Related: A board for pins that should go on my personal Pinterest account but I haven’t switched them over yet.

     Some other board ideas: highlight favorite authors, favorite book to movie adaptations (if you have some, haha), books that you want to read, the list goes on and on!

I'm not tech savvy enough to be the one to explain how to add the “pin” buttons on your blog pictures or things like that, but if you are tech savvy enough to figure it out, I would recommend it!  Pinterest makes it very easy to make a little display board to add to your blog that shows the last few things you have pinned. I love the extra little decoration it brings to my sidebar!

There you have it: Pinterest not just a fun time waster but a great tool for your blog. It’s another venue to get your blog’s name and content out into the farther reaches of the internet. Have any Pinterest tips or tricks? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

So your challenge, if you so choose, is to make a pinterest account for your blog and set up at least 3 boards with at least 3 pins a piece! I bet you'll be surprised by how fast they fill up! Let me know if you have a board or an account for your blog and I'll find an follow you!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest Post: Jen brings us a review of "Musicophilia:Tales of Music and the Brain" by Oliver Sacks

All-Guest Post Week continues this morning with my friend Jen. Jen is one of my absolute dearest friends; she is smart, funny, a great dessert maker and has been a great friend from when we met as awkward 13-ish year olds until now our slightly less awkward late 20s. She was/is a great encourager of me (in general) and of the blog so I'm ever so pleased she is on here today sharing her love of the human brain and how it works (or sometimes doesn't)!


Wesley has been a dear friend of mine for many years, but I have a bit of a confession to make… I don’t really read. Actually, I should rephrase that – I don’t often read books for fun/pleasure/leisure. I really don't know why Wesley continues to tolerate this; although, to my credit, I am an avid blog reader.  To ensure that our friendship does not meet its untimely end, I signed myself up to provide a guest post to jump start my reading practice once again. When I do read for fun, it's usually non-fiction or on a subject I would like to learn about in greater detail. I know, I know, I lead a riveting life…

For my post, I chose something that was on my to-read list for quite a while, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks. It meets both my criteria as it is non-fiction and about music and neuroscience (two of my favorite things!). 

Before I get into the book itself, I need to talk about Dr. Sacks. He’s kind of a rock star for bringing neuroscience into the world of mainstream popular literature; however, he is not without his critics in the scientific community for doing so.  He is a practicing neurologist, currently at NYU School of Medicine, but was born and raised in London in the 1930s to his Jewish physician parents. Side note specifically for Wesley: he was evacuated out of London and sent to a boarding school at the age of 6 to escape the Nazis. (Wesley's note:Damn Nazis, what don't they try and ruin. Argh!)  

He’s written 12 books to date and is the best known for Awakenings (which was the basis for the 1990 movie of the same name starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams) and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.  I read the latter during my year off between undergrad and grad school. I soaked up every word of each case study, and it helped reinforce my choice to go back to school. A few years have passed since then, so I decided this would be a great time to revisit his work.

The book is broken up into 4 parts, each with a different general theme, and subsequently, every chapter tackles a case or group of cases with a common condition. This design makes it a great book to read in short spurts, maybe on your commute or during your lunch break.  I wouldn't pick and choose chapters though – it is best read beginning to end as it flows wonderfully, building on information from each chapter as you read.  From epileptic seizures brought on by specific types of music, to music’s incredible ability to provoke an emotional release, to a sudden onset of musicality after being hit by lightning, this book has a little bit of everything. Some of my favorite topics covered include:
  •     A chapter about the music in our heads:  We all get that annoying song stuck in our heads from time to time, and usually, we can get rid of the song at some point by listening to something else. But what happens when the music in your head suddenly becomes constant or like a radio with someone else controlling the dial? Musical hallucinations were new to me, and I couldn’t imagine a constant stream of popular songs from my childhood running through my head all day long. I love to listen to music, but if I’m not in charge of the remote, it’s a different story.

  •         A chapter exploring savants and their propensity for musical talents:  I love learning the stories of savants because of their unbelievable abilities in spite of other widespread disabilities. I will never forget a lecture I attended by an expert on savants (Darold Treffert who Dr. Sacks gives a shout out to in the book) and he ended with a clip of a middle-aged savant patient singing and playing a passionate rendition of “How Great Thou Art” on the piano for his very ill mother. Not a dry eye in the house, including mine.

