2019 Summer Reading: Beauty, Brutality, Reflection, Love, Verse, and Humor

This morning I pulled four books off of my self. Four books by two authors.

This morning, and most mornings, I can tell a story, but I am not a master of words. Both of these authors put together words in a way that is pure art. The word “wonder” comes to mind. I am in awe.

These are books to savor. They include poetry, short stories, and a gentle calling.

Jon Obermeyer

I met Jon Obermeyer at a reading in Fair Oaks, California last summer. I was taken by his words. Like I said before it is all about the words. Jon is also just a great guy; smart, friendly, great sense of humor.

I’ve featured two of his books today. He has many.

Wingspan

by Jon Obermeyer

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The official description: The 70 new poems in “Wingspan” reflects poet Jon Obermeyer’s wide ranging interests and geographic wanderings. A native of Santa Barbara, CA, Jon has lived most of his adult life in North Carolina (with a short detour to west Florida). In this third collection of poetry, Jon explores his West Coast roots and his East Coast habitats, the delights of parenting, creative work and exploring the natural wold, and musings about turning 60. In a confident, original voice Jon reminds us what is important and what keeps us going, riding the thermals. “What defines Jon Obermeyer’s poetry is a trust of plain speech and sure-footed humility; a willingness to let circumstance wash over, but not wash away.” Terry L. Kennedy, author of New River Breakdown “Jon Obermeyer was a student of the brilliant Robert Watson and one thing he learned from Watson was to find his own voice…diction, lyricism, and meaning uniting to let us see what he sees, hear what he hears, feel what he feels.” Kelly Cherry, author of The Life and Death of Poetry: Poems (LSU Press) “Jon Obermeyer is one of those poets who goes right for the gut. His words are bright, penetrating, clean as a bone. In this collection, he talks about tectonic plates, English invaders, and red-eye gravy in a spiritual way….He listens. He listens closely. That’s his secret. I’ve never met anyone with a better ear to the ground. He’s not trying to solve anything.” John Miller, from the Foreword

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Centripetal Force and Other Stories

by Jon Obermeyer

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Official Description: David Sedaris wrote, “A good short story should take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.” Sixteen stories are included in Jon Obermeyer’s second collection of short fiction. Both cautionary and comic, these post-2008 financial meltdown tales feature characters who are caught off guard, in their personal lives and in financial status. A divorced man finds witnessing the aftermath of a horrific highway accident strangely purifying. A retired auto inspection mechanic finds himself kicked out of an art crawl open house, and it triggers flashback to an incident on a high school football field. A homeowner and father worries that the ex-con handyman fixing his termite-damaged subflooring might also be a suspect in a local murder. Two couples, one wealthy, the other struggling financially, vacation together in Italy, as one marriage disintegrates and the other relationship is strangely affirmed. A woman is forced to choose a way to assuage the hurt of an absent boyfriend over a holiday weekend, possibly reuniting with a former finance. An unemployed poet decides to open a retail store devoted solely to one book, his 400-page opus about the working man. The author in his preface writes: “For two years in the early part of this century, I wrote the annual circus program for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I ventured each December to Ringling “Winter Quarters” at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, and spent three weeks interviewing the performers and watching the new acts in rehearsal. “To make the circus interesting for the 12-year-old boys who were the target audience for the book, we planned a series of graphics alongside the text. These visual, small nuggets based on the science behind the circus, comprised what my editor John Miller called our “Dorling-Kindersley” approach. “That’s when I first learned the difference between Centripetal Force (center seeking) and Centrifugal Force (center fleeing). The Ringling equestrian act, circa 2002, worked on the defying the principle of Centrifugal Force, keeping the horses contained the small ring as they spun around it at fast speed. This act was known as “Little and Big,” because horses and small dogs were involved. “So, what keeps us from flying off the surface of our spinning planet into Deep Space? It’s gravity mostly, but I might argue there’s a bit of centripetal force at work, a subtler form of grounding. What keeps us from flying off the proverbial handle? What distinguishes that line between sane and in-sane? “Fiction, like poetry, keeps us from becoming scatterlings. It’s my job as a kind of Ringmaster, the professional artist, to salvage these little events that might have big import when laid out in a narrative arc; Little and Big. I’m going to take the tiny things that have happened to me, or something I’ve heard about from others or in a public forum, and whip them into an enjoyable froth, with some dialogue and description.”

