Book Review: New Orleans Cemeteries

Images of America: New Orleans Cemeteries

Eric Brock

Arcadia Publishing

128 pages

For those of you who read my last Sunday Salon post, I recently compiled a list of books for my trip to New Orleans in May.  I sent the list to everyone going on the trip with me, so thatt people can choose books to get them in the mood for the trip.  I recently started this tradition, and so far it has been a lot of fun (I’m going to Florence in March with my mom and sisters, so that trip got a list too).  So anyway, I came across some books on NOLA cemeteries during my perusal while compiling my list, and the morbid part of me was instantly interested.  I checked my library, and this was the first book I could find that dealt with cemeteries in NOLA.

New Orleans Cemeteries is basically a picture book of some of the most well known cemeteries in the area.  Most people believe that the above ground crypts and tombs are a result of New Orleans being below sea level.  While that theory makes a lot of sense, Brock explained that the real reason for this burial style is the fact that most Latin burials were above ground, and the citizens of New Orleans adopted that method.  In fact, there are a lot of below ground graves in NOLA–there are quite a few Jewish cemeteries in the area, where the burials are all underground, since Jews believe that graves must be underground. 

The nice thing about this book is that it had a lot of fascinating captions with the pictures.  It was interesting to read about the history of New Orleans and its most prominent citizens.  I now have an interest in Victorian-era graveyards and I hope to read about some other cemeteries not based in New Orleans.

And now, I leave you with pictures.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

The Sunday Salon

 

My Sunday Salon this week will be pretty condensed.  Our household computer has an awful virus.  Hopefully it is remedieed soon but in the mean time I am typing on my fiance’s laptop.  I am not a fan of laptops and it sucks not having my normal computer with all my information on it, so until my computer is fixed, I doubt I will be on the computer much.

This week, my reading was as follows:

I finished The Book of Fires, by Jane Borodale

I read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Because my wedding will be in New Orleans (5/13/2010), I had compiled a list of New Orleans based reading for everyone to choose from for the trip.  Everyone that will be in New Orleans for the wedding got a copy of the list, so we’ll see if anyone is as enthusiastic as me!  I doubt I will read much from the list until the wedding is a little closer, but I did go ahead and read Images of America: New Orleans Cemeteries, by Eric Brock.  My fiance wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of traipsing through cemeteries on our honeymoon, but the architecture and grandeur of the cemeteries down there can’t be ignored!

I am now reading The Gathering, by Anne Enright.  It was the winner of The Man Booker prize in 2007 and will be my first book towards The Man Booker Reading Challenge of 2010. 

Since I am a little remiss in posting my Library Loot, I will go ahead and include it now.  I got three books this week:

I had to get The Shack for my book club but I admit I am unsure about it.  I have heard that the story is ok, but that the writing technique is very subpar.  I will give it a chance but I don’t intend on reading it all the way through if what I have heard turns out to be true.

How is your Sunday?  Anyone getting a lot of reading done?  Unfortunately, I am not–I wish I could spend the whole day reading!

Book Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Beth Hoffman

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

306 pages

It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty.

-page 302

That captures Saving CeeCee Honeycutt in a nutshell.  CeeCee is a twelve year old girl who has been forced to deal with her mother’s mental illness for much of her childhood.  Her parents are still married, barely, but her father travels extensively to escape the demons that inhabit his wife, leaving CeeCee to fend for herself.  It all changes one day when Camellia, CeeCee’s mother, goes to the Goodwill for more old prom dresses and is hit and killed by an icecream truck.  Unsure of how to care for CeeCee, her father sends her to live with her great aunt Tootie in Savannah, Georgia.

CeeCee is weary of life and unsure of how to behave as a normal child.  She is quickly embraced by Tootie, the maid Oletta, and her old friend Mrs Odell.  Quickly, CeeCee is able to rise above the heartbreak of her mother’s illness and her father’s betrayal, and she is able to form a new familythat is more than she could have imagined.

So let me get the bad stuff out of the way quickly.  My only issue with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was that is felt contrived at times.  It was just a tad too sugary sweet for me.  I think it was on the right track with the crazy mom and the icecream truck, but as the book wore on, it was engulfed by a little too much “southern charm”.

While listening to the laughter swirl around me, the strangest thing happened: my whole world turned pink, and an effervescent kind of warmth filled me with a sense of belonging I’d never known.

-page 298

See what I mean?  Or maybe it’s just me–I prefer something either a little more tongue in cheek or a little grittier.  Get too sappy sweet on me and I’m liable to get annoyed.

That being said, this book had a lot going for it.  The voice of Oletta was so genuine and entertaining that on that premise alone I enjoyed the book.  Oletta’s relationship with CeeCee reminded me a lot of The Help and I thought the relationship between the two of them was very believable.

