Friday, September 28, 2018

State of the ARC #8

State of the ARC is a monthly feature hosted by Avalinah's Books. I am so glad I stumbled upon it, because it is really helping me with my 2018 Reading Goals (also find a related Top Ten Tuesday HERE). Links go to Goodreads, unless I have finished the review, in which case it goes to that. All ARCs are from NetGalley or Edelweiss, unless otherwise noted.

Pending = None

Not Started = None

Started = Two
Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom, 9-17-18 (received two days after publication, author request/digital from publisher)

The Invisible Emperor, 10-9-18 (hard copy from publisher)

DNF = Two
Sugar, 11-29-18 (digital from publisher)

A Divided Life, 10-4-18 (digital from publisher)

Finished/Review to Come = Six
American Gothic, 10-4-16

Death in Paris, 10-9-18 (digital from publisher)

I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends, 10-23-18

Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Unwanted Wife, 10-26-18

The First Congress, 2-9-16 (Received one month after publication)

George Washington's Washington, 4-1-18 (received in May from my NetGalley Wishlist)

Review or Feedback Sent = Eight

Sugar, 11-29-18 (digital from publisher, feedback to publisher)

A Divided Life, 10-4-18 (digital from publisher, feedback to publisher)

We Were Eight Years in Power, 10-3-17

Cecily Neville: Mother of Richard III, 4-30-18 (received three weeks after publication)

The Black Prince, 5-1-18

Haunted World War II, 10-8-18

Trail of Terror, 10-8-18

Haunted Castles of England, 10-8-18

Not too shabby. How did you fair this lovely month of September?

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Paranormal Review Bomb II: ARC Edition

I went back and forth on the idea of doing a review bomb for the paranormal ARCs I read recently, but decided it was for the best. I will still post a review for each individual book when giving feedback to NetGalley, but considering the theme, this is the best option overall. All three were provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

For some time now I have been auto-approved by Llewellyn on NetGalley, something I love because it means never having to wait when I spy a new title full of paranormal encounters for me to read. For the most part I have been lucky to find good quality texts about paranormal experiences. Unfortunately it was more of a mixed bag this time around, but I still found stories of interest in each of the following books.

38256360 2 Stars
This one could have been so much better than it was, especially when one considers the plethora of information available on WWII. Give the line of thinking that paranormal activity occurs in part at least due to some kind of traumatic event in a place and time, it makes complete sense that all of Europe is basically one giant haunted house. we are talking serious trauma here, something everyone can agree on, even if we don't all agree on the existence of ghosts, spirits, whatever you call them.

The author's name was familiar to me and it was only after I had finished reading that  connected it to another paranormal book I read in the last few months concerning haunted colleges and universities. I did not much care for that one either, but for different reasons. I felt with the previous book, there was little evidence offered in the way of why a certain campus building might be haunted. Here we are provided more of information in that way, but not necessarily through the author's own thorough research. Instead, many of the hauntings recounted here, especially in the beginning, seemed simply culled from websites with forums dedicated to people sharing their paranormal experiences in the context of WWII sites. That kind of research is easy. I would much prefer reading about an author who does the investigation for him or herself, or at least speaks to witnesses firsthand. Literally anyone can go onto any website and copy the information, slap a cover on it, and call it a book. Done deal, with hardly a sweat broken. This was too often the case here, and the primary reason I can not rate the book any higher. Time and again, stories were taken from various websites and I found myself quickly tiring of the impersonal nature of the book.

It was not ALL bad though, and I did find some stories of interest. One such section involved details of haunted places in Hawaii, and not only Pearl Harbor. The author discusses Hickam Air Force Base. When people think of December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona immediately spring to mind. Yet there were either sites also targeted that day and Hickam was one of them, where an estimated 200 people died that morning, as well as Schofield Barracks, situated closely to Wheeler Army Airfield, all sites I was lucky enough to visit with my grandma back in June, 2010. I only wish I had known then about these ghostly events so I could have been on the lookout myself.

At this time I can only say I would recommend this one with hesitation. Far too much reliance on website material.

38256376 3 Stars

As you might have guessed from the previous book, one thing I value very highly is personal experience when writing about paranormal activity. I find it suspect when an author has little to no investigation experience of their own. I prize most highly books written by investigators of their own experience as they chase down one ghostly lead after another.

