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Category Archives: Books and Book Reviews

If Custer Survived The Little Big Horn

Last night, I was cleaning out my phone’s Kindle app, deleting book samples, and determining which books will be on my Christmas vacation reading list. When I came across the following book titles (see screenshot below), I saw General George Armstrong Custer‘s book, “My Life in Pants.”

Really?

That’s what I get for scanning and glossing over something like this when I’m tired—

Then again, it could be the start of a twisted fantasy history tale of Custer in the tailoring or dry cleaning business after he left the Army.

 

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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Heaven on the Shelves (Part 1)

Taking a break from work one morning, my beau and I headed out on a hunting trip. This type of hunting was looking for bargains at garage sales so that we can save money in furnishing our cottage.

We spent the morning up one driveway and down others, buying a little something useful here and there. I got a copy of “The Widow of the South” by Robert Hicks for barely a song, and I was happy. One can never have, nor read, too many books, I thought.

On our way back to our cottage, my beau and I stopped at a used book store. This was our first venture there, and as soon as we stepped across the threshold, we were in a paradise. Heavens, I don’t know where to start.

At the top of one shelf, I saw a book I’ve been meaning to get, one that’s been on my Goodreads list for well over three years. Yes, that looks good, but I’ll keep looking—for now.

Rounding the corner was a double stack of Perry Mason paperbacks. That was a goldmine for me, and I picked up a couple.   All right!

Around the corner and down another aisle, there was a small hardcover book. My heart leapt when I saw the author, and I carefully turned the pages.

I’ll write about that book and what was in it, when I return to this subject next week. “If books could talk—”, is a memorable saying.

I say, “they do.”

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: New Publication and I’m in It!

The West Florida Literary Federation’s Emerald Coast Review XIX, “Life in Your Time,” is published and available through Amazon. This 19th issue is filled with stories, photographs, and poems gathered from literary talent from its members.  It’s good reading.

By the way, several of my poems and photographs are included in this publication, and the book’s cover is my submission that the West Florida Literary Federation chose to use for this edition.  I’m blushing.

You can find this publication HERE on Amazon.

Enjoy!

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: Where Flamingos Fly and Slow Hot Wind

It’s been awhile since I wrote any type of book review or author discussion here.  As you know, lately I’ve been focusing on amusing posts and photography that reflect my daily life. Reading is part of my daily life, and my negligence on writing about the best-of-the-best books that make my reading list is, well, not giving you the full aspect of my daily life and what I call A Year of Change.

I discovered a (new to me) author, Bobby Underwood, who writes some of the best noir-type books that I’ve come across in years. If you think of authors James Ellroy, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, films such as The Glass Key, I Wake Up Screaming, and Call Northside 777, and actors and actresses such as Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Richard Widmark, Lana Turner, Lizbeth Scott, and Humphrey Bogart, you will see that Bobby Underwood’s books and characters follow the similar path of the cynical hard-boiled and rather damaged characters that when combined, help define the excellence of this genre.

So far, I’ve read four of Bobby Underwood’s books: Where Flamingos Fly, Beautiful Detour, Glass Alibi, and Slow Hot Wind.  Each captured my attention and kept it, each filled with action and well-developed characters. His writing style is so right-on the mark that the reader could presume they were written in the 1940s or 1950s.  In fact, these are more recently-written works, and it takes uncommon talent to capture the feel and language of this genus.

Each of these books are just the right length to read in an evening or two, or if you’re like me, you can read one during your long lunch break. What I especially like is that there is no vulgarity (those pesky four-letter words I deplore are thankfully absent), and any sexually-charged scenes are written so well using metaphors and entendre, that it adds to the sophistication of the stories.  The books’ titles are right on the mark, cleverly created.  And the book covers!  They are eye-catching.

Bobby Underwood is a prolific writer, and his books are readily available through Amazon.  I recommend you pick up one or two or all of his books.

You can read my reviews on my Goodreads site; more will be added as I finish his books on my “To Read List”:
Review of Beautiful Detour
Review of Slow Hot Wind and Glass Alibi
Review of Where Flamingos Fly

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


FREE Books from Me for Your Summer Reading Enjoyment

I know, I know. Where does the time go? It’s summer already—

As part of this year being my “Year of Change,” I’m finally getting down to brass tacks, organizing and publishing my works, short stories, research papers, poetry, and the like.

Starting today until May 31, 2017, my books that follow are free for the taking. I hope you pick them up (free is a wonderful thing here), read them, and let me know by writing a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Click on the links I provided below to get to them fast—

Empty Chairs LINK  “Empty Chairs” is my collection of five poems and original photographs, reflecting upon separation, vacuity, and desertion. This book ends with hope and the belief that all is not lost when we feel forsaken.

