Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October Offerings: Horror Movie Reads

I love horror movies. I always have, even when I was probably  too young to be watching them. But when your older siblings are babysitting and offer to let you stay up past 9 PM if you'll watch Pet Sematary with them, you don't pass up the opportunity! (Even if you spend the next few years thinking that every awful thing from the movie is living in your closet.)

With horror films as popular as ever, it comes as no surprise that there are an endless amount of books about horror movies published in the last few decades, from movie guides to behind-the-scenes memoirs and everything in between.  I've complied a selection of some interesting horror movie books, categorized by subject. Happy reading!

Essentials, Must-Sees, and Watch-Before-You-Die

Horror 101: The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies by Aaron Christensen

Essential Horror Movies: Matinee Monsters to Cult Classics by Michael Mallory

101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die by Steven Jay Schneider

The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies by Michael Mayo

Horror by Decade or Genre

The Slasher Movie Book by J. A. Kerswell

Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror by Michael Mallory

Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America by Mark Voger

Sixties Shockers: A critical Filmography of Horror Cinema, 1960-1969 by Mark Clark

J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond by David Kalat

Ten Years of Terror: British Horror Films of the Seventies by Harvey Fenton and David Flint

The Hammer Story by Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes

The Very Witching Time of Night: Dark Alleys of Classic Horror Cinema by Gregory William Mank

It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium by Axelle Carolyn

The Making Of...
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th by Peter M. Bracke

Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World's Most Notorious Horror Movie by Gunnar Hansen

Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury

The Making of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead by Lee Karr

Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vinyard by Matt Taylor

Amicus Horrors: Tales from the Filmmaker's Crypt by Brian McFadden

Bits and Pieces

Danse Macabre by Stephen King

Monsters in the Movie by John Landis

Writing the Horror Movie by Marc Blake and Sara Bailey

The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer's Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead by Adam Rockoff

Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams by Robert Englund

The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror by David J. Skal

Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America by David J. Skal

Wes Craven: The Man and his Nightmares by John Wooley

Too Much Horror Business by Kirk Hammett

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Offerings: The Art of Mourning (Book Recommendations)

Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils Revised Mourning Rituals in 19th Century America by Bernadette Loefell-Atkins

Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils explores the culture of death and mourning that perveated almost every aspect of Victorian society. In the Victorian eera, mourning rituals and practices became more tangible and visible than in previous eras; from widow's weeds to various stages of social obligatory mourning periods--and everything in between--this book will take you on a tour through the complicated yet fascinating art of Victorian mourning.

In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry by Sarah Nehama

Mourning jewelry is not all that uncommon today (with necklaces containing creamted remains being the most common in the modern era) but at its heights in the 17th through 19th centuries, mourning jewelry was a cornerstone of the mourning process that utlized many different types of jewelry, artistic styles, and various social contexts. In Death Lamented explores how mourning jewelry developed from the 17th century through the 19th century and features photographs and historical commentary.

Fashionable Mourning Jewelry, Clothing, & Customs by Mary Brett

This Schiffer book is intended for collectors--it comes complete with price guides circa 2007 and a forward discussing the rising value of antique mourning pieces--but it is a treasure trove for anyone interested in mourning jewelry and other mourning pieces from the Victorian era. This full-color catalog features 300 pictures of everything from mourning jewelry, mourning portraits, mourning fashion, poetry and sympathy letters, antique death announcements, and more.

Friday, September 25, 2015

From Fiction to History: 'The Heretic's Daughter'

Fiction: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

 Sarah Carrier, the young daughter of Martha Carrier, feels constantly at odds with her little world, where work and life are hard but not always that long. But the trials of childhood are nothing compared to the brutality and danger that sweeps into Salem, Massachusetts as the hysteria over witchcraft takes hold of the small village. Sarah's mother is one of the first to be accused and imprisoned on the charges of witchcraft, and Sarah can do little to help her mother--or avoid suspicion herself. Kathleen Kent is a 10th generation descendant of Martha Carrier, which makes this fictional take from Sarah's point of view even more poignant.

History: The Salem Witch Trials, a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K. Roach

'The Salem Witch Trials' is an incredibly thorough look at the Salem Witch Trials through a day by day chronicle of Salem Village in 1692 and 1693. Each entry includes information about any important happenings in the village that day, known weather conditions, as well as other pertinent information designed to give the reader an inside look at Salem, its inhabitants, and the trials that made the village infamous. Marilynne K. Roach's book places the events in Salem in their chronological context, allowing readers to have a clearer view of what happened--and, in many cases, a clearer look at why it may have happened.