One thing I most appreciated about this book is that each castle was accompanied by a link to its official website. The reader is often treated to the history of the castle itself before even moving into the ghost bits, which I also think is hugely important. That background information is so crucial, not only for readers and would-be investigators to come to their own conclusions, but to set the stage for the stories themselves. A good many of these places I would not like to be alone in after dark, but the history nerd in me would loved to traipse the grounds of every single location in the daylight.

The author starts in the only truly logical place on this journey, the Tower of London. In fact, he states from the beginning, "No ghost book would be complete without at least a reference to the Tower of London, given that it is reputedly the most haunted building in England, if not the entire world" (8%). This should come as no surprise, given the history of the place. Some history buffs might find it interesting to learn that very few executions actually took place within the Tower itself, while the majority were carried out on the nearby Tower Hill. Yet for some, notably Anne Boleyn, Margaret Pole, Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn (also Jane Grey, though her death warrant came from Mary I, not Henry VIII), they were offered the somewhat private execution at Tower Green. How nice of Henry.

For the most part I feel like the author did an adequate job in giving some kind of back story. I sometimes find myself bored by all the stories of the Gray Lady or the White Lady. I am of the opinion that, if you have literally no source material or any idea as to who the person might be, they're best left out of the story. There were a few such ladies in this one, but not nearly as many as I have seen in other similar texts.

Aside from the paranormal experiences, I appreciated the historical material as well. The author knows his stuff and was able to provide enough information about each place in order to show its importance. He used his own experiences as evidence often, which I feel is a must for these kinds of books. I recommend this one for those like me who enjoy or good ghostly tale.

38256362 4 Stars

This is now the third Estep book I have read, and I have several more of his titles patiently waiting on my TBR. My favorite of his so far is a title I reviewed a few months back about a haunted medieval prison that had been converted into a living space - a building you could not pay me to go into even on the brightest of sunshine-y days. It was truly one of the spookier paranormal books I have read and I enjoyed it so much because it was so in-depth. Estep was there several days investigating, then wrote about those experiences. Here in Trail of Terror we find exactly the same methodology. Estep writes about the haunted places we find in his books because he HAS BEEN THERE. He has conducted the investigations himself, with a varying number of team members, and I find his work gets better and better as I read more and more. he has had quite a few strange, or downright scary encounters, and I know he will always weave a good story.

I also appreciate his necessary habit of knowing when to call something paranormal, and when to simply say, "We don't know". Debunking is as important to any paranormal investigation as any other part of the process, and something that sometimes gets overlooked when investigators are so anxious to show off their evidence. I appreciate his dismissal of anything that is not a solid clue, and the thoroughness of his investigations. I also appreciate the fact that he provides background for each of the places he visits, as well as the haunted history. He explains carefully why he uses certain equipment in certain places, and even what he is hoping to find. I would love to explore so many of the places he has been.

There is one quote in particular that I would like to touch on, which I found especially thought-provoking. Too often we assume something is demonic because of the rage that might accompany the spirit. The quote is rather long, but please bear with me, as I think it is important enough to recall the majority of it here. Of this topic Estep says:

"I do not believe that all 'dark hauntings' are necessarily demonic or inhuman in nature. If we accept the possibility that our spirit may survive bodily death and transition into some form of afterlife - one in which is may still interact with the living in various ways - then it would also seem quite logical to me that our personality would remain mostly unchanged too...we do not instantly become all-knowing, all-seeing, and practically angelic in behavior when we die and leave the body, but rather we retain the same quirks, behavioral characteristics, and essentially the same mental state as we had when our heart was still beating. Imagine yourself being invisible, intangible, and above all unable to communicate with those loved ones you have lost...Imagine the sheer frustration of finding your circumstances so dramatically changed, and not necessarily for the better. Would you be sad? Bitter? Angry? Enraged?" (67%)

To me, a very sensible train of thought. That's not to say there are no demonic and/or inhuman haunts. It simply means that not everything that is pissed off and mean is a demon.

I highly recommend this one (and Spirits of the Cage, another top-notch investigation with some really amazing and terrifying encounters!)