I also loved the symbolism of the hummingbird.  I was enamored with the cover of this book as soon as I had the book in my hands.  It’s not as apparent in pictures how adorable the cover is.  The whole idea of the hummingbird and CeeCee escaping her past doesn’t become obvious until the end, and I thought it brought about a nice message.

The idea of a twelve year old protaganist was fun.  It’s always exciting to see a situation from a child’s eyes, and I think Hoffman did a superb job in portraying an adolescent girl.  CeeCee’s personality was extremely realistic–her hopes and fears were right on par with what they should have been.  Oftentimes adult authors bite off more than they can chew with young narrators/characters, so I was glad that it was pulled off so well.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a great choice if you’re looking for an uplifting, sweet read.  Although it’s January right now, it would be a great pool/beach read, so for those of you taking a vacation sometime soon (spring break anyone?), this would definitely be a contender.

Other reviews:

BermudaOnion’s Weblog

Booking Mama

She is too Fond of Books

S Krishna’s Books

~Redlady’s Reading Room~

Bookfan

I received this book from the author for review.

Book Review: The Book of Fires + Giveaway

The Book of Fires

Jane Borodale

Pamela Dorman Books (Viking)

356 pages

I used to be a big historical fiction fan.  I gobbled it up.  But then it got so repetative.  I began feeling as if every historical fiction novel was the same. So recently I had only been reading historical fiction with a twist.  It had to have a little something different about it in order for me to even give it a chance.  Which is why I selected The Book of Fires in the first place.

The Book of Fires is the story of Agnes, a teenage girl who is raped during the mid eighteenth century in a small, provincial town in England.  As the result of Agnes’ rape, she becomes pregnant.  Lost as to what to do, she decides to flee the family home in order to save her family from the shame that would come along with having a child out of wedlock.  The plan doesn’t come to full fruition until Agnes discovers her neighbor dead–and a jar of coins suddenly left with no owner.  The stolen coins allow Agnes to make a new life for herself in England, although the guilt of the stolen coins, coupled with that of the pregnancy, cause Agnes to wallow in self doubt.

Once she has arrived in England, Agnes finds work with Mr John Blacklock, who makes pyrotechnics for a living.  Agnes becomes his apprentice and begins learning how to build fireworks.  Whereby, she is also is waiting for her pregnancy to be discovered, at which point she is convinced she will be out in the street.

I found portions of this book to be extremely predictable.  Agnes had an alarming naivety which was apparent in a lot of situations.  For instance, on the ride to London she meets a woman named Lettice who offers to help her out once they reach their destination.  Lettice is very obviously a prostitute–that fact is apparent within paragraphs of her introduction.  Agnes though does not realize this fact until the end of the book.  Likewise, I found Agnes’ little escapade with Cornelius Soul to be a little too transparent too.  It got to the point where I wanted to shake her until she was made aware of her errors.  I had to keep reminding myself that Agnes was only a teenager, and in an extremely difficult position at that.  Just the same, it got old after awhile.

The portions regarding the construction of fireworks and Agnes’ work in the lab with John Blacklock were intriguing.  It was the type of thing I look for in fiction–a detail or an angle that isn’t commonly explored in popular fiction.  Although chemistry is not a subject I would generally be interested in, Borodale made it interesting and readable.  It was just the change of scenery I need to make The Book of Fires different from any other historical fiction book out there.

If you’re looking for something a little different, The Book of Fires is a great choice.  And lucky for you guys, I have two copies to give away.  Rules for entering are simple–the competition is open to mailing addresses in the US and Canada only and all you have to do is comment on this post.  Contest is open until this Sunday, January 31 at 9am EST!  Winners will be announced in my Sunday Salon this Sunday.

Other Reviews:

Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?

Tanzanite’s Shelf and Stuff

I received this book from the publisher for review.

East of Eden–part 1

Generally, I would refrain from posting about a book when I haven’t finished it.  However, since The Classics Read Book Club divides books quarterly, I am going to do the same and just post a review with each section/discussion.

Discussion for the first section (Chapters 1-11) begins today, so for those of you that have started the book, head on over to join the discussion.  For anyone who is interested in joining us, here is the discussion schedule:

January 25th – Section 1 (Chapters 1-11)
February 8th – Section 2 (Chapters 12-22)
February 22nd – Section 3 (Chapters 23-33)
March 8th – Section 4 (Chapters 34 – end)

East of Eden is the perfect book to spread out over a period of time because it is LONG.  If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may know by now that I am intimidated by longer books.  It is that reason alone that I have yet to tackle Anna Karenina.  Likewise, if East of Eden hadn’t been chosen for the book club, it likely would have languished on my shelves for a few years longer.  It’s unfortunate, because EoE so far is quite an engaging read!