Puppy Love: A Praise of Dogs in Poetry LINK Dogs — No other animal as a pet compares to them: They are social, loving, playful, loyal, obedient, and have unique personalities. And sometimes they are like Peck’s bad boy. “Puppy Love” is my delightful little book of poetry and illustrations celebrating the joy of man’s best friend — and dog’s best buddy.

A Gift Upon Our Souls: Love through Poetry LINK This little book of five poems presents love as a gift to two people who waited almost a lifetime to find each other.

Path to Zen LINK  These  five poems revolves my early foray into discovering Zen. There is much to savor, enjoy, and be gained by the tuning out of the day-to-day rat race and the tuning in of serenity and self-realization. This book contains five poems with several of her original illustrations.

Jack, So Lost: The Lost Soul Poems LINK We all know people who are lost, those who wander without positive purpose within their own world, negative and lost to everyone, who fall short in benevolence and place themselves on a pedestal only they can fathom. This collection of five poems speak to The Lost – the soulless people who waste their lives consumed with anger and hate.

October LINK My homage to October.

Gallery Night: Poems in the Dark LINK In the dusk, between the known light of the day and the shadowy strangeness of the evening, sits a quirky time where our minds embrace unbridled imaginations. Here, within “Gallery Night,” we stroll the neighborhood in the twilight and peer into basement windows, listen to buskers, and observe what our minds perceive – whether it be existent or fantasy. There are five thought-provoking poems with an illustration in this book.

Grapes Suzette: And Other Poetic Epicurean Delights LINK One day, while writing notes upon notes about my observations of the world, I realized that she had a short menu of poems in her repertoire that spoke about eating and drinking, covered here in various forms of poetry.  As you read each poem and delight in these courses, you will read about each poem’s style and the background which inspired me to put pen to paper. Bon apétit!

Supreme Theater: Political Poetry LINK Here are five short poems with a political theme, some with a serious nature, but most with a humorous bent, whereby I illustrate the absurd truth about our nation’s capitol.

God of the Sea: Poetry by the Gulf of Mexico LINK  These five poems were inspired by one trip in November 2012 to the Emerald Coast that touches the Gulf of Mexico. Two of these poems are superimposed upon photographs I took that day. Spend some time drifting away in a nautical dream with these poems.

Life in the Oasis: Poetry LINK  Each of the five poems represents the varying facets of joy and elation in the author’s relationship with her husband from the early days to today. Though a long-time writer, it was only until she met her husband that her deepest and most creative talents fully took root and blossomed.  This is first in my series, Fantasy Color Poems.

The Green Gloves (a short story) LINK We never know where Life will take us. We can dream, plan, and some quirk in the road will take us to another road. The Book is written about our lives before we are even born. We can fight it, try to turn it around, ignore it, but our life ends up the way it was written.

The Crowd of Turin LINK  In this short story, a man handles his hurt in ways that make him not care, until one day he has an epiphany.

Frederick Douglass and the Women’s Movement LINK This short book (31 pages) is a study of Frederick Douglass’ involvement and influence in the antebellum women’s rights movement and how he buttressed it with his work for freedom – for both blacks and women. I intend this book to give the reader an impetus for further research and greater knowledge.

Thank You and Happy Summer!


BOOK REVIEW: How You Can Keep Fit

Several months ago, I wrote about a couple remarkable books that The March King, John Philip Sousa, wrote. Those were extraordinary finds that I stumbled upon by chance. “The Fifth String” and “The Conspirators” are admirable works to add to Sousa’s talents.

To continue: I am a big old movies devotee and an Old Hollywood fan, too. I particularly like to study filmmaking techniques from the late nineteenth century through the early 1960s. And along the way, I enjoy discovering the lives of actors and actresses, particularly to see if they did anything beyond the, “I’m ready for my close up, Mister DeMille.”

Some time ago, I read that Rudolph Valentino wrote, and that some of his books were published. My curiosity was piqued. Really? He wrote? And what did The Sheik write? I was on a mission to find them, and I discovered some of them are extant.

Unmistakably, he was a fitness leader of sorts. His “How You Can Keep Fit” book was published in 1923 and filled with pages of health and exercise tips, and of him half-dressed and posing for the exercises he advocated. He wrote that to be fit as an actor made his acting and stamina the best that could be. After all, he said it would be embarrassing to have a stand-in do what he should be able to in acting and performing stunts. Acting was a strenuous job with riding horses for hours in the hot California sun, for example. He was thinking of not only of his pride in his work, but his fans, too. He gave them what they really wanted – a man who was a man’s man.

 

Moreover, he wrote about the importance of eating only when one was hungry, to not drink icy cold water (it’s bad for the body), and to exercise every day. He wrote amusingly about his growing up years in Italy, when he was the conventional boy: running, riding horses, swimming, climbing fences and trees, and tearing his clothes, much to the consternation of his mother. He was an active boy!