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 Stars

I cannot think of a for fitting subtitle than the one for this book. An American Tragedy, indeed, well-deserving all caps, even. This collection of Coates' articles written during President Obama's years in office are a sobering and heart-wrenching look back at a groundbreaking presidency, only to be followed by such a ginormous shit-show that it is hard to believe we are talking about the same America. Sadly, we are.

Prior to this read, I was familiar with Coates' work and had enjoyed several of his articles for The Atlantic, though some of these were still new to me. And truthfully, I am having a very difficult time putting into words all the emotions I felt while reading this one. As a result, this might actually be one of the worst reviews I have ever written because no matter how I try, the words I write don't properly convey how important this book is. I might as well just stand on an actual soapbox on a street corner, banging a drum and shouting at passers-by that they MUST read this book. What I CAN say is that if you are looking for the voice of this generation in regards to writing, speaking, thinking about race, you can stop now; Coates is that voice, that writer, that thinker. Not only are the articles fantastic, but it is the in-between stuff that really pops. Coates prefaces each article with further writing, discussing his frame of mind at the time, what was going on when he penned that particular articles, and his reflections on it now that President Obama's time in office is receding further and further in the rear-view mirror. It is interesting to read of how his writing and thinking evolved over the course of Obama's two terms, and how that impacted him as a whole. You can certainly locate each individual article online, but please trust me when I say your time and money spent on the book would be well worth it. In fact, I wish this would become required reading in high school and beyond - especially two of the most powerful essays in a strong collection of work: "My President Was Black" and "The Case for Reparations". The latter is especially eye-opening, even for those who think they already have a solid grasp on how deeply racism is embedded into every day life in America, even in 2018. ESPECIALLY in 2018

In the final essay, the epilogue really to eight years of President Obama, comes Coates' final thoughts entitled, "The First White President". The title alone really makes one stop and think, with Coates providing his thoughts on why the statement is so infuriatingly accurate, and I thoroughly agree with his argument - that trumplethinskin's "entire political existence hinges on" a black president coming before him. he truly won for no other reason than being a white male, it really is that simple. This grossly unqualified candidate lead the way on the birtherism 'movement', and has demanded multiple times to see President Obama's transcripts, because OF COURSE a black man could not really be intelligent enough to attend an Ivy League school (sometimes when I type, I roll my eyes so hard I am worried they will roll right out of my head). If this line of thinking from trump makes you uncomfortable, good. It should. His thoughts, words, and actions are so normalized at this point, I fear we may never recover. 2020 can not come fast enough, and we must do all we can in the Midterm elections to right this ship before we reach the point of no return.

In addition to the aforementioned articles, Coates touches on a number of other topics as well in his selection of work from each year of the Obama presidency. One of my other favorites was a piece on Michelle Obama, her upbringing, and message sent in conjunction with that of her husband's. Also addressed at length is the epidemic of mass incarcerations and the impact that has on Black families - another fantastic piece that is timely and horrifying.

Basically what I am trying to say here is that the collection is superb. Even those articles from the earliest years of the Obama Administration are just as important now as they were then. We are also lucky enough to be able to go back to those articles now, with the knowledge we have gained in the time since they were first written. This brings another dimension to Coates' writing that we should be thankful for. In these articles, as well as the prefaces he has included for each of them, Coates writes in such a persuasive way, yet still allows himself to be completely open and vulnerable. He does not have all the answers, nor does he claim to. But to understand one another and work toward building a better, more inclusive future, his words provide a wonderful starting point - if everyone is will to take those steps and begin that journey.

I highly recommend this book to pretty much any and everyone. The unfortunate part is that those who might need it the most in all likelihood will never pick it up. Therein lies the problem. But the rest of us can and must pick up the slack and keep moving forward.

The Black Prince: England's Greatest Medieval Warrior


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 Stars

I always love a good game of "What If..." and perhaps one of the best people to include in this game is Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, known forever to history as the Black Prince. Can you imagine how different England, and Europe (particularly France) might look even today had he lived to become king? He certainly lived up to the subtitle of Jones' book: England's Greatest Medieval Warrior, and one must only look as far as the battles he took part in during the Hundred Years' War to see the evidence plain as day.