  •         Later chapters on the advent of music therapists: Dr. Sacks worked in one of the first hospital wards in the 1960s to utilize music therapy with severely ill patients, mostly patients with movement disorders like Parkinson’s or advanced dementia. The effects of therapy he describes are incredible. Those with a gait made unsteady by Parkinson’s can walk fluidly to the beat of a song and those who are catatonic from dementia suddenly join in singing along to songs from their childhood.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, but there are a few things to address. A disclaimer – this book is quite technical in its use of clinical terms. The writing can be dense with scientific lingo at times, so you might want to keep Google handy to search anatomy terms and cognitive disorder as well as technical music terms and composers. Another thing to point out is the use of footnotes to expound on certain points. I can't decide if I found them useful or not, as sometimes they distracted me from the main page of text. Finally, the majority of music discussed was primarily classical or music from the patient’s childhood, but it would be interesting to hear about the effects of more modern music in some of these disorders. What about the effect of rock, rap, pop or electronic dance music in treating Parkinson’s? And what about the endless stream of music today? People grocery shop with their ear buds in and music turned up so are they more likely to be plagued with musical hallucinations when their ear buds are finally out?  I think I’ll be on the lookout for a book that covers this topic when I return this one, and maybe I’ll actually be able to keep this reading streak going

PS- If you are interested in the topic, but don’t want to read this whole book… the Wikipedia page for Musicophilia informed me that the book was also the subject of "Musical Minds", an episode of the PBS series Nova. Now I’m off to look for that episode on YouTube because Nova is my jam!


Nova totally is Jen's jam, she isn't even joking. Doesn't that sound like an interesting book? I'm officially intrigued! Thanks Jen for making the time to read and write for us today!

Bloggiesta To-Do List!

(We are taking a quick break from Guest Poster Week to talk about Bloggiesta. My article will go up on Wednesday and then it's back to our regularly scheduled guest programming).

It's just about Bloggiesta time and I'm making my list (possibly checking it twice) for the things that I need to get down during the week. I've also written an article for Bloggiesta about Pinterest for your book blog. So look for that as well!

Here's my list:
  • Figure out of I need another page on the blog up by my "about me" and "review policy". I feel like there should be at least one more thing up there but I don't know what!
  • Get in on some Twitter chats
  • Start following at least 3 new blogs
  • Try to fill in the gaps in blog scheduling for April/May
Bloggiesta is a way to get tips for your book blog and to keep yourself accountable on things that you need to do to clean up your blog. It's my first year participating so I'm trying not to act a fool!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: Ashley from Closed the Cover brings us "Book Characters That Deserve a Spin-Off"

Hi Library Educated readers!  I’m Ashley and I run the book blog and literary promotions website Closed the Cover; It is so awesome of Wesley to invite me to guest post on her blog.  I met Wesley a month or two ago and I have to say that SHE. IS. AWESOME.  Seriously, she’s a super nice blogger and I’m excited about the opportunity to guest post to her readers.  I hope you enjoy my post below and please stop by Closed the Cover for a visit and to review more of my articles and reviews.   

Book Characters That Deserve a Spin-Off

Television shows have had the formula down for years - create a great concept, run it for as long as possible, select a popular character, repeat.  It has worked repeatedly and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  In fact, both Breaking Bad and How I Met Your Mother have announced the plans for spinoffs!  I mean, just look at this list of spinoffs and some people will even claim that the spinoff was better than the original show:

1. The Simpsons (spinoff of The Tracey Ullman Show)
2. The Facts of Life (spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes)
3. Frasier (spinoff of Cheers)
4. A Different World (spinoff of The Cosby Show)
5. Saved by the Bell (spinoff of Good Morning, Miss Bliss)
6. Private Practice (spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy)
7. Pinky and the Brain (spinoff of Animaniacs)

 There are hundreds of spinoff shows so the list could go on for a very, very long time but the point has been made.  Authors have picked up on the trend of prequels, sequels and trilogies yet there are so many spinoff possibilities that have not been explored.  I have included a list of three book characters that I wish would get their own (spinoff) book.  They deserve it!

1. Ashley Wilkes from Gone with the Wind – this man, the great love of Scarlett O’Hara, was pursued by Scarlett, betrothed to his cousin Melanie, sent away to fight in the Civil War (while his wife was pregnant with their first child), injured, returned home only to find Scarlett betrothed/engaged/married to another man yet still pursuing her love for him.  If this man doesn’t deserve his own novel I don’t know who does!

2. Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird – Boo was a totally misunderstood character.  When we apply that adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” to people I immediately think of Boo.  I would love a book solely about him - his life, his story.

3. Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride – Admit it!  Everyone knows his famous line, “My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”  Doesn’t everyone want to know more about Inigo Montoya’s father?  Don’t you want to know about that relationship, get to know a young Inigo and follow his quests?  I know I do.  Give him a book already!

Let’s hear it!   I know you have characters to add to the list.  Who are they?  

Thanks so much Ashley! If anyone wants to get a Kickstarter going to the Inigo Montoya spinoff I will give you cash money!

Friday, March 21, 2014

"If it's not Baroque, don't fix it!" - Book List About Architecture

I love architecture. I think if I had a completely different brain, one the would allow me to do math like a regular adult, I'd loved to have been an architect or a civil engineer. Since that is not the case I will just have to be satisfied with reading books about it. For the sake of variety, we have 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction, we'll start with the fiction.