As he grew older, he maintained his exercise routines, and thus, we have his fitness book, so that you, too, can be fit.

The exercises he champions can be followed by just about anyone, even today. He warns against overdoing anything ; moderation is key to a healthy life.

Finding this book was exciting for me. It gives another perspective into the life of one of Old Hollywood’s most popular actors, but more importantly, it gives a look into the psyche of the American public in the 1920s. The public ate up just about anything public figures took the time to create, and this book shows that not all of it was garbage back then.

 

 

“How You Can Keep Fit”

Author: Rudolph Valentino
Published: 1923
Publisher: MacFadden
Pages: 77

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

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Think time management and lifestyle readjustment are relatively new phenomena? Think great-grandpa had it all together? Well, it’s time to rethink all that.

The title of this book caught my eye. A clever play on words – how many books have we seen or read where “How to Live on . . .” meant money management? – this book is not about budgeting your money, but rather, about sensibly managing your time and refocusing your lifestyle to actually live, not merely exist in a lackluster being. It was first published in 1908, and my further research shows that it was a best seller in England and the United States.

And as this year is a year of big changes for me, I was all in!

It’s a short book – the Kindle version is a mere 64 pages – and stuffed with slap-you-awake advice on how you are wasting your life and how to live each hour and not to just think about what you want to do, but doing it.

The author has many good suggestions that can apply to today’s mad-rush modern world. After all, you cannot waste tomorrow’s time in advance, unlike money and debt. He emphasizes that work (that is, work outside the home, such as at the office, factory, et cetera) should not define one’s total day. In fact, work is just a portion of one’s day where events should happen before and afterwards. There should be no thinking about what one wants to do, nor should there be such rigidity in one’s life where it hinders expanding one’s social outlets and intellectual growth.

He further recommends reading good books, particularly ones that stimulate the mind. He states that a goal of reading “X” amount of books is missing the point, but reading, reflecting upon, and intelligently discussing these books leads to a greater mind, so to speak. He also lists several books to immerse oneself in, too, which I put on my own “to read” list.

A favorite passage of mine:

“There is no magic method of beginning. If a man standing on the edge of a swimming-bath and wanting to jump into the cold water should ask you, ‘How do I begin to jump?’ you would merely reply, ‘Just jump. Take hold of your nerves and jump.'”

Though written in a somewhat stuffy style common at the turn of the 20th century, once you read a couple of pages, it flows nicely.

I recommend picking up this book; it’s available at no cost on Kindle via Amazon.


BOOK REVIEW: Life at The Dakota

If there ever was a book that has it all, a book that holds your attention, a book that makes you want to know more, this is it.

“Life at the Dakota” is a socioeconomic history of the famous New York City residential building. Yes, that one – the one where scenes from Rosemary’s Baby were filmed, the one where Jason Robards once slept overnight at the wheel of his car, the one where a resident displayed a her favorite stuffed horse, the one where John Lennon was murdered.

The Dakota was constructed between 1880 and 1884 and opened October 27, 1884. It was built by the architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh with the design by Edward Clark, the head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

The Dakota was, indeed, a building well ahead of its time, with central heating, its own in-house power plant, the first elevators installed in a residential building, a gymnasium, and much more. Before it was opened for residency, all of the apartments were leased, and no vacancies existed from then until 1929.

The book begins with an in-depth history of New York and the Central Park West area, including the dichotomy of the lifestyles and economic factors between the East and West Sides. Here we learn about the Who’s Who and Who Wants to Be and Who Doesn’t Care Who’s Who.

The original apartments, dining room, gymnasium, tennis court, servants’ rooms, laundry rooms, wine cellar, et cetera were lavish or simply practical, according to function. No cost was spared. We find that over the years, even at the onset, residents took to moving and rebuilding walls and reconfiguring the space. One resident even had a sunken pool installed, only to be covered over at another time, and then rediscovered during a future remodeling project decades later.

There are numerous stories about many of the residents and the employees, their quirkiness, their practicalities, and their contributions and influence on The Dakota. There are people whose names were, or are, well-known, and those who are now shadows in history or pop culture, but intriguing nonetheless.

The building became a co-op in the early 1960s, and we learn how that occurred with all its brouhaha, and how that continues to impact its operation today – or at least until 1979 when this book was published.

This is a very tightly-written book and is, therefore, extremely interesting and difficult to put down. Each chapter is filled with so much material on the people, politics, cloak-and-dagger tomfooleries, and economic data that I want to learn more, yet it’s a shame that the book ends its account in 1979. It practically screams for an addendum to share what happened since then.

I recommend “Life at the Dakota” for anyone who likes history, architecture, mystery, intrigue, and/or entertaining ideas. Yes, it even has a trio of old cocktail recipes.

