May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Talking Non-Fiction

Today's Armchair topic is non-fiction. I don't know how you feel about it, but I love it! I especially love reading old Hollywood biographies. I find that these biographies provide a key to the past in a way history books do not.

For instance, in almost every single old Hollywood biography, the HUAC is mentioned in some way. Whether it affected the star directly or the star had friends that were victims of communist accusations, it is usually in there. I love that because I teach ‘The Crucible’ and am able to use those as examples when I discuss McCarthyism and the Red Scare.

I collect Marilyn Monroe biographies, and one thing I have learned about reading biographies: I like to know where they get their information. Some have been written on pure speculation, so for a book to be worth my time, I want to know how much research was done, why their interest in that particular star, etc.

As a whole, I love reading about these actors—modern and old Hollywood—and their trials and tribulations in life, love, career. What I have gathered from all of them is this: while they may be rich and famous, their lives are/were nothing like a fairy tale. Except maybe Tori Spelling, and I’ve got to include her in my list because I love her candidness.

Please note that most of the Goodread summaries are abridged because, to be honest, their descriptions are long.

Here I share with you twelve of my favorite Hollywood biographies - enjoy!

·         Love, Lucy (L. Ball)

Summary from Goodreads:

The one and only New York Times bestselling autobiography by Lucille Ball...

·         It’s Only a Movie: A Personal Bio of Alfred Hitchcock (C. Chandler)

Summary from Goodreads:

Applause Books" It's Only a Movie is the best book ever written about my father. It really is amazing." Patricia Hitchcock North by Northwest. Psycho. Rear Window. The Birds. Vertigo. When it comes to murder and mayhem, shock and suspense, the films of Alfred Hitchcock can not be surpassed. For this book, Charlotte Chandler interviewed Hitchcock, his wife, daughter, film crew members, and many of the stars who appeared in his films, including Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Cary Grant, Tippi Hedren and James Stewart.Throughout the book, Chandler shares Hitchcock's wit and wisdom. When actors took themselves too seriously, he would remind them, "it's only a movie." Chandler introduces us to the real Hitchcock, a devoted family man and notorious practical joker, who made suspenseful thrillers mixed with subtle humor and tacit eroticism.

·         700 Sundays (B. Crystal)

Summary from Goodreads:

Billy Crystal's heartfelt and hilarious "New York Times" bestseller: a moving memoir of his youth and the precious days shared by an adoring father and a devoted son.

·         Cary Grant: A Biography (M. Eliot)

Summary from Goodreads:

Rigorously researched and elegantly written, Cary Grant: A Biography is a complete, nuanced portrait of the greatest star in cinema history. Exploring Grant’s troubled childhood, ambiguous sexuality, and lifelong insecurities, as well as the magical amalgam of characteristics that allowed him to remain Hollywood’s favorite romantic lead for more than thirty-five years, Cary Grant is the definitive examination of every aspect of Grant’s professional and private life and the first biography to reveal the real man behind the movie star.

·         Jimmy Stewart: A Biography (M. Eliot)

Summary from Goodreads:

While Stewart's career thrived, so did his personal life. A marriage in his forties, the adoption of his wife’s two sons from a previous marriage, and the birth of his twin daughters laid the foundation for a happy life, until an unexpected tragedy had a shocking effect on his final years.

Intimate and richly detailed, Jimmy Stewart is a fascinating portrait of a multi-faceted and much-admired actor as well as an extraordinary slice of Hollywood history.

·         Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood (S. Finstad)

Summary from Goodreads:

Natasha is based on years of exhaustive research into Natalie's turbulent life and mysterious drowning in the dark water that was her greatest fear. Author Suzanne Finstad, a former lawyer, conducted nearly four hundred interviews with Natalie's family, close friends, legendary costars, lovers, film crews, and virtually everyone connected with the investigation of her strange death. Through these firsthand accounts from many who have never spoken publicly before, Finstad has reconstructed a life of emotional abuse and exploitation, of almost unprecedented fame, great loneliness, poignancy, and loss. She sheds an unwavering light on Natalie's complex relationships with James Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Raymond Burr, Warren Beatty, and Robert Wagner and reveals the two lost loves of Natalie's life, whom her controlling mother prevented her from marrying. Finstad tells this beauty's heartbreaking story with sensitivity and grace, revealing a complex and conflicting mix of fragility and strength in a woman who was swept along by forces few could have resisted. Natasha is impossible to put down — it is the definitive biography of Natalie Wood that we've long been waiting for.