"The Paris Architect" by Charles Belfoure

Lucien Bernard is an upcoming architect with a flair that leans toward modern in 1930s Paris. He's got a wealthyish wife, a striking and famous mistress, and everything would be coming up roses if it weren't for the Nazis. He doesn't hate the Nazis for their policies, he just doesn't  like that it complicates things for him.  He was raised in a pretty anti-Semitic household but frankly Lucien is really to self centered to give a rats behind about anyone else.

When Lucien gets a call from Monsieur Manet, a rich industrialist, he has high hopes for a lucrative commission. He is surprised when Manet's real commission is to create hiding places for Jews who are on the run from the Gestapo in some of the buildings that he owns. Lucien is taken aback, if he was to get caught the best he could hope for would be a fast gullet through the brain courtesy of their occupiers. When Manet offers Lucien the contract to design a factory outside of Paris if he also makes the hiding places Lucien can't help himself and agrees.

Lucien ends up having to work very closely with Nazis to design the factory, all the while thinking of creative hiding spots for Jews. Lucien doesn't really develop feelings about saving Jews but he  does start  start to enjoy the feeling of pulling something over on the Nazis.

There is betrayal, torture, surprising goodness in people, surprising badness in people, sex in unusual locations, tense moments and murder most foul... I enjoyed this book very much. I have only 2 complaints: I wish that they'd included one or two graphs or blueprints showing the hiding spots. The second complaint is that I feel like this is the 5th book I've read  this year with people running around on their spouses, kinda bums me out. Anyway, I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!

"Bricks and Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People That They Made" by Tom Wilkinson

(I received this e-book from netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. It will be published in about July.)

Right off the bat I'll tell you the buildings, this isn't a spoiler considering you can see them in the book descriptions at various websites:

-Tower of Babel, Babylon

-Nero’s Golden House, Rome
-Djinguereber Mosque, Timbuktu
-Palazzo Rucellai, Florence
-Garden of Perfect Brightness, Beijing 
-Festival Theatre, Beyreuth 
-E.1027, Cap Martin
-Highland Park Ford Plant, Detroit 
-Finsbury Health Centre, London
-Footbridge, Rio de Janeiro

There is a great amount of variety between these buildings; some are homes, some are public spaces, and one wasn't even built to completion. The author breaks down each building and what makes it important, interesting, and what it contributes to history and the area around it. 

There was a question that the author brought up that I thought was so fascinating.If a building/structure/infrastructure/piece of architecture is built/commissioned by an entity that is terrible is the architecture morally bad? (The author obviously put it better then that, but I sum up). Let's talk about 2 examples.

Emperor Nero was crazier then a shithouse rat, by most accounts. He was self indulgent and narcissistic to an extreme and it seemed like Rome was there purely for his enjoyment, however that's not altogether true. He built some really amazing state of the art public buildings, including the baths that are discussed in the book.

Another example is the Nazis.Hitler had his own personal architect and he had some GRAND plans for the architecture for the 1,000 year Reich. Some of them weren't even technically possible given technology at the time, the man was not one for understatement. Many of the Nazis planned architecture projects never happened, but a few of them did. One I bet you've heard of: the autobahn. The author says that the autobahn network is "elegant, and contoured to a t and enhance the landscape". But the autobahn was built to facilitate quick troop movements and convenience for the Nazis. And parts of it were built by slave labor.

So these interesting, practical, useful pieces or architecture were built by horrible people, does that make the work morally bad? Should we have ripped down the autobahn because of how and by whom it was constructed? Is it okay that it still stands and is used everyday? I think this is a question to be wrestled with, also the next time I need to sound smart at a cocktail party I'm going to bring this up. I keep thinking about it and I still don't know what the answer is....

Sex and eroticism and sexuality come up a lot in this book. I guess I never really considered that aspect of architecture (maybe I don't have the right kind of graphic imagination?). It especially comes up on  E.1027, I think not in any small part to the very public sex lives of the people connected to the building. Also in the very beginning of the book they talk about how many artists do their work in what we would consider small little shacks. Gauguin had a little cabin in the South Pacific and he called it his "maison du jouir, the house of orgasm". This is when I butt in and remind everyone that Gauguin died in agony due to advanced stage syphilis. 

I enjoyed this book immensely. As previously stated I find architecture fascinating and I love how this book made all the connections to history and time and place. I think my favorite highlighted building was the Festival Theatre. My only complaint is that I feel like the author really let a lot of his personal beliefs show through in the sections about the Tower of Babel. It's absolutely their prerogative to do that but I think the facts would have been sufficient without their bias. I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5!

anne frank stairs

This is a picture from the Anne Frank House. The bookcase swings and then there's stairs. The stairs are almost more like a ladder, they were some of the steepest stairs I've ever seen and there was almost no head room. Everyone should visit that place.