So far, the text isn’t very cohesive.  It’s one of those books that, as you’re reading, you can’t quite piece together.  The hope is that it will all start to make sense, but it’s impossible to tell when that will occur.  First you’ve got Samuel and Liza Hamilton settling in the Salinas valley with their nine children.  Then you have Adam Trask and his brother Charles.  We are given a glimpse into their life growing up.

Finally, we have Cathy Ames, my favorite character so far.  She seems to have no redeeming qualities, but her story is so interesting and engaging that I looked forward to the sections about her the most.  At this point, little is known about what is driving Cathy as a character.  She makes some really destructible choices that are equally shocking.  I kept reading on in the hopes that I could get a picture of why she behaves the way she does.

The end of section 1 leaves a lot of questions.  Cathy had been beaten severely after manipulating Mr Edwards, who runs a prositution ring.  She crawls to Adam and Charles’ doorway, half dead, and is rescued by them.  Charles is immediately suspicious of Cathy’s nature, whereas Adam is completely enamored by her.  Adam ends up marrying Cathy, however she continues to use her manipulations, as she had with Mr Edwards, and instead secretly turns to Charles.

So now I have to know what is going on!  I put down EoE after section 1 ended so that I could discuss the first section without having my perceptions colored by reading on in the book.  I’ll probably start on section 2 next week.  Are you reading EoE for the book club?  If so, what are your thoughts so far?

Sunday Salon

It’s barely 4:30PM here and I am ashamed to admit I am already in my PJs.  The plan is to spend the rest of the evening/night reading.  What am I reading, you may ask.  The Book of Fires, by Jane Borodale.  Out this month, it is the captivating story of a “ruined” girl who flees her home and finds sanctuary as the apprentice to a fireworks maker.  I have about a hundred pages left and I hope to finish the book tonight.  Look for my review this Wednesday, along with a giveaway!

As for tomorrow, keep an eye out for my post on the first portion of East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.  Tomorrow kicks off the discussion with the Classic Reads Book Club.  If you haven’t started it yet, no need to worry–discussion for part two doesn’t begin until February 8, so there is still time to catch up.  The two books after East of Eden is finished are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Handmaid’s Tale, both of which are excellent–I would highly recommend both!

For once I don’t have a timline of books stretched out.  Once I finish The Book of Fires, I plan on reading Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman.  Once I finish that . . . who knows!  The possibilities are endless!

Book Review: Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It

Susan Beth Pfeffer

Harcourt

360 pages

I don’t think I have been this freaked out by a book in a long time.  Just looking at the cover scares me a little bit.  Life as We Knew It is YA dystopian fiction at its best.  Miranda is 16 years old and in high school when her life changes forever one day.  An asteroid is projected to hit the moon one night–this is not an odd occurence generally, but the asteroid is believed to be large enough so that it will be visible to the naked eye.  Thus, Miranda, her family, and pretty much everyone else has decided to watch the asteroid hit the moon.  What they witness is stranger than anything that had been predicted or anticipated–the asteroid knocks the moon towards the earth, so that the moon is off course.  So now the cover makes sense.  But what other ramifications would this have, you may ask.  Oh, if you only knew!

Straight away coastal towns start flooding.  The moon controls the tides, and with the moon knocked off kilter, the tides are completely wonky.  If you live in a coastal town, you’re as good as dead.  And it only gets worse from there.  Other natural elements starts acting up–volcanoes are erupting, temperatures are cooling drastically.  The world is suddenly in panic mode and everyone is fending for themselves.  As the book continues, people are becoming shut off from one another and everyone is struggling to provide for themselves.  It becomes dangerous to go into public for fear that you may be robbed or worse.  Electricity becomes a thing of the past and as it gets cooler, the possibility of freezing to death becomes inherently real.

And yet, Miranda still keeps some semblance of normality.  She attempts to continue with her schooling.  She still gets typical teenage crushes.  Life as We Knew It is basically a novel about how adaptable people can become when faced with adversity.  I kept thinking as I was reading Would I have done that? or Would I have reacted that way?  A situation like this seems impossible to fathom, and I can only believe that I would not have half the strength of Miranda and her family if I were faced with a similar situation.

Life as We Knew It really is a downright depressing read.  Yes, you can get hope from the perseverance displayed by Miranda and her family, but that still can’t make up for how distraught this book made me feel.  Which is not a bad thing at all, don’t get me wrong!  But for anyone who has yet to read this book, be forewarned.

If you are a fan of dystopian fiction, this is a must read.

Other Reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews

Presenting Lenore

Bart’s Bookshelf

things mean a lot

The Zen Leaf

It’s All About Books

Books and Movies

Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?

1 More Chapter

I borrowed this book from my local library
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