Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallow's Read

That's right ladies and gents, it is that time of year! I know everyone is going to be focused on candy and costumes today, but for those of us that always have books somewhere in mind, today is more than tricks and treats! It's the All Hallows Read!

I started my reading early, choosing to read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. Now traditionally, All Hallows Read is reserved for books of hauntings, supernatural activity, or classics such as Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". But I decided to branch out this year, reading about monsters of the human variety. Thus I picked a true crime novel about a visious killer who has yet to be caught. I was also given the chance to partake of the amazingly creepy tale of "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman who gave us book to the world by reading it aloud, along with many other awesome people! Find each of the chapters here. And now I have picked up a supernatural horroralled Candle Bay by Tamara Thorne.

For those of you have not participated in an All Hallows Read before, here is a link to site with everything from book recommendations for this special evening to book marks for those moments when you have to answer the door and dole out candy. All Hallow's Read even has a little video from one of the writing world's best contributors to the haunted genre: Neil Gaiman!

So get over there and check things out, or pick up a book from your own shelf or library that you have been putting off for the right mood to strike. And let me know what you have chosen to read! I can always use new ideas for next year!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Monster of Florence

"Many countries have a serial killer who defines his culture by a process of negation, who exemplifies his era not by exalting its values, but by exposing its black underbelly. England had Jack the Ripper, born in the fogs of Dickensian London, who preyed on the city's most neglected underclass, the prostitutes who scrabbled for a living in the slums of Whitechapel. Boston had the Boston Strangler, the suave, handsome killer who prowled the city's more elegant neighborhoods, raping and murdering elderly women and arranging their bodies in tableaux of unspeakable obscenity. Germany had the Montser of Dusseldorf, who seemed to foreshadow the coming of Hitler by his indiscriminate and sadistic killing of men, women, and children; his bloodlust was so great that, on the eve of his execution, he called his imminent beheading "the pleasure to end all pleasures." Each killer was, in his own way, a dark embodiment of his time and place.
Italy had the Monster of Florence." -The Monster of Florence, Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi (p. 24)

I apologize for such a long quote at the beginning of the post, but I always try to find one that best suites the tone and content of the book I am taking it from. This was it for this book. Not only does it tell you just how horrible this criminal was, by giving you examples he can be compared to, but it also shows you the level at which the story is told, Prestona dn Spezi do such a wonderful job at writing.

The Monster of Florence is the story of someone who went about the countryside killing young couples in their cars just after they had had sex (sorry for the bluntness, but I can't come up with a nice way of putting it). I won't go into details about the things that were done, you can discover that for yourself in a simple web search; but I will say that the book Hannibal was influenced by the Monster. The murders took place between 1974 and 1985, leaving fourteen dead, yet the killer has continued to elude the police to this day. Or so Spezi and Preston believe; as do I.

During the reading of this book I found myself frequently stopping to shake me head, groan, rant, and rave about the direction in which the case went. Not only was the collection and interpretation of the evidence simply horrendous, but simple truths that seem plain to everyone, went overlooked or simply ignored by those investigating the crimes. Instead of finding the killer, the police came up with insane conspiracy theories that would give truely crazy people a run for their money. These led to numerious wrongful convictions, ruining of people's lives, and the freedom of the true perpetrator of the crimes. It really is a shame, and it curdles my stomach to read about such a miscarriage of justice in today's world.

That all being said, the story itself was an interesting one. Reading about Spezi's pursuit of the truth from the day he caught the story in June of 1981, up until the present when he has been accused not only of trying to derail the investigation with his journalism, but also of being the killer himself, was enjoying a wild ride. The story if truly outrageous! And it is so well written by the amazing Spezi and Preston. Even though the facts made me sick, I was pulled along through the events by the wonderful writing.

I highly recommend that anyone that is interested in true crime give this book a look. Or if you like the writing of Preston, this is a great way to learn a little more about what the writer has been through over the years. Or if you are just looking for something non-fiction to read that has to do with the evils of the world. For so many this can be a great read, and I encourage all of you to give the book a chance, you might be surprised to find that you like it, even if it is not normally what you would read.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Island

"These were days in which Alexis felt herself grow older and wiser, and Fotini, in retelling so much of her past, felt herself young again. The half-century that separated the two women disappeared to vanishing point, and as they strolled arm in arm, they might even have been mistaken for sisters." -The Island by Victoria Hislop (p. 53)

The Island is the story of a family; mostly the women in a family. There is Alexis who has asked her mother Sophia if she can delve into their background so that she might know a little more about where she came from. Sophia gives in and sends her daughter to Plaka in Crete to discover the truth. So Alexis learns of Eleni and her two daughters: Maria and Anna (Sophia's mother). In learning of her family she discovers all the dirty little secrets of selfishness, infedelity, murder, and most inportanly, leprosy. Alexis discovers both villans and heros in her ancestry, and a close, if unwanted, attachment to the island of exile, Spinalonga.

As a lover of stories I am expecially drawn to the tale of people's families. These personal histories not only let us see the past in a different way, but also give us some hints into the people produced from these families. I love to know about the events and circumstances that have led a person or family to this point. So when I discovered this book I was sure that I found one that would have me intrueged until the very end. I was not dissappointed.

Within only a few pages I found myself attached to the characters of this story, feeling such pity for them and the situations they were thrown into. Not long after that I shed the first of many tears for these people. Many times I grew choked up at the heartbrake that occured throughout the three generations of women Alexis discovered. And yet I could not put down this book! The story held me tight, pulling me on with each page. I was just as invested in finding out the truth as young Alexis was. The villians and heros in the family reassuring me that every family has its good and bad apples, and perhaps both are necessary to make such a wonderful tale and legacy for their descendants.

Not only was the story captivating, but I was also greatly pleased with the writing. After having read a few books that I have had trouble getting through, it was a relief to sit down and fall into a book without having to worry about the words breaking the spell. The story flowed wonderfully, with a delicate ballance of history, discription, and emotion, led to a wonderful story I am slightly sad to have to put down. So I will keep this one for my shelf, and I look forward to picking it up to read again in the furute. I also recommend that everyone give this book a chance. With such a wonderful story, I hope everyone gets a chance to read the tale of a single family so affected by a place most would never know existed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Thousand Acres

"The last few weeks had shown well enough for anyone to understand that the one thing our family couldn't tolerate, that maybe no family could tolerate, was things coming into the open." -Ginny Cook Smith, A Thousand Acres (p. 252)

A Thousand Acres is the story of a family with a lot of issues. The father, Larry Cook, inherited the family farm from his father and grandfather, but then had three daughters to whom he would have to pass the thousand acres, which meant that he had to hope he could trust his sons-in-law. His two oldest daughters were left to help out with the farm, taking care of their father, and raise their youngest sister when their mother passed away from cancer when the oldest was 14. Ginny, the oldest, did well, marrying a boy from town who she had known most of her life and whom her father trusted on the farm. Ty, her husband, also trutsed Larry fully, following his father-in-law's every order and intending to continue things the same way if he ever was given the farm. Basically, he is the perfect son-in-law. Rose, the middle daughter, is the one who spoke out, rebelled, started out selfish and only got worse. Her husband, Pete, was originally a musician, but when he could not make enough money to support them and their children to come, he decided to take on farming. Pete did everything Larry's way simply because he knew no better, but all the while he did as his father-in-law told him to, he harbored an extreme hate for the man that slowly ate away at him. Caroline, the youngest, was sheltered and protected from most of the truths of the girls' childhood, and this innocents, nievete even, continued on into adulthood when she moved away, visited only occasionally, and deffended her father with tooth and nail till the end.

Every family has it's ups and downs, secrets hidden away hoping the world will only see the good, and even a time bomb or two carefully tucked away with everyone hoping it will wait a few generations before it goes off. The Cooks were not so lucky as things began fally apart when Larry decided to give the farm to the girls. Getting older, this may have seemed like a good idea, after all he could use the rest and the boys knew how to take care of things. Only Caroline wasn't so sure, she spoke up and was instantly shot down and cut out, forgotten even until things got unbareable. Ginny and Rose decided to take it all in and deal as best they could, both husbands had high hopes of how to continue the farm, maybe even make it better than it was before. The only problem was that Larry turned out to be the time bomb, and he just needed to be slowed down to set him off. The man seemed to have lost his mind when he body stopped moving at top speed. And the world around these two girls just begins to disolve until nearly nothing is left.

I picked this book up for Banned Books Week, starting it a little late and finishing it a little later, but I have been wanting to read it for years when I first saw it on a Banned list and was intrigued by the reasons and discription. So to say I was a little disappointed is really no surprise, rarely is something as great as you need it to be to hold a candle to the image you had in your mind of it. That being said, I was still shocked at the book. Every time I read a book about 3 daughters, I can't help but try to find the similatiries between my sisters and I and the characters. I think I can see some things in these girls and us, but they are exagerated almost, like these girls couldn't hold those attitudes in any longer and so they blew up on the page. I found myself wondering if they should be like that or if it was a show of the writer's talent. I lean more to the former since I really enjoyed the writing style of Jane Smiley throughout the book. These attitudes made it a little harder for me to get into the book. There was also the fact that while I do have problems with my family, I never went through anything like these girls did. Half the time I was disgusted at the father and even the younger sister, and the other half the time I wanted to stand up and yell "See, it wasn't all the bad growing up for us!"

I must point out that this does NOT make this a bad book. On the contrary, this book got me thinking and feeling, making it a good read in my opinion. I am torn between wanting to get rid of the book because I don't ever want to take the time to read such a sad story again, wanting to keep the book as a prize on my shelf to point out at random, and wanting to chunck it at a certain sister and yell "Count your blessings, damn it!" So this tears me up on my opinion of this book. It was a terrible story, almost like reading a newspaper, something I try never to do, with the glaring light shining down on these poor girls. But then it made me love the childhood I was given, it makes me want to recommend it to anyone who thinks they had it bad which makes me love it as a book. Jane Smiley did an incredible job writing this book!

Pick it up if you dare, if you can stand such a story. And if you can't, just remember that there are people who had way worse from their parents. Come to terms with the truths of your childhood so that these things don't claw you down in your adulthood.

""After a moment, she said, 'Don't do that to me. We're not going to be sad. We're going to be angry until we die. It's the only hope." -Rose Cook Lewis, A Thousand Acres (p. 354)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stealing Athena

"My embassy shall be known throughout history for its benefits to the Fine Arts in Great Britain. You and I together shall be responsible for elevating the taste of the nation." -Lord Elgin in Stealing Athena (p. 21)

Stealing Athena is the story of two women in two different times, dealing with sort of the same problems. Aspasia is in Athens, although she is considered a forgeiner, during the Golden Age, when the Akropolis was being built. Because of her status as outsider she cannot be married to any Athenian men, so instead she becomes the courtesan of Perikles, the leader of Athens and man who began the project of the Akropolis. While they are in love, it makes no difference to the other citisens who simply see Aspasia as a whore and troublemaker because she is too outspoken. Mary Nisbet is another sotry. Married to the ambassador of the Brittish Empire to the Turkish Empire, who has bigger ambitions to rescue all the art of Athens from the French. Lord Elgin believes that be taking apart the incredible monuments and taking them home, he will be rewarded with fame for bringing so much art to the English. Along the way it seems the gods don't agree with him, and he runs into a lot of problems including disease, prison, and the death of a child.

Both women are thought to be too outspoken, too open minded, too curious. In times when women were expected to be seen and not heard, these women were determined to be heard, even if it was only by their husbands. And things would have been easy if they had husbands who understood that need. Well, Aspasia did get a good one, Perikles could understand that she needed to be her own person. Mary on the other had, got a husband that, while seeming to be completely in love with his wife, was unable to focus on anything other than his pet project of bringin down a whole culture.

This book sure got my mind moving. At first it seemed to be a slow book, not what I had expected or hoped for. Luckily it was what I had hoped for and the book sooned picked back up. Before I knew it, i was pulled into issues that I feel passionately about: women having a right to speak up, and the arts dedicated to the gods. I read as a man tore down beautiful monuments that praised the Athenian people as well as the amazing Goddess that they worshiped. A goddess who stood very firmly for the right sof women and their abilities. As Lord Elgin tore down the gifts her people gave to her, Athena begins to take revenge on him, and maybe even for the way he treated his wife. It gave me a lot to think about, to talk about, and a lot of reasons to sit down with the book and continue to read until I had finished.

I recommend that everyone take a chance at reading this wonderful book. Some of the things I discovered, about the characters and what I felt, I believe that others would like to read about as well. If you do get a chance to read it, let me know what you think, what your feelings are on the issues I was drawn to.