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Ra Avis

You are loved. You are frightfully wondrous. Those are the words you will read or hear when the name Ra Avis comes up.

I’ve known Ra through blogging since 2012. I came across her words and her beautiful heart. Since then I’ve met other wonderful bloggers through her. I’ve also shared her work and message.

Ra is a dinosaur with a dinosaur heart. She is also a woman with a great capacity for life, joy, resilience, humor, words, and all things good.

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Snack Nasty

Prison Poetry by Ra Avis

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This book is both brutal and beautiful. Verse.

From the back of the book: The stories told here don’t always fall sinn-side up. They are the scrambled and fried edges of prison life. They are the illusion of dignity, the inconsistency of justice, and the fluidity (and fluids of the human condition. These are the true stories from my 438 days of incarceration.

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Dinosaur-Hearted

by Ra Avis

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This is a book that will inspire you and make you smile. Trivia: I have my own dinosaur heart necklace that I wear when I give docent tours at the art museum.

Official description: This book is a gentle call to happiness in a time of healing, and a reminder that — wherever you are, whoever you are– you are loved.

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I’ll see you next Monday for more reading suggestions. Since school has started in most locations, and September is here, I will be changing the name to Juliette’s Reading or something along those lines.

Happy Reading. And feel free to share your own reading suggestions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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2019 Summer Reading: Old Bones and a Birthday

This past July 4th I was sitting on the side of a mountain overlooking Donner Lake and watching a spectacular fireworks show. As the fireworks went off we could see the train on the other side of Donner Lake moving along watching the show. Truckers and cars along the highway also stopped to view the fireworks.

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We were there for my daughter’s 20th birthday. The dogs are Brody and Alice. I had to show off this cake – made by my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom.

I’m from Sacramento, and I’ve spent a lot of time around Donner Lake. Needless to say everything the ghosts of the Gold Rush, and transcontinental railroad workers are still around, as well as the ghosts from the ill fated Donner Party.

Let’s go back to October of 1846. The Donners and the Reeds were two families who headed up a group of folks coming out to California to start a new life. From the get go it was a total shit storm of misdirections, grumbling among the travelers, and bad decisions.

When the “Donner Party” finally made it to what is now Donner Lake, they were only what is now a 90 minute drive from my house outside of Sacramento. Unfortunately there was no Interstate 80 to take them down the hill, no snowplows, no tow truck, no park rangers, no nothing. They were trapped by an unusually heavy snow fall and had to spend the winter in a high mountain wilderness. Many survived. Many did not. Of course, you all know, and I know you’ve been waiting for me to say this, many ate the bodies of their traveling companions (yes humans, they’d already eaten their horses, cattle, and dogs.)

The members of this unassuming and ill-fated group had no idea they’d be so famous. They also had no idea that the frozen lake they camped by would become a California State Park, and a favorite vacation spot. We go up for a day trip there all the time.

Descendants of the Donners, Reeds, and other members of the Donner Party are still living in the Sacramento area.

Which brings me back to 2019 SUMMER READING.

For years I’ve been reading ALL of the books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I’ve listed many of them in my past reading lists on vampiremaman.com.

THANK YOU to the authors for so many hours of fun reading.

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Preston & Child

I love their books. Some of the stories are so far fetched and out there that you’d think a Vampire like me wouldn’t be reading them, but hey, I read for FUN. And you know, I’m sort of out there far fetched myself.

I am so excited because my copy of their newest book OLD BONES has finally arrived.

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This is the official description:

Nora Kelly, a young curator at the Santa Fe Institute of Archaeology, is approached by historian Clive Benton with a once-in-a-lifetime proposal: to lead a team in search of the so-called “Lost Camp” of the tragic Donner Party. This was a group of pioneers who earned a terrible place in American history when they became snow-bound in the California mountains in 1847, their fate unknown until the first skeletonized survivors stumbled out of the wilderness, raving about starvation, murder-and cannibalism.

Benton tells Kelly he has stumbled upon an amazing find: the long-sought diary of one of the victims, which has an enigmatic description of the Lost Camp. Nora agrees to lead an expedition to locate and excavate it-to reveal its long-buried secrets.

Once in the mountains, however, they learn that discovering the camp is only the first step in a mounting journey of fear. For as they uncover old bones, they expose the real truth of what happened, one that is far more shocking and bizarre than mere cannibalism. And when those ancient horrors lead to present-day violence on a grand scale, rookie FBI agent Corrie Swanson is assigned the case…only to find that her first investigation might very well be her last.

As soon as I finish the deliciously wonderful  book I’m reading now (Tight Rope by Amanda Quick) I will devour Old Bones.

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Donner Lake

 

Today’s post was brought to you by my coffee cup, which is now unfortunately empty, and my busy day. I’ll have more reading fun next Monday.

It will be 102F here today. I don’t know about where you are but I plan on staying cool, editing MY BOOK, and maybe getting in a little reading. Alice the dog also is getting her nails clipped but then again that is an entirely different blog post.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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2019 Summer Reading: King Arthur and John Steinbeck

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I will always be in awe of John Steinbeck, both as a reader and as a writer.

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976) is John Steinbeck’s retelling of the Arthurian legend, based on the Winchester Manuscript text of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

I’ve read almost all of Steinbeck’s books – many multiple times – but I’ve never read this one. It has been on my self for years. So, without any additional introductions I will add this to my 2019 Summer Reading List.

Why this? Why now?

We’ve all been fascinated with stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. From the musical Camelot to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we can’t get enough. The series of books about Arthur is endless. There are even television shows.

I’ve even started a series of stories about a Warlock and Selkie who occasionally run into Merlin and other characters from Arthur’s court.

My hope is that Steinbeck’s unfinished version will be as beautifully crafted like the rest of his books. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. I’m sure you won’t be either.

If Arthur isn’t your kind of story, then do yourself a favor and read one of Steinbeck’s other novels, or even a short story or two this summer. You’ll be glad you did.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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2019 Summer Reading: Long Books You’ll Savor

 

Some stories just can’t be told in three hundred and fifty pages.

Some stories need at least eight hundred pages, or twelve hundred, or even a few more than that.

For me long books are like road trips. Epic road trips. My kind of road trips.

Don’t be intimidated by long books. Read them. Savor them. Enjoy them. Add one to your summer reading list, even if you have to bring it into fall.

Seriously, I kid you not, I read It by Stephen King in one weekend. It is 1,138 pages. No problem. The next week I read The Stand, also by Stephen King . It is a little over 800 pages.

Here is my list. I might not have pictures for all of them. I don’t have exact page counts for all of them because that varies depending on addition and media, but all are long. I will give a brief line about each book. You can look up more about it on either your favorite online book site, go to a bookstore, or the library, or go to Wikipedia for more information. These are all books I have read (some more than once) and enjoyed.

So here we go…

The Stand by Stephen King

The ultimate epic battle of good and evil. You will never forget it. Never. Nobody does good and evil better than Stephen King.

Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon

I love this book so much. So will you. Take my word on it. You will laugh. You will cry. You will be amazed at how wonderful, and weird, and fun this book is.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

All movie versions of this suck. The book is the story of a family, and a story about changing times, and one of the most beautifully written American stories ever. Read it.

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

I know, I know, this is a Trilogy but I’m including this because you MUST read all of it. PLEASE if you have only seen the movies (which left out so many important parts) please read the book. The books are about friendship, change, love, and grit. We can all relate to the characters. I’ve always thought that Pippen was based off of me. I love these books. READ THE BOOKS. My copies are falling apart I have read them so many times.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A man is tricked by someone (some asshole) he thought was his friend. He is imprisoned. His wife is wooed and won by his enemy. Then he escapes with a vast treasure and comes back as The Count of Monte Cristo and seeks revenge and love.

Also make sure you read Les Miserables by Dumas. Always read the original.

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

An epic tale of crossed love and crossed cultures.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Another book I’ve read many many times. Anna is in an unhappy marriage. In a world where divorce brings ruin she finds love outside of her marriage. But it is so much more than that. Just read it.

The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills
Two long books by Mary Stewart

Druce and Morcant approve of these books. A beautifully written pair of books about the life of Merlin the Wizard. I have read these books many many times.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

More than just a western. This story will sweep you off of your feet. Take my word for it.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Just out of the Dark Ages and edging towards the Middle Ages. You’ll love the characters. You’ll learn things you never imagined you’d know.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

An unexpected story of a boy who stole a famous painting and carried it with him through his life.

cat reads the classics

Until next Monday for more happy reading suggestions.

Click here for my entire line up of 2019 Summer Reading suggestions. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

2019 Summer Reading: Dracula, Frankenstein, and Other 19th Century Horrors

For me summer reading means picking up a variety of books. It means trying out new books, as well as revisiting old friends.

After a steady diet of mysteries, romances, and modern literary fiction, sometimes we need to sit around the proverbial camp fire and be scared silly.

Oh by the way, this blog is inhabited by Vampires, and we read. We usually don’t sit around and read Vampire books but when we do we like it to be interesting.

Dracula – Annotated

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Dracula is a fun, unusual, and well written book.

Unfortunately, as with many books that grab the imagination, Dracula has been made into a lot of awful movies that only vaguely capture the story line. You have to read the book.

I recommend adding “The Annotated Dracula” which is Dracula by Bram Stoker, with an introduction, Notes, and Bibliography by Leonard Wolf. The book also includes maps, drawings, and photographs, plus beautiful illustrations by Satty.

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Mr. Wolf, who sadly passed away earlier this year, also created annotated versions of Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Phantom of the Opera,

Note: An annotated book is a book that includes notes and images about the book. It is more than just foot notes. Please see the photos I’ve included.

There are many annotated versions of Dracula from 1975. I recommend this one. It is out of print but you can find copies on eBay, other online sources, your library, and at your local used book store. Ask around.

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This is hours of good fun, and you’ll get to read the ORIGINAL.

 

Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein

Assembled from the original text by Mary Shelley

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For a lot of people Frankenstein can be a difficult read. First published in 1818 it quickly became a classic. However, it was written in 1818 and is sometimes puzzling and odd to many modern readers. I love the book, but I understand if it isn’t always easy.

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Like with Dracula, NOBODY has made a movie true to the book. READ THE BOOK. Get the real story.

A great version to start with is the illustrated version from one of my favorite illustrators Gris Grimly. Yes, it is a graphic novel. Yes, you will like it. Yes it is strangely weird and ugly and beautiful at the same time just like the original story.

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Get a copy, put it in your tote bag, back pack, satchel, or purse and carry it with you all summer. Savor it with a tall glass of something cold and remember to keep a light on later in the night.

 

Now for a different kind of horror…

 

The House of Mirth

by Edith Wharton

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Imagine living in a world where social status and money rules every chance of happiness you have. Imagine being a woman with no power over her own life, and who is judged and brutally unforgiven by every choice she makes – by the people who should be her own. Welcome to the cruel world of the 1870’s and how a women who is of the upper class, but with nobody to protect her is left to fend for herself in a world that has no place for women like her. This is the story of Lily Bart, beautifully told by Edith Wharton.

This book is brilliant, but frustrating and tragic. This is also a reminder to get out and vote in every single election so that the rights and opportunities for women everywhere will not be taken away.

The House of Mirth can be found in every bookstore and every library.

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High Fashion 1870’s

 

Happy summer reading and feel free to leave your comments or reading suggestions in the comments.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

2019 Summer Reading: Poe

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This summer read at least one short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

Just one. You’ll want to read more, but at least read one.

You can read a well known story like The Black Cat, or The Cask of Amonrillado, or The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Or read one of the lesser known stories (those not made into Vincent Price movies) such as A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, or The Balloon-Hoax.

Then read some of Poe’s poetry.

Poe is the master of mystery and horror, the inventor of the modern detective story, and a true romantic. To put it bluntly, he tells a damn good story.

We’ve all seen the Vincent Price movie versions. Who doesn’t love Vincent Price?

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That said, I urge you all to find a quiet corner and READ at least one of Poe’s stories. Just one.

Let me know what you think.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

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