History: A Storm of Witchcraft, The Salem Witch Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker

In A Storm of Witchcraft, Emerson Baker argues that the Salem Witch Trials were the result of a "perfect storm" rather than one particular factor, such as the popular theories regarding ergot poisoning or hysteria influencing the girls of Salem to accuse others of witchcraft. A Storm of Witchcraft takes a look at the events in Salem--and the American colonies as a whole during this time period, which saw a general rise in accusations of witchcraft--through a broader political and historical context. Baker also explores how the trials have inspired an enduring legacy, despite early attempts by the Puritan government to suppress the trial from the public mind.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

From Fiction to History: Book Recommendations ('In the Shadow of Blackbirds')

Fiction: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

When 16-year old Mary Shelley Black is sent to live with her aunt after her father is imprisoned for refusing to fight in the war, she finds once familiar streets and people forever changed. The war and the influenza epidemic have cast a black shroud over every aspect of life, and people increasingly turn to the supernatural in their bleakest moments.  Mary agrees to sit for a "spirit photograph" for an old friend who proclaims he can contact the dead, though the science-minded Mary doesn't take much stock in the otherworldly. But when the ghost of a soldier begins to visit her, Mary is forced to reconsider her personal views--and find a way to ease his restless spirit.

History: Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography by Martyn Jolly

In 'Faces of the Living Dead,' Martyn Jolly takes a look at the development and practice of spirit photography from its earliest forms in the 1870s through the 1930s, when the practice finally fell out of favor. In addition to exploring the 'whys' behind people's desire to belief in photographs of their loved one's spirits, Jolly goes into detail about how photographers used various tricks and techniques to create their unique images.

History: The Great Influenza, The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed three to five percent of the world's population in just over one year and affected just about every corner of the globe. The pandemic is considered to be one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history and is notable not just for the sheer number of deaths and infections, but for the fact that young, healthy adults were more likely to succumb to the disease than children or the elderly. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry is an extensive, comprehensive look at how the pandemic began, why it was able to spread so far and fast, and what we can learn from the '1918 flu' in preparation for future pandemics.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Quick Picks: Three New/Upcoming Chinese History Books

Time for some quick picks! Here are three new or upcoming Chinese history books that have caught my eye:

Runaway Wives, Urban Crimes, and Survival Tactics in Wartime Beijing, 1937-1949 by Zhao Ma [Harvard University Asia Center, September 2015]

Women living in wartime Beijing faced many challenges, including threats from the Japanese occupational forces, poverty from political and social upheaval, and even civil war. 'Runaway Wives' uncovers the ways that women used underground networks and even criminal activity to keep themselves and their families alive.

Garden of Perfect Brightness: The Lost and Most Splendid Imperial Garden in China by Guo Daiheng [Shanghai Press, April 2016]

A look at the Old Summer Palace, built in 1707 and described as the "garden of all gardens"; the palace and its gardens, once heralded as the most beautiful in the world, were destroyed and looted by the British-French allied army in 1860.

City of Marvel and Transformation: Chang'an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Dynasty China by Linda Rui Feng [University of Hawaii Press, August 2015]

Chang'an (present day Xi'an) was the imperial capital of China during the Tang Dynasty; during its heyday, Chang'an was a thriving cultural center that inspired developments in technological, social, scientific and artistic circles. 'City of Marvel and Transformation' puts a special focus on the writings of educated men who came to the city seeking to take the civil service examinations.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Fiction to History: Book Recommendations ('Revolution is Not a Dinner Party')

I love historical fiction. Historical fiction I read in elementary school (willingly or not!) played a large part in encouraging me to become interested in actual history, and even today I find myself picking up non-fiction books to find out more about the real events and history behind some of my favorite fiction novels! In the same vein, I've decided to start a series of posts recommending some non-fiction reads based on historical fiction favorites. I was checking over my Goodreads 2015 Challenge earlier today and thought that the historical fiction I've read this year would be an excellent place to start.

Fiction: Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Ling, the central character of Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, is only 9 years old when the world around her begins to crumble due to the increasingly heightened policies under the Chinese Cultural Revolution; her parents, two wealthy surgeons who have provided their daughter with a comfortable life and education, find themselves under increasing suspicion and ultimately punishment for their perceived anti-revolutionary lifestyle and beliefs. Ling, too, is increasingly ostracized for being "bourgeois"--for having long hair, new clothes, and a comfortable life. The events in Revolution is Not a Dinner Party were drawn from Compestine's own experiences as a young girl in Wuhan.

History:  Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng

Life and Death in Shanghai
is a deeply personal and detailed account of one woman's long, terrible imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution. Cheng's life made her the perfect target: she was the widow of an official of the last regime, formally educated in London, employed at Shell Oil, and enjoyed a comfortable, wealthy lifestyle. Cheng's imprisonment began after she refused to admit that any of this made her an enemy of China, and what followed were 6 years of horror--and many more years of seeking justice.

History: Blood Red Sunset: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Ma Bo 

As a Red Guard, Ma Bo did not hesitate to do the work that Mao's government demanded of its soldiers: ransacking homes for anything that went against the party's guidelines, beating suspected anti-communists in order to make them confess, and even participating in . But when Ma Bo made a careless comment about a party leader, he found himself on the other side--imprisoned for eight years while enduring severe beatings, physical torture and psychological abuse. Blood Red Sunset is Ma Bo's memoir of those terrible years.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

WWII Historical Fiction from Gudrun Pausewang

I read a lot of WWII historical fiction aimed at teenagers and middle-grade readers and through the years I've noticed an interesting trend; namely that many HF books set in this era written by European authors tend to be more realistic, dark and even bleak, while many books written by American authors tend to shy away from some of the grittier details and usually end with some kind of hopeful note or message. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but as a general trend I think it holds true.

Out of all the European authors to pen books set in WWII for younger readers, Gudrun Pausewang is my favorite. Her books do not shy away from realistic, even shocking, details nor do they gloss over the terrible circumstances experienced by the characters in her stories. The following three books are, as far as I am aware, the only three of her WWII-era novels which have been translated into English.

I highly recommend all of them for readers interested in WWII historical fiction, although I do think that most younger readers should be guided through the books (particularly The Final Journey) with an adult due to the subject matter. Pausewang does not sugarcoat, and the books can be difficult to get through--and difficult to forget once you've read them. But that is precisely why I consider her books some of the best WWII historical fiction out there, whether you're 13 or 93.

Dark Hours by Gudrun Pausewang

 Dark Hours is set in the dying days of WWII Germany and follows a young teenager named Gisel who is fleeing the city with her two younger siblings, including an infant, along with her pregnant mother. Gisel and her brothers are separated when their mother goes into labor and they must attempt to travel to the countryside on their own. They are at a train station when an air raid siren goes off, and find themselves trapped in the air raid shelter bathroom, unable to leave because of rubble blocking the way. But they are not alone: an injured soldier is trapped in the men's bathroom on the other side of the wall, and as the hours tick by, Gisel, her brothers, and the soldier must do all they can to survive. As Gisel fights to keep herself--and her siblings--alive, she must confront the realities of the war, the Nazi Regime that has crumbled away, and her own hopes for the future.

Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang

Traitor begins in 1944 with a young teenager named Anna returning to visit her family in the small village of Stiegnitz, Mysterious tracks in the snow lead her to her family's barn, where she discovers an escaped Russian prisoner-of-war who is starving, ill and helpless. Anna is faced with an impossible decision: If she turns him in to the police, he will be killed. If she does nothing, he may be found and her family could be marked for not turning him in. She ultimately decides to hide the man, named Maxim, and care for him, even though it means her own life is forfeit if she were to ever be discovered. As the months of secrecy drag on, Anna becomes weighed down by the knowledge that each step she takes to save Maxim brings them both closer to discovery.