Speaking of battles, I must say that the author does a really great job of presenting them in an interesting and engaging way. The Black Prince is one of my favorite figures from the time, which might surprise those who know my tastes well, and know how dreadfully boring I find warfare in general. Yet here is a good example of a book which I skimmed only very very minimally when it came to such battles - one of the rare occasions. I wanted to know the battle details and tactics used, because they are so telling of Edward's character and who he was as this great medieval warrior. I find the dichotomy of the Black Prince endlessly fascinating - a pious warrior. Certainly these two characteristics are opposite ends of a spectrum, no? Yet that is exactly who we find Edward of Woodstock to be. He lived in a violent age, committed violence himself on multiple occasions, and yet has been held up over the centuries as the ultimate example of "the flower of all chivalry". (Though, to be completely honest, I am even more partial to William the Marshal than I am to the Black Prince, and could make a case that Marshal was the ultimate example himself. But I digress...)

As Edward's life was dominated by warfare, that is thus what the majority of the text is about. We are first introduced to his father Edward III, who was no slouch when it came to such unpleasant things as well. But the Black Prince truly shone when he took center stage at age sixteen at the Battle of Crecy and made clear from his actions that he was indeed a warrior. In a battle where a terrible loss was expected, the Black Prince prevailed. This pattern would repeat several times in his short life (though by the standards of the day, his life was relatively long) and the outcome was almost always the same, a victory for Edward III's heir, the heir who would not live long enough to see himself crowned as Edward IV. His death at age 45 set off a chain of events that would absolutely wreck England for decades upon decades. Given that the Black Prince preceded his father Edward III in death, his son Richard would go on to be crowned Richard II at the age of ten - a child-king is always a recipe for some kind of power-grabby disaster. Had the crown been passed down the line of Edward III's sons instead of going to the oldest son of his oldest son, we would have seen John of Gaunt as John II. You know, the Duke of Lancaster. Founder of the Lancastrian branch of the family tree. Surely he would have been the better candidate than a child of ten, but the rules of the age permitted Richard's ascension to the throne. And it was not as though the Duke of Lancaster was any stranger to governing, as he had basically been doing so as the health of his father and brother faded rapidly in the end. Or going back to the whole 'Had the Black Prince lived...' thing, perhaps his own rule would have paved a much smoother way for his young son, and we might have seen Richard II become a much stronger and competent king. That in turn might have diminished the chances of John of Gaunt's son wresting the throne from him and becoming Henry IV. Though in Henry IV's defense, he really did not have much choice in the matter. Richard II had disinherited his cousin and returned all of Lancaster's land and wealth to the Crown. Henry went back to fight for what was his, and got the throne in the process. Perhaps that all could have been avoided though, if the Black Prince would have been crowned himself. Like I said, I love a good game of What If... and the possibilities are endless with this particular time period. We are talking big stuff here, such as the potential for no Wars of the Roses. No Henry IV would have meant no Lancasters vying for the throne.

I find the topic of how he came to be known as the Black Prince to be an interesting avenue to explore. There are many stories, and perhaps the truth lies somewhere in a combination of multiple ideas. One such option is his taking up the deceased Jean of Luxenbourg's (who was also blind) badge of an ostrich feather on a black background, possibly a way to honor the bravery of an opponent who died in battle? It has also been suggested for years upon years that the French bestowed the name upon their enemy for all the terrible atrocities he would commit or sanction in the Hundred Years' War - particularly at the Battle of Limoges.

It is clear from the presentation of the material that Jones has a great deal of admiration for his subject. This does not, however, mean that it is all sunshine and roses and Edward of Woodstock is not given a good hard look at who he was. I found that the author did an beautiful job in bringing the Black Prince to life, presenting both sides of his complex character - the pious prince who gave much of his wealth away to his servants, while simultaneously slaughtering opponents in battle. The Battle of Limoges is a prime example, and one of the pieces of evidence offered up by chroniclers of the time as the reason for his 'Black Prince' title. It was there, according to Froissert in his contemporary work, that over 3,000 citizens of Limoges were murdered when the city was retaken by English forces lead by none other than Edward of Woodstock. There are conflicting accounts of whether or not the slaughter even took place, but it is a key piece of evidence that again shows the complexity of the age, and of the Black Prince himself.