There is a book that has it all, a book that holds your attention, a book that makes you want to know more – this is it!

Life at The Dakota
By Stephen Birmingham
Published: 1979; 2015
Publisher: Open Road Media
Pages: 243

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: The Colored Fairy Books

There are twelve books of fairy tales I came across while searching for something different to read. They were compiled researched, translated and compiled by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) and his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang. The books were illustrated by Henry J. Ford. Andrew Lang, a Scotsman, was a literary critic, novelist, poet, and a contributor to the field of anthropology.

Each book, published between 1889-1910, is a color: “The Pink Fairy Book, “The Violet Fair Book,” “The Olive Fairy Book,” and so on. The colors do not coincide with the stories, but rather, they are just the colors of the book covers.

Clever.

The sources for the tales came from traditions all over the world: German, French, Italian, Sicilian, Rhodesian, Japanese, and many more. Included are such favorites as “Snowflake,” “The Snow-queen,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Blue Bird,” “Rapunzel,” plus many more you’ve heard of and not heard of. These are the refreshingly original versions, in all their straightforward, and sometimes brutal, gory glory. (Don’t think Disney!) Some are easy to read and some are difficult due to some archaic language.  Each book has an average of thirty stories.  Multiply that by twelve, and that’s a lot of fairy tales!

All in all, I do recommend these books for literary and psychological research and analysis, and just for the fun of it, if you are so motivate.

All of the books are available on Amazon Kindle.

The Colored Fairy Books
By Andrew Lang
Pages: Various
Years published: 1889-1910

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.

 


BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman Doesn’t Wear a Nose Ring, or On a Young Lady’s Conduct When Contemplating Marriage

I’m doing something a little different with my Wednesday Book Review. Instead of reviewing one book here, there are two, both published in 1860.

Yes, 1860. And they’re all about how to be gentleman and a lady, and I was all over these books post haste. I remained ladylike, I assure you, in my rush to get these books.

The first, “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society” by Cecil B. Hartley is 169 pages of the Do’s and Don’ts if one wishes to be a gentleman. Yes, there is the expected advice of keeping one’s hair clean and combed, soiled gloves are a no-no at all times, and ladies – including mom, sisters, grandma, aunts, and wife – are to be treated with the utmost respect and are to be helped with everything ad infinitum.  It’s a gentleman’s duty.  A gentleman must act like a gentleman towards every lady who acts like a lady.

If a gentleman knows an artist or literary person who works at home, the gentleman never calls on them during the workday; to do so would be rude and interrupt their workday.

The most surprising paragraph in the entire book was the advice given regarding nose rings: DON’T wear them! I wonder what segment of society in the mid-nineteenth century wore nose rings in America. Maybe bulls? But they are not the subject audience here. There is also stern advice to not attach a bunch of charms on one’s watch fob, too. That’s tacky.

To swear, use vulgarity, and toss about slang is a sign of “low-breeding.”

The companion book to “A Gentleman’s Guide” is “The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society” by Florence Harley, also published in 1860 and is 159 pages long.

Here we would take seriously the advice on the importance of keeping one’s dress clean, ensuring lace is not worn in great amounts when shopping (a cotton chintz dress or woolen dress are some of the suggestions), the attention to good table manners is a sign of good breeding, how a lady travels either alone with an escort, writing letters, attending church, courting and getting married, the art of conversation, et cetera. In fact, this book is almost identical to the gentleman’s book, with the applicable gender references tailored to the right audience.

There are some knitting and crochet patterns to make clothing, and tips on how to clean such things. However, the most interesting section is the recipes and tips on how to keep oneself clean, how to clean your clothing, and dental hygiene.

People in mourning would find that the black dye in their mourning clothes would stain their skin. No problem — just mix together a few ingredients, including the poisonous olaxic acid, and voila! stains are history.

Your black lacy veil need cleaning? Mix together gall of bullock (gall from a castrated bovine) with musk and a few other ingredients, and you’re good to go.

Teeth need cleaning and whitening? Cuttle fish and chalk will do the trick. Strawberries help remove tartar, so eat them as frequently as possible when they are in season.

There are a multitude of cold creams, face creams, and lip balms ready for you to make and some common ingredients are butter, beeswax, almond paste, and spermaceti. Spermaceti? Yes, it’s that waxy substance found in the head of sperm whales.

Both books have sound advice and tips that would be well-followed in these twentieth century days. The only things that date these books are references to horses and carriages, style of clothing, hygiene (insofar as how little one washes as compared to today’s society), and the like.

Both of these books are available on Amazon Kindle at no cost.

The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society
By Cecil B. Hartley
Pages: 169
Publisher: G.W. Cottrell, Boston
Year published: 1860

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society
By Florence Hartley
Pages: 159
Publisher: G.W. Cottrell, Boston
Year published: 1860

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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