The Final Journey by Gudrun Pausewang

The Final Journey opens with an 11-year old girl named Alice being forced into a cattle car with her doting grandfather and almost 50 other people. Alice does not know where she's going, nor why they have been forced onto the car, although her grandfather attempts to placate her with answers that she knows aren't quite right. As the journey on the train continues, Alice and the other men, women and children forced into the car must deal with the mundane details of human life in an extraordinary setting: basic bathroom functions become a fiercely debated topic, a pregnant woman goes into labor and must give birth without any real medical care, and food and water become scarce and violently defended resources. Alice, who has been kept naive to the real circumstances of her parent's disappearance weeks earlier, begins to learn the secrets of life--including her own life--as she takes what will be her final journey.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Selected Books about Titanic's Passengers and Crew

Wednesday will mark the 103rd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The first and last voyage of the famous liner has captivated the minds of the public since the moment the news of its sinking reached the shore. For the past century, everything from films, history books, novels, plays, and even merchandise have found their way into the hearts and homes of those with a fascination for the doomed ship--whether they are interested in its its structure and mechanics, its role in maritime history, the miniature display of Edwardian society that filled its decks, or the lives and deaths of the passengers and crew.

The men and women who survived or died during the tragedy have left varied legacies. But regardless of where life took them after the tragedy--back to the sea, in the case of most crew members, or onward through the 20th century--there is no denying that history wants to remember them.

There are countless numbers of books about the Titanic--from broad histories to 21st century retrospectives and everything in between. Some of these books have even been written by the survivors of the disaster, including the works by Lawrence Beesley and Archibald Gracie, which are arguably the most often quoted books written by survivors.

But the passengers and crew haven't been ignored by historians, either. In addition to firsthand accounts, biographies and histories focusing on the people who survived, and the people who were lost that night, have been published since shortly after the ship sank.

The following are some selected books about the Titanic's passengers and crew. It is by no means comprehensive!

Memoirs/Firsthand Accounts

Titanic Survivor by Violet Jessop
Shadow of the Titanic: A Survivor's Story, a Biography of Miss Eva Hart by Eva Hart
The Truth About the Titanic by Archibald Gracie
The Loss of the SS Titanic by Lawrence Beesley 
Titanic: A Survivor's Story by Jack Thayer


Thomas Andrews, Voyage into History : Titanic Secrets Revealed Through the Eyes of Her Builder by William C. Barnes
How to Survive the Titanic: or, The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay by Frances Wilson
The Man Who Sank Titanic: The Troubled Life of Quartermaster Robert Hichens by Sally Nilsson
Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth by Kristen Iversen
The Band That Played on: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic by Steve Turner
And the Band Played On: The Titanic Violinist & the Glovemaker: A True Story of Love, Loss & Betrayal by Christopher Ward


Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and their World by Hugh Brewster
Titanic: Women and Children First by Judith B. Geller
The Story of the Titanic As Told by Its Survivors
by Jack Winocour
Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived by Andre Wilson 
Titanic Voices by Hannah Holman

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: The Creation of Anne Boleyn

Who was Anne Boleyn? For centuries, the second wife of Henry VIII has been the subject of countless interpretations--fictional, biographical and everything in between. She has been cast in every possible role--as heroine and villain, as hapless victim of Henry's whims and political harbinger of her own tragic fate, as religious martyr and demonic temptress. Her story, retold countless times, continues to fascinate and inspire countless writers, artists, historians and readers.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn looks at the many metamorphoses of Anne Boleyn throughout history, which have manifested in historical works, literature and popular culture. In the first section of the book, author Susan Bordo revisits the real life of Anne Boleyn by discussing (and challenging) some of the commonly held beliefs about Anne; many of the beliefs that Bordo challenges come straight from the correspondence of one of Anne's most volatile enemies at court, the ambassador Chapuys. In challenging the facts about Anne Boleyn presented by Chapuys, Bordo also challenges many historians--modern and otherwise--who rely perhaps too heavily on Chapuys' correspondence for their interpretation of Anne Boleyn's life.

The second and third sections of the book tackles Anne Boleyn's many fictional representations after her death, including her portrayal in literature, theater and, more recently, film and television. Bordo looks primarily at Anne's portrayal in Anne of a Thousand Days, The Tudors, and The Other Boleyn Girl; brief mentions of other film and TV interpretations are also included.

In discussing how Anne has been revisited over the centuries in these fictional works, Bordo looks at broader social, political and entertainment trends that have influenced the way Anne has been depicted; despite the more recent historiography of Anne Boleyn challenging the notion of Anne as a shrewd vixen-like character, this type of Anne Boleyn, who seduces Henry VIII for her own gain and gets a 'comeuppance' in the end, has swung back around in the last decade or so with works such as The Other Boleyn Girl and in some respects, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies novels.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn is an essential book for anyone with an interest in Anne Boleyn; it is also of interest to anyone who loves to study historiography and historical figures in popular culture.