Friday, April 29, 2011

Teen ARC Giveaway: Unpublished Books!

Congrats to Melissa & Karen!!
Stay tuned for the next giveaway sometime in July and thanks to everyone who participated.

To finish up the month of April I'm hosting another giveaway.  Two lucky winners will receive one of these advance reader copy sets of teen books that are yet to be published.  The first set includes Tiger's Quest by Colleen Houck, Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances edited by Trisha Telep, and But I Love Him by Amanda Grace and Mandy Hubbard.  The second set includes Mission (Un)Popular by Anna Humphrey, Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, and Populazzi by Elise Allen.

Fill out the form below to enter, and if you are so inclined:

These additional actions will provide extra entries, but are completely optional. Winners will be picked at random, and entries are valid only for United States residents. The deadline for this giveaway is May 12th, 2011 at 11:59pm (PST).  Winner will be announced right here on this post on May 20th.  Good luck!! :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Step Right Up!

Photo by Nina Leen, March 1949 from LIFE Photo Archive
Last week I posted my review for Sara Gruen's novel Water for Elephants (Algonquin Books, 2006), and today the film version directed by Francis Lawrence was released (he also directed I am Legend and Constantine).  This got me thinking about circus history, which has been compared to a microcosm of the history of the United States, since the circus has been around almost from when this country was founded to the present day.  I'm not going to even try to summarize the extensive history of the circus, but I did find some trivia that caught my nostalgic eye and of course being the librarian that I am, I'm providing a list of books (both fiction and non-fiction) and a list of websites that I used to compile the trivia list.
  • The traveling circus on rails reached its peak in 1911, this was when a total of thirty two different shows were touring the country.
  • In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge and his wife attended a Ringling Bros. show upon a personal invitation from John Ringling, even though President Coolidge had remarked that their boys were not in, but that he would attend anyways.
  • Ringlingville was the original name of the Ringling Bros. Circus and it was founded in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1884.
  • One of the worst circus train wrecks occurred in 1918 when the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was derailed near Hammond, Indiana.  Since many of the performers that were killed could not be identified, some of their graves only have markers that say "Smiley", "Baldy", or "Unknown Female".  Their graves are part of a section in the cemetery called "Showman's Rest" and they feature elephant statues in typical mourning poses.
  • The use of a circus tent seems to have originated in 1825.
  • That famous circus theme song (c'mon, you know the one, "doo-doo-doo-roo-roo-roo-roo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo....) is actually a military march composed in 1897 by Czech composer Julius Fučík called Entrance of the Gladiators.
  • The flying trapeze was invented by Frenchman Jules Leotard (the leotard performers wear is named after him) when he connected some cords to a bar above his father's swimming pool.

Recommended Reading
The American Circus: An Illustrated History by John Culhane (Henry Holt and Co., 1991)
Ringling: The Florida Years, 1911-1936 by David Chapin Weeks (University Press of Florida, 1993)
The Tattooed Lady: A History by Amelia Klem Osterud (Speck Press, 2009)
American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History's Most Wondrous and Curiously Strange Performers by Marc Hartzman (Tarcher, 2005)

Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney (Random House, 2005)
The Electric Michelangelo  by Sarah Hall (Harper Perennial, 2005, first published 2004)
The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson (Henry Holt and Co., 2010)
The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (Harcourt, 2004)
A Son of the Circus by John Irving (Random House, 1994)
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (Penguin, 1986, first published 1984)


These elephants are remarkable, but I did watch the show wondering how well they were treated, and hoping that they were treated very well because they did some amazing tricks (at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Show, 2010)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Algonquin Books, 2006; 335 pages; ISBN  1565124995
My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