·         Arthur Miller: His Life and Work (M. Gottfried)

Summary from Goodreads:

Arthur Miller has been delivering powerful drama to the stage for decades with such masterpieces as Death of a Salesman. But, remarkably, no one has yet told the full story of Miller's own extraordinary life-a rich life, much of it shrouded from public view. To achieve this groundbreaking portrait of the artist and the man, the award-winning drama critic and biographer Martin Gottfried masterfully draws on his interviews with those who have known Miller throughout his personal and professional life, on Miller's voluminous lifelong correspondence, and on the annotated scripts and notebooks that reveal Miller's creative process in stunning detail. From Miller's childhood and adolescence in Depression-era New York City to his formative college years in Michiganfrom the numerous early professional rejections to the 1947 play All My Sons that established him as a voice to be reckoned withfrom his heroic defiance of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy years to his most unlikely pairing with Marilyn Monroe from political and social activism on the world stage to an extraordinary professional vitality even as he turns 88 in October 2003 (he is still writing plays, and stage revivals and film adaptations of his classics proliferate): here is a dazzling book-a literary event of the first order.

·         Marilyn Monroe (B. Leaming)

Summary from Goodreads:

Basing her research on new interviews and on thousands of primary documents--including revealing letters by Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, John Huston, Laurence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, Darryl Zanuck, Marilyn's psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson, and many others--Leaming has reconstructed the tangle of betrayal in Marilyn's life. For the first time, a master storyteller has put together all of the pieces and told Marilyn's story with the intensity and drama it so richly deserves.

At the heart of this book is a sexual triangle and a riveting story that has never been told before. You will come away filled with new respect for Marilyn's incredible courage, dignity, and loyalty, and an overwhelming sense of tragedy after witnessing Marilyn, powerless to overcome her demons, move inexorably to her own final, terrible betrayal of herself. Marilyn Monroe is a book that will make you think--and will break your heart.

·         True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess (W. Leigh)

Summary from Goodreads:

Leigh paints a compelling portrait of Grace, the ambitious young actress, Grace, the dutiful princess who transformed the principality of Monaco into a jet-set haven, Grace, the kind-hearted philanthropist, Grace, the loving mother, and Grace, the patriotic American. 

 Leigh's book has not been written for those readers who wish to view Grace as a saint, but for those who - like Leigh herself - believes that she was a strong and wonderful woman.  

·         Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait (D. Maychick)

Summary from Goodreads:

When she began writing her biography of Audrey Hepburn, author Diana Maychick never dreamed she would have such unprecedented access to the reclusive and legendary star. Audrey Hepburn insisted that a proper biography could never be completed unless she was willing to share some intensely personal and painful memories. For the next year, Hepburn and Maychick spent countless hours together in conversation, as Audrey opened up about her childhood, her careers, and the loves of her life. What Diana Maychick did not know was that Audrey Hepburn was dying and that these conversations would, all too soon and all too sadly, come to an end. What emerges from the pages of Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait is a wonderfully personal look at one of the most elegant women of the century. It also provides a candid look at Audrey's painful childhood, her parents' constant battles, her mother's demanding hauteur, her father's blatant Nazi sympathies, the deprivation of the war years, the Nazi occupation of their town and the garrisoning of their very house, her escape from the Germans and the month she spent in a rat-infested cellar nearly starving to death, and her life-long struggle with food disorders. It also celebrates her fabled rise from show girl to film star and how, with her beguiling eyes and sophisticated manners, she seduced Hollywood away from its fixation on blond bombshells.

·         Mommywood (T. Spelling)

Summary from Goodreads:
Like most parents, Tori wants her children to have the one thing she didn't have as a kid -- a normal family. On their hit Oxygen reality show, Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood, the starlet and her husband Dean McDermott regularly wrestle dirty diapers, host the neighborhood block party, and tackle temper tantrums on the red carpet. But when the cameras aren't rolling, Tori's still having awkward run-ins with a former 90210 costar at a laser tag birthday party, scooping rogue poo out of the kiddie pool on a resort vacation, and racing to win back her pre-baby body before the media starts calling her fat. For all her suburban fantasies, Tori Spelling is no June Cleaver.
With the same down-to-earth wit that made her entertaining memoir sTORI telling a #1 New York Times bestseller, Tori tells the hilarious and humbling stories of life as a mom in the limelight. From learning to be the kind of parent her own mother never was to revealing what it's like to raise a family while everyone is watching, Mommywood is an irresistible snapshot of celebrity parenthood that you won't get from the paparazzi.