Over all this is an incredibly well-researched and well-crafted testament to a brilliant tactician who saw victory after victory over the French in the Hundred Years' War. He was very much a product of his age and the author does not shy away from all that implies. What we are thus given is a highly readable account of one of the great figures of the day. This is a must read for anyone interested in medieval history.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Cecily Neville, Mother of Richard III


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3 Stars

Cecily is such an interesting figure and I was so excited to be approved for this one on NetGalley. She was the mother of two kings, Edward IV and Richard III, as well the wife of a man who could have/should have been king, Richard, Duke of York. Yet we know remarkably little about her, as per usual. As with other women from this period and before, she is well-known without actually being known. For generations Cecily has been known as both Proud Cis and the Rose of Raby, yet here today we don't actually know if either moniker fits particularly well. We don't even know if she was really born at Raby Castle, or if the vanity and temper she has been identified with for so long is actually an accurate description of her character. We know the basics, that she lived in a dangerous time when the throne was changing hands between the Yorks and Lancasters at a sometimes-alarming rate. She was the grandmother of Elizabeth of York, the Princes in the Tower, and Henry VIII. What bothers me about books such as these is that sometimes so little is known about a figure, we have to do exactly what I have just done, and frame her life in relation to those around her - and those relations are 99.999999999% of the time male. Look at the subtitle even, 'Mother of Richard III'. So, I am torn on books like this. I want to know all I can about women who survived and thrived in that period, but I also want to know about them on their own terms, and not simply who they were in relation to the men in their lives.

I can appreciate the work of the late Dr Ashdown-Hill, who passed away in May of this year. I enjoy reading his work, though we do not always hold the same position, particularly where Richard III is concerned. Still, I knew going into this one that regardless of what information he presented or the conclusions he came to, that they would be well-researched and factually sound. I value his work and the fact that he chose not to focus too often on the maybes and such. There will always be supposition in books such as these, but I feel Dr Ashdown-Hill always does a rather good job of keeping that to a minimum, and giving thorough explanations for why he believes what he does. The issue with those unknowns again though, is the fact that sometimes there is simply not enough proven, factual information about someone's life to warrant a full-length biography. I feel like that happened a bit with this one. Where information on Cecily was lacking, those gaps were then filled in with information about other members of her family in that particular time. There is nothing wrong with this, and to think that one could ever write a biography about anyone without including info on those closest to her or him, is more than a bit silly. But there is also a certain point where one has to decide if there really is enough information to go into a full-length book. Sometimes, no matter how interesting the person is, the unfortunate answer is that there is not.

Even so, I would still recommend this title to anyone with an interest in Plantagenet history and this period in particular. The book is academic without being boring, and even a reader with casual interest in this branch of the family tree will find it a good read.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eddie and the Cruisers


Rating: 5 Stars

No worries, I am not suddenly reviewing movies - especially at the expense of the backlog of books I have yet to review. (But if I WERE going to review movies, Eddie and the Cruisers would definitely be one of them and I would just say one thing: It is one of the greatest movies of all time.)

I am super emotional about this book right now, even though I finished it three days ago already. The movie came out the year I was born and some of my earliest memories, from about age four/five, are of watching the movie and dancing around to the album that Mom would put on whenever I asked - which was daily. I of course did not understand the plot completely at the time, but I was sure of two things, even at that young age: I loved the music and I loved Eddie Wilson.

That's kind of weird, right? But I did, or at least what constituted love in the brain of a 5, 6, 7 year old. I was mesmerized by the album cover, the black and white grainy photo of Michael Paré, with the band in the bottom left-hand corner. Of course he was Eddie to me, I had no concept at that age of actors playing characters, he WAS Eddie.

So, given my ridiculously unhealthy attachment to a fictional character at the age of five, this review is probably going to be all over the place. I had to write down some words right after I finished it; good Lord I wanted to cry - because it was over, because it wasn't the ending I wanted, because Eddie really was gone, dead in the car wreck when the gas tank exploded. Frank had been in a car behind him and recalled Eddie's death with some detail remembering Eddie's body going halfway through the windshield, seeing him pulled from the burning wreck. Then there was the funeral, the mentions of Eddie's parents, and even his wife. Yes, his wife, who was NOT named Joann. But those words were written near midnight and I was not totally coherent. Then this evening I suddenly had an idea that I just had to get down, so I started the blog post with the intention of writing that sentence and coming back to it later. That sentence turned into a few paragraphs about everything - the book, the movies, my thoughts on the books and the movies and what they all mean to me. So, this final draft is a mishmash of different thoughts captured at different times, hence it kind of being "all over the place". Sorry in advance.

A couple weeks ago, Mom was visiting and scrolling through the channels (I have one of those HD antennas and only a few channels, which makes what happened even more amazing), only to come across Eddie and the Cruisers, Michael Paré appearing to belt out "On the Dark Side". Eleanor was immediately interested, my girl loves good music. I was also immediately interested because, as you can probably surmise at this point, Eddie and the Cruisers is one of my all-time favorite movies. I own very few movies anymore, I just don't watch much television at all unless it is a documentary, so I did not own the film on DVD. I corrected that problem immediately by ordering it and the sequel in one of those double feature sets and waited anxiously for it to arrive. It came last Tuesday and Eleanor and I watched it; I remembered every word to every song. Eleanor is hooked now too, professing her own allegiance to Eddie and the movie and the music (She is not a fan of Sal, which is funny because I never was either. But she totally came to that conclusion on her own - right at the time where they're at Satin Records and Sal is grabbing Eddie by his shirt and telling him he's wrong about the new album.) Now, I have seen the credit roll a million times on this movie. Seriously, more times than I can even count. And because I was always so busy watching Eddie walk away down the sidewalk in his leather jacket, flipping his keys around his index finger, I never noticed until now that the movie was based on a book. Had I kept my eyes on Eddie like all the times before, I never would have seen that credit, never would have found it on Amazon, never would have read it and discovered how Eddie's story ended the first time around. New paperbacks are going for almost $200, no joke. New hardcovers for a little less, which is weird. Reasonably-priced used copies, but I would not be having any used copies of this one, not when the movie meant so much to me. So, I compromised with myself and bought the $10.99 Kindle version - the only time I ever have or will spent/spend on a Kindle edition of a book. I figured the book would be terrible, that I would read it, hate it, and get a refund. After all, I loved the movie. It is nearly a statistical impossibility for both the book AND the movie to be great. (Only one exception, I'm looking at you, Jurassic Park.)

How wrong I was.

It's not a perfect novel, but it's good. Really, really good.

There are so many lines that I would pause after, thinking how fucking beautiful they were. I highlighted so many passages on my Kindle (95 Notes and Highlights, to be exact) that eventually my highlights were truncated and I can't even retrieve them completely from Goodreads, because they're cut off half way through a sentence, or sometimes a word even. If I could, I would copy practically the whole novel to show off how hauntingly beautiful it was, at so many points. But then, you wouldn't be able to discover those lines for yourself. it was also a comfort that so many scenes and lines were replicated verbatim in the movie. So many times I was watching the movie in my head as I was reading - something I especially enjoyed when the story of the show at Frank's old college was told. I was always so angry at Frank and Joann for kissing, and the look on Eddie's face when they walked up to the house was so perfectly captured in words that nothing seemed out of place. The movie also did well with little side notes. We get quite a bit of backstory on Kenny and learned that "I'm just goin' through a phase" kind of became his catchphrase. It amused me to find this backstory in the book, because then to watch the movie and see Eddie introduce Kenny that way at that show made me laugh. Lots of little things like that happened throughout, and now other things in the movie stand out to me based on me having read the book. Funny how that works, isn't it? If you love the movie as I do, you will enjoy the book. The characters are not strangers, you'll know and recognize them immediately. The movie did a great job in capturing each of them, even as they had to change up some things to be efficient in their limits of storytelling. Books can go on quite as long as they wish; movies do not have that luxury.

As the story went on, I found myself not wanting it to end. Eddie was always there, just out of reach even when he was in a particular flashback that Frank was recounting. It's like I could just barely make him out in the shadows of his own story, though it was never really about him; it was really about how everyone fell apart without him. I could almost reach out and grab him, try to make him stay, but it never worked. He kept slipping away. As I came to the final pages, I felt this kind of sad tightening in my stomach, knowing it was all going to be over soon. And I just knew that, unlike the movie, my Eddie would not be coming back from the dead.

Please bear with me, because even I am trying to figure out why this movie and soundtrack had me bawling my eyes out now as an adult and it kind of took viewing the movie multiple times in the last five days while reading the book (five viewings, to be exact. Eleanor has asked to watch it every single day) for me to even be able to come to any conclusions about this. Eddie Wilson was so real to me when I was little, the band was so real. I think at least part of it comes from the fact that now that I am older and recognize that Eddie was not a real person (a hard distinction for a five year old to make, and a while it was a given that I came to understand it as I got older, it was not something I gave a lot of thought to), so it is kind of like I 'lost' him again, as I also did when finishing the book. It was just so ingrained into my brain from an early age that this guy was named Eddie, he had a cool band called the Cruisers, a cool car, and played music I loved to dance to and belt out at the top of my lungs. As I got older I learned it was never Michael Paré singing, but even now when listening to the soundtrack (which arrived today because Eleanor insisted we have to listen to it in the car, and who am I to argue?), I have to remind myself that it is actually John Cafferty. But the thing about the perfect casting is that, given the timbre of Michael Paré's voice, it is not hard to fall back into the reality of the movie where it is Eddie Wilson singing. Like he's a real person.

That sounds totally crazy and I don't even care.

It's also kind of weird to be nostalgic for earlier times that I did not even live in. I've always liked 50s/early 60s music, but that's not really even the style of music Eddie and the Cruisers were playing at the time, so that's not the reason. Still, what a time it would have been to be alive, just looking at Eddie and the band playing at the bar, crammed together on that tiny stage playing to a packed house every night. I think I would have liked hanging out at the Jersey Shore at that time. Shows like that don't happen anymore, you don't find popular bands playing in hole-in-the-walls on a stage where they are practically shoulder to shoulder. As much as we romanticize the 50s/early 60s now, the image is not completely wrong.

This might go without saying, but I definitely recommend this book - whether you're a fan of the movie or not. Though, if you're not a fan, we probably can't be friends. Such a great and completely under-appreciated movie. We an debate the sequel because I see its flaws as an adult but again, I was so young when it came out (six in 1989. The original came out in '83 and it was '87 or '88 when I saw it the first time), that I never saw those flaws to begin with; it was simply another must-watch so Eddie's story could continue. The book though, read it. So much background information given, so much is really fleshed-out and it makes watching the movie that much more enjoyable because you know the characters even better.

This movie was my childhood. To have found with delight that the book is every bit as good as the movie, that I can love them both so much despite the one hugely glaring difference among other semi-important and completely unimportant differences, was truly a relief. When I started the book I was nervous. I didn't want Eddie to be so different that I would not recognize him. I didn't want him to be somehow completely different in the book, because that would mean he was the real Eddie - after all, the book came first. Sure, his story was simplified for the first movie (though the second movie drew from the book as well, regarding the Lakehurst sessions), but it wasn't huge differences. It was a relief that the person I adored so much as a child was still the same, that I recognized him there. He was still my Eddie.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Never Forget

This will be pretty straight forward and direct. No fancy (or not-so-fancy, given my skill-level) banners, nothing. Just me and some memories, and a few books that I would recommend on the anniversary of a terrible day when the world changed forever.

I was eighteen and a freshman in college. Only three weeks earlier my mom, grandma, and aunt had dropped me off, helped me unpack, then tearfully left me behind to head home - a seven hour drive away. I had been slowly but surely finding my way, enjoying my classes (I was a news-ed major at the time), and making new friends.

On a bright and sunny summer day, a bright blue sky (it seems like this is something everyone remembers. The blue sky. I remember it in the videos of the aftermath, and I remember it as I walked to class that morning. I remember it as I stumbled back from class in a daze, wondering what the hell had just happened. I remember it as I found my way toward the Union. I remember the doomsday pastor standing there, up on the ledge of the water fountain like always, screaming at everyone who passed that we were going to hell, and we'd brought this death and destruction on ourselves because of the gays and the abortions. Seriously, fuck that guy. I couldn't even get the words out and I just stared at him as he ranted. Luckily another young woman found her voice, marched right up to him and got in his face, screaming back that why doesn't he do something more productive, like pray for those who had lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, for our world that was so suddenly and markedly different.

As I had been getting ready for my intro to journalism class across campus, I had the t.v. on and was only half-listening as something was said about a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers. I had to get to class so I turned off the the t.v. and left, thinking it was a small plane, maybe the pilot lost control or there was a mechanical failure, or weather had contributed to the accident.

By the time I got to the building, students were crowded around the huge television in the lobby, right outside my classroom. Class was supposed to begin at 8 am and so I walked in and sat down. Three minutes later, the second plane struck.

Our professor turned on the television and we sat there, silently watching the tragedy unfold minute by minute for what seems like ever. I can only now re-create that timeline of my morning (or correct my previously incorrect thoughts about what I knew/saw and when), thanks to the timeline of events that have been laid out. I watched in horror with my classmates as the South Tower came down. There were gasps and tears.

Our professor, who I greatly admired otherwise (and was my adviser), then did the unthinkable when he could not get our attention as he decided to change our assignment for the day: he TURNED OFF THE TELEVISION. A few kids got up and walked out. For the longest time, I thought I had been one of those students. I could've sworn up and down that I walked out. But a few years ago I realized no, I had not. Because the assignment our prof gave us was to look at how countries around the world were covering the attack on the United States. I remembered talking to my partner about a friend who lived in Australia, and I could get the info from him. What I mis-remembered was that class was let out early. not that I had walked out. Funny how we can be so sure of something, especially on a day like that, and end up being wrong, isn't it?

September 11th has always held a special significance to me for many reasons. I had long been in love with NYC, or at least the idea of NYC portrayed by FRIENDS. I loved learning all I could about the city and its long history, something I still enjoy deeply today. And I loved that skyline, so much. In fact, I loved the skyline so much, just weeks before the Towers fell, my grandma and I had gone back-to-school shopping (the last time we would do so since I was technically an adult, being in college and all), and I found this shirt that I had to have. Though it no longer fits, it will always have a place in my closet.

Mostly though, what I loved about the skyline were the Twin Towers standing as sentinels in Lower Manhattan, guarding this magical place.

(Image from Wikipedia)

And then they were gone.

It is special for me also, because of the huge changes already going on in my life. There I was, an eighteen year old kid, far from home, in a city where I knew no one except my new friends, who were equally as lost. It was a time of great upheaval as I moved from child to adult, and 9-11 embedded itself so deeply on my heart, under my skin, that I will remember that day as long as I live and all the emotions that went with it.

It took me years to be able to read anything about that day. Fifteen years, to be exact. But I finally started reading books on the subject a few years ago and thought I would share those now, for anyone who is interested. Links go to my reviews.


A hauntingly beautiful picture book that I recently read with my daughter, about an aspect of that day I'd never thought about before.


A survivor's memoir. If you have watched footage over and over like I have, you will recognize this man in a heartbeat.


The best, most heartbreaking book on the subject as a whole. I cried. A lot.


I can not imagine anything much worse for the survivors than someone taking those last memories of their loved ones and twisting them to their own advantage. Disgusting.


I'm glad a book was written specifically for Flight 93. I feel like sometimes this is the one that gets overlooked because we are so enamored with the Towers. Maybe because there was literally nothing left, no wreckage, no twisted and broken metal and concrete to revere?


I ended up not writing a full review of this one, it was just too difficult. A good read to include if you are looking for books on the subject.


This one snuck up on me out of nowhere as I browsed the shelves one day at a local bookshop. Many times I have watched the ESPN segment on Welles Crowther and here suddenly was his story and I knew I had to own a copy (link goes to a Top Ten Tuesday that includes this book). It is one of the truly heroic stories of the day. I cried so much that at times I could hardly read the words on the page. What a tribute to a young man who did what I could only hope I'd do in the same situation. Please take a few minutes and watch the ESPN segment. I promise it is worth your time.

Have you read any of these titles? If so, which one(s)? Have you read any books on 9-11 that I need to add to this list? What memories do you have of that day?