With the film version of Sara Gruen's excellent Water for Elephants coming out next week, I am excited to revisit the book, which I read last year.  I had been meaning to read the novel for two years and it wasn't until I heard there was a movie version being made that I finally checked it out.  I wish I hadn't waited because this is truly a very charming book.  It's got romance, history, adventure, some mystery, and it incorporates animals into the mix of characters.  The setting switches back and forth between present time in a nursing home and a traveling circus in 1932.  Jacob Jankowski is remembering his time with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth circus as him and his fellow nursing home residents are preparing to attend the circus that just came into town.  In his memories Jacob is 23 years old and his parents have just died in a car crash.  He was studying to be a veterinarian at Cornell and in a fateful turn of events he jumps onto a train not knowing that it is a circus train.  When he is found out he gets offered a job as a vet for the menagerie of animals, even though he insists that he never finished his schooling.  In the circus he meets an eclectic cast of characters, including the insufferable and pompous ring master Uncle Al, the beautiful performer Marlena, Marlena's husband August, the cruel animal trainer, and one of the clowns and his dog, Walter and Queenie.  Jacob has to learn quickly and many lessons are harsh, like the practice of redlighting (when circus workers are thrown off the train in the middle of the night to avoid paying them and to basically get rid of them) and how the circus animals are treated.  The Benzini show is in fierce competition with bigger and better spectacles, like Ringling Brothers, so when Uncle Al gets the chance to acquire Rosie the elephant, he does so and has Marlena work with her to put on a dazzling show that will hopefully boost profits and elevate the reputation of the Benzini Bros.  show.  As Jacob and Marlena both fall in love with each other they must deal with the unkind ways of August and the dangers of circus life.  I loved everything about the novel, especially all of the historical details that the author incorporates because they really bring the story to life.  I also loved how the story unfolded and I always had this sense of foreboding throughout the story that compelled me to keep reading.  Gruen also features actual photographs of the circus during the Great Depression, which offered up another way to visualize the events unfolding during Jacob's recollections.  I cannot wait until the movie release and I really want to see what Reese Witherspoon does with the character, because I never pictured Marlena like Reese.  I pictured her dark-haired, with alabaster skin, and with sharper features, but I've liked pretty much every movie she has made, so we shall see.  I recommend reading the book before watching the film if you can, because usually book versions far outshine their movie counterparts.  Here's the movie trailer:

Photo: From website

Friday, April 8, 2011

Movie Review: All About Eve, 1950

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" (Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve, 1950)
All About Eve (20th Century Fox, 1950) is a movie title that I had seen several times throughout the years and I finally decided to borrow it from the library the other night to see what all the fuss was about.  Before I viewed it I basically knew two things: that it won an Academy Award for Best Picture and that Marilyn Monroe makes a brief appearance.  This is the first time that I've watched a Bette Davis movie and I truly loved her performance.  Actually the whole cast was excellent, and above all I enjoyed the dialogue, the story line, and definitely the casting.  The costumes were also great, but never too overdone, after all this is the theatre darling, not Hollywood. 

In the story the aging (all of 40 years old!) Broadway star Margo Channing is the idol of young and seemingly naive Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter), who has seen every performance of Margo's latest show.  One night Margo's best friend Karen invites Eve backstage, having noticed her several times before.  At first Margo is making comments about fanatic admirers and how they are nobodies, but soon enough Eve is charming and almost entrancing everyone with her tragic back story and her adoration of Margo and the theater.  Before long Eve is Margo's new Girl-Friday, but once the honeymoon period is over it becomes very clear where Eve's ambition lies.  The thing is that no one, except the drama critic Addison DeWitt, realizes just how far Eve will go to attain that new road 'paved with stars'.  There is blackmail, drunken accusations, backstabbing, and of course the appearance of a young Marilyn as aspiring actress Claudia Caswell.  I loved the movie, I'd watch it again, and I'm even inclined to say that it is now one of my favorite classic movies.  I highly recommend watching it next time you are in the mood for a classic flick.

Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington, Bette Davis as Margo Channing and Marilyn Monroe as Claudia Casswell

Friday, April 1, 2011

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 4

Photo from
As I've been selecting books for my read-a-book, sip-a-cocktail series I found that quite a few are also movies.  In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner is one of them.  In the book Rose's sister Maggie is the ubiquitous reckless baby sister (played by Cameron Diaz in the movie). She also likes to drink and borrow Rose's beloved shoes.  So in honor of this book (and the movie) I came up with the Rose Stiletto.  It combines Tequila Rose (a strawberry and tequila cream liqueur), Agavero (a Damiana flower and tequila liqueur), and strawberry ice cream.  Rosy, rich and oh so delicious, kind of like a spiked milkshake (I could definitely see Rose comforting herself with this drink).  You definitely taste the Agavero, but the sweetness of the Tequila Rose is soothing, refreshing and creamy.  It isn't too heavy or sickly sweet either.  I also made a custom rose stiletto swizzle stick to dress up the drink.  If you try this cocktail, let me know how it goes, because now that I think about it there are so many possibilities when it comes to these boozy malted drinks: Bailey's Irish Cream with some coffee ice cream, Kahlua with dulce de leche ice cream, Limoncello and orange sherbet, Chambord and chocolate ice cream, or just cognac with some vanilla ice cream.  Yum-eeee!  (And if you don't feel like making your own, you can head to Go Burger in New York or Los Angeles for one of their Spiked Milkshakes) 

Rose Stiletto
3 oz. Tequila Rose
2 oz. Agavero
3/4 to 1 Cup of strawberry ice cream (the more you add, the more likely you may need a straw)
How to: In a blender mix Tequila Rose, Agavero, and ice cream.  Pour into your favorite cocktail glass.