·         The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (Taraborrelli)

Summary from Goodreads:

When Marilyn Monroe became famous in the 1950s, the world was told that her mother was either dead or simply not a part of her life. However, that was not true. In fact, her mentally ill mother was very much present in Marilyn's world and the complex family dynamic that unfolded behind the scenes is a story that has never before been told...until now. In this groundbreaking book, Taraborrelli draws complex and sympathetic portraits of the women so influential in the actress' life, including her mother, her foster mother, and her legal guardian. He also reveals, for the first time, the shocking scope of Marilyn's own mental illness, the identity of Marilyn's father and the half-brother she never knew, and new information about her relationship with the Kennedy's-Bobby, Jack, and Pat Kennedy Lawford. Explosive, revelatory, and surprisingly moving, this is the final word on the life of one of the most fascinating and elusive icons of the 20th Century.

And because I know covers stick with us more than titles...

What Hollywood biographies have you read that you think I should add to my list?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

Armchair BEA 2013

 As always, I am late to the party—but I really want to participate in Armchair BEA this year.

1.   Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? 

Hey everyone – my name is Crys. My students call me The Hodgenator, which I decided to use with my blog since it’s my Twitter handle. I am a high school English teacher who has a Master’s in Library and Informational Sciences where my area of concentration was on school media. I love Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, witchy reads, and mysteries.

I have been blogging for three years—maybe four—after my husband encouraged me to share my love of reading with a small corner of the Internet. At the time, I didn’t realize so many people were already blogging about books, so I am excited to see that I am in good company.

2.   Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures. 

I live in North Alabama. A random fact about my area? We are called The Rocket City.

3.   Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event? 

I have never participated in Armchair BEA before. I decided to do it because it’s a great way to hear from others who are like me and not fortunate enough to attend BEA.

4.   What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013? 

Currently reading—hmm…Friday was our last day of school, and my goal has been a book a day this summer. I started that on Monday and am on track. My book for today is ‘Perfect Scoundrels’ by Ally Carter.

Favorite read of 2013? There are so many—‘The 5th Wave,’ ‘The Nightmare Affair,’ ‘The Madness Underneath,’ ‘Bruised,’ ‘School Spirits’ to name a handful.

5.   Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you. 

When  I was five years old, I was hit by a car and almost killed. Now as a mom, I am hyper about my child being anywhere near any kind of area where cars drive. I am insane about it.

6.   Name your favorite blog(s) and explain why they are your favorite(s). 

YALove Blog – this was the first blog I followed after joining Twitter. Sarah and I share a passion for YA lit and bringing it into our classrooms, and I love her wit, design, etc. I aspire for my blog to be as awesome as hers.

7.   Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read? 

Favorite post, hmm…My Happenings in Hodgensville where I had students create a marketing campaign for a novel of their choice for their final outside reading project. These were my AP Lang kids, and I wanted them to step into how books are marketed to their age group and whether or not the marketing is affective.

They did a great job and I was impressed with their creativity.

8.   If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? 

There are so many, but I will go with three (and in no particular order):

-      Jane Austen: I want to know how she dealt with the misogynistic nature of her time

-      Jodi Picoult: I just want to hang out and absorb her awesomeness and discuss social issues affecting our society

-      Chris Crutcher: I would love to discuss his life as an educator and compare notes on how times have changed, and how they have stayed the same

9.   What literary location would you most like to visit? Why? 

ALL of them—no, really. I have a map of literary locations in America, and I want to go to all of them. I’ve been to several all ready, and the one I am looking forward to the most is Sleepy Hollow. So many amazing people are buried there. And, come on, it’s Sleepy Hollow. I would love to go on Halloween night.

10.What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? 

The creativity I see from other bloggers as well as the plethora of reading material. I love that I can tweet a question about a book suggestion and hear back almost immediately. I love that I can visit blogs that use different genres as their own inspiration, and through that sometimes I find myself reading novels I would never have read otherwise. Most of all, I love that we are all celebrating reading. I hear all the time how the book industry is dying and reading is dying with it, and I am like, “Umm…come say that to the book bloggers’ faces. I triple-dog dare you!"

11.Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?

For me personally, I would like to make sure I take the time to comment on more blogs. I know that is the best way to build an audience. I have got to work on balancing my time with my blog during the school year. I would love tips from fellow teachers out there on how they do that. Do they pick a specific day of the week to work on their blog, etc.? Any tips I will take. There is no pride here.

It would be awesome if we had socials based on the areas we lived in to get to know one another and to build relationships outside of a screen. Other than that, I’m going to keep blogging about the books I read and enjoy and celebrate the written word.

Happy Reading!

    - The Hodgenator

May 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (6)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Am I the only one excited to learn that Myracle’s latest novel is only a couple of months away?!

LOVE the cover!
Title: 'The Infinite Moment of Us’
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 336
Release Date: 20 August 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now . . . not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them . . .
Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

How awesome does this book sound?! I am such a fan of Myracle’s, and I cannot wait for this to be on a shelf and in my hands.

What are you waiting for this week?

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator