CBR Gift Exchange: Thanks Caitlin!

I’ve been working from home, which means shopping online has been my jam. All the Amazon and ASOS deliveries have been really driving my mother mad. She shoved this box at me in exasperation at another box sitting on the porch me.

Much to my surprise, it was from Caitlin for the CBR Gift Exchange. I didn’t expect my gift to arrive so soon.

BEFORE:

Gift wrapped books!

Gift wrapped books!

AFTER:

Yay for Sandman Vol. 1!

Yay for Sandman Vol. 1!

I felt like Christmas/Birthday come early with 3 books and lots of fun stuff. I’ve always been meaning to read the Sandman comics, so now I have no excuses. And I love Ray Bradbury, so excited to have a shiny new copy for my personal library.

Thanks Caitlin for the awesome stuff!

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Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #4 – Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After is the last instalment in the Sookie Stackhouse book saga. The novel begins with Sookie fretting about her relationship with Eric. He’s been incommunicado after the events of Deadlocked. She is abruptly summoned to Fangtasia where they have a vampire divorce ceremony because Eric has to marry that new vampire Queen of Oklahoma. Before Sookie can descend into a puddle of sadness, she is accused of the murder of a local woman (& ex-friend) who is dumped behind Merlotte’s bar. Turns out, the devil is in town bringing together Sookie’s enemies from books past to string her up with a murder wrap. In a predictable turn, Sookie makes bail and aims to solve the case with the Bon Temps Scooby Gang.

Read rest of the review on my blog.

xoxoxoe’s #CBR5 Review #17: The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski, by Samantha Geimer

Samantha Geimer, who in 1977 was the 13 year-old who was “the girl” in the infamous Roman Polanski sexual abuse case, has finally chosen to tell the whole, sordid story in her own words in The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski. The book’s title is more apt than might first be suspected. Geimer not only endured the events of that evening so many years ago, but has had her life inextricably, unfavorably linked with the famous director ever since.

In The Girl Geimer takes a mostly unblinking look at her life and Polanski’s, and details, step-by-step, the events that led up to her being plied with champagne and part of a Quaalude, and eventually subject to multiple sex acts with Polanski against her will.

Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski

Geimer’s mom, an aspiring actress, moved her two young daughters to Los Angeles with her latest boyfriend, who got a job selling advertising for Marijuana Monthlymagazine. Welcome to 1970s L.A. Mom didn’t just want to secure acting jobs for herself, but encouraged both of her daughters to try out for parts too. One evening she met the director Roman Polanski at a party. He told her he was interested in photographing American girls for a Paris Vogue magazine spread. Excited, she invited him to meet Samantha. He came to their house and then took her on a drive to a nearby park, where they “rehearsed”: he photographed her, first clothed, and then, with a little encouragement, topless.

Geimer is able to channel her teenage self, in all its insecurities, as well as attitude. She articulates very well her resistance and fear mixed with the ambition and misplaced starstruck hopes that this “little thing” of taking her top off might lead to a big career. She of course didn’t tell her mother the little detail about taking off her shirt when she got back home. Geimer wants the reader to understand that at no time did she think there was anything sexual or untoward about the shoot with Polanski. And most importantly, that her mother had no idea, and would never have “pimped out” her daughter, an accusation that was hurled many times after the rape.

“You know, there’s something about fame. There just is. I mean, think about the kids who had sleepovers at Michael Jackson’s house and all the accusations that followed. Think about their parents. Were they bad or stupid people? No. They just wanted to believe that being famous made you good.”

Polanski came back a second time, a few weeks later, and suggested that he was ready now to do the shoot for real. Again her mother didn’t accompany them, as Polanski told her that it might make her daughter nervous, less natural. He took Geimer first to the home of actress Jacqueline Bisset, where she was offered some wine (she declined). They took a few photos and then he took her to another friend’s house – the actor Jack Nicholson, who was away from home at the time. Polanski started plying her with champagne, which now she didn’t refuse. He also gave her part of a Quaalude and photographed her in the kitchen.

“He asked me if I knew what it [the Quaalude] was. I didn’t want to seem like a stupid kid, so I said, ‘Sure.'”

Polanski then suggested she take off her clothes and get in the jacuzzi for more photographs, where he joined her. He soon moved her to the bedroom, where he proceeded to have sex with her. Geimer transmits her failing resistance as the drugs and alcohol and general atmosphere took effect. She details the sex acts, and later, the pounding on the bedroom door which helped end things – Nicholson’s girlfriend, Angelica Huston, came home early. It’s a sordid, upsetting read.

At Jack Nicolson’s house

And then things really got ugly. That same evening, after he took her home, Polanski showed her mother photos from the first shoot, which included some of the topless photos. Shocked, she asked him to leave. Geimer’s sister quickly discovered the truth and helped her mother put two and two together. The police were called and the nightmare really began. Geimer’s life became a cycle of making depositions and trying to stay out of the picture as Polanski was arrested and Hollywood and the public began to take sides. Her family and lawyer tried to keep her identity secret for as long as they could. But as the story was reported (and reported and reported ad nauseum) it seemed that as many thought “the girl” was a slut or an opportunist as an innocent child. Geimer knew she had been used and abused by Polanski, but she was also angry at her mother for bringing the whole embarrassing episode into the public eye.

Geimer never apologizes for Polanski, but over the years she has had a lot of time to consider his behavior, and she ors have empathy and understanding. She proclaims she is no fan of his films –Chinatown bored her – but she writes feelingly about his youth, and persecution as a Polish Jew during WWII, and his escape from the Kraków Ghetto. How he watched his parents being taken away to concentration camps. His mother was killed in Auschwitz. His father survived Mauthausen, but they were never as close after he finally came home. He attended film school and eventually began to have success as a director. He life seemed to have finally come together when he met and married the actress Sharon Tate, who he met on the set of his film The Fearless Vampire Killers. But a year after they were married, she was brutally murdered by The Manson Family. She was eight months pregnant at the time.

Throughout the book she tries to frame the events of her life, and especially that evening, in the context of the times. She is very aware that Hollywood, especially in those days, had a taste for nymphets – with Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby (1978), Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver (1976) and Foxes (1980), and Tatum O’Neal in Little Darlings(1980).

“In the 1970s … There was something considered generally positive about erotic experience then, even in the absence of anything beyond the sex itself. The idea was that emotional growth came about through an expanded sexuality – for both the person in power and the relatively powerless. This is important to consider, because this is the cultural paradigm Roman Polanski was sopping up in 1977. As wrong as he was to do what he did, I know beyond a doubt that he didn’t look at me as one of his victims. Not everyone will understand this, but I never thought he wanted to hurt me; he wanted me to enjoy it. He was arrogant and horny. But I feel certain he was not looking to take pleasure in my pain.”

Geimer and her family accepted a plea bargain from Polanski’s lawyers to keep her name out of the public record, and most importantly, the papers. But the judge on the case, Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, seemed more interested in the reflected limelight than justice for either party, and he reneged on his original decision of probation for Polanski (after he had already served 42 days in jail) to additional potential incarceration, of up to 50 years. Not surprisingly, Polanski booked the first flight out, and sought refuge in Europe, staying in countries like France, where he could not be extradited to the U.S. And he has been exiled ever since.

But Geimer’s life didn’t settle down once Polanski was out of the picture. Every time his name might come up in the news – whether for a new film being released, or an attempt to reopen the case, she and her family would be hounded by the press. She writes unflinchingly of her teen pregnancy, drug use, and drifting aimlessly for a number of years through life, from one crisis to the next. She is not one for regrets, but admits that undeniably her life would have been different if she hadn’t taken that ride in the car with Polanski to Nicholson’s house.

The Girl is a fast and compelling read, but it doesn’t provide any easy answers. The case, even after all these years, is far from closed. Geimer points out that Polanski the artist, the director of such classic films as Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist, should be viewed separately from the horny man with a taste for young girls. Many people are able and willing to do that, but there are just as many who aren’t. Geimer, who was the victim of a rape, of sex against her will, would also hope that she would not be viewed forever as a victim. She doesn’t consider herself one. She comes across beleaguered at times, but always strong.

Samantha Geimer is married, with three sons, and splits her life between Hawaii and Nevada. For better or worse, Geimer’s and Polanski’s lives, from that evening in March 1977 forward, were forever linked. She acknowledges that Polanski has been just as much a prisoner, as pursued relentlessly by the media and misused by the U.S. criminal justice system, as she has. Strangers but not strangers, they seem to have settled their differences and found some sort of peace with one another. She may not ever be able to completely leave that night with Polanski behind her, but she has finally had the chance to tell her story, unfiltered.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

xoxoxoe’s #CBR5 Review #16: Inherit the Dead, edited by Jonathan Santlofer

Twenty best-selling mystery authors have teamed up to write a new novel, Inherit the Dead. Similar to 2011’s No Rest for the Deadeach author writes a chapter to tell a modern noir tale that centers around private investigator Pericles “Perry” Christo. Author Linda Fairstein, who contributes the afterword, approached Jonathan Santlofer to edit a novel that would bring together some of the most well-known crime authors to not just create an original mystery, but a book that would benefit the victim assistance charity Safe Horizon.

Santofler not only edited the book, but starts things off with the first chapter, which introduces former cop Christo, who has been hired by the ultra-rich Upper East Side society matron Julia Drusilla to find her estranged daughter Angel. The more Christo finds out about the enigmatic yet lovely Angel the more confused he gets. The girl is set to inherit part of a large fortune in a few days on her twenty-first birthday — if she shows up to sign some paperwork. But nothing quite adds up in the case. Her cold-as-ice mother would benefit financially if her daughter stayed gone. Her father seems distracted and unworried about her disappearance, even when her car shows up, abandoned. Her sometime boyfriend has already moved on to many other ladies. Christo finds himself bouncing back and forth between wintry New York City neighborhoods and the rich enclave of the Hamptons, as well drawing parallels to his own complicated past as he searches for the truth, and tries to find Angel — alive.

Lee Child writes the forward to the novel. The other participating authors include: Stephen L. Carter,  Marcia Clark, Heather Graham, Charlaine Harris, Sarah Weinman, Bryan Gruley, Alafair Burke, John Connolly, James Grady, Ken Bruen, Lisa Unger, S.J. Rozan, Dana Stabenow, Val McDermid, Mary Higgins Clark, C.J. Box, Max Allan Collins, Mark Billingham, and Lawrence Block, who gets to tie up all the loose ends in the final chapter.

The authors, for the most part, all manage to propel the story forward, and Inherit the Dead is a fun, fast read. There’s more than a bit of repetition, as each writer seems especially attracted to Christo’s habit of self-criticism, most notably in regard to the fall from grace that led to his dismissal from the force, and his regret at not getting to spend enough time with his daughter after his divorce. His domestic issues are a good parallel to the family drama he is investigating, but they are also all too familiar territory in the hardboiled detective genre. While so many different voices may not offer the reader too in-depth a take on any of the characters, they do sketch out a cohesive mystery. Seasoned mystery fans may not be quite as baffled by a last-minute vital clue that has Christo stumped, but they will likely enjoy joining him on his journey to finally figuring things out.

Originally published on Blogcritics: Book Review: ‘Inherit the Dead’ by Various Authors, Edited by Jonathan Santlofer

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

xoxoxoe’s #CBR5 Review #15: George Cukor: A Double Life, by Patrick McGilligan

The University of Minnesota Press has recently re-released George Cukor: A Double Life, by Patrick McGilligan. Originally published in 1991, the book became known for its “outing” of the Hollywood director, the first biography to write about his “double life.”

Meticulously researched, George Cukor: A Double Life spends equal time investigating what went into the making of his films as it also tries to go behind the facade of Cukor’s Hollywood homosexual life. McGilligan manages to portray Cukor as a well-rounded man, but one wonders what the director, who tried so hard to keep his open secret under wraps would think about his “tricks” being discussed alongside his A-list friendships with such movie stars and celebrities as Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Somerset Maugham, and Vivien Leigh. Cukor would never have mixed the two groups in his life. In fact he went out of his way to keep his public and private lives very separate.

While it may have seemed revealing when first published, McGilligan tends to be a bit repetitive when discussing Cukor’s homosexuality, constantly emphasizing that the director liked a certain type of “rough trade.” He does draw a good picture of Cukor’s fabulous Hollywood home, which became a home-away-from home on Sundays to “the chief unit,” a group of Hollywood gay men who could relax and enjoy each other’s company. Cukor reportedly formed few close relationships, sexual or otherwise. He preferred to keep things light. Even life-long friend Katharine Hepburn, who he championed when her career was labelled box-office poison, directed in ten films, and who lived for many years in a guest house on his estate, was kept at a distance when it came to his personal, sexual, life.

The most controversial anecdote in the book, and perhaps the most impactful in Cukor’s Hollywood life is the detailing of how he lost his job as director on the epicGone With the Wind. There are most likely many reasons, including Cukor’s tendency to shoot many takes and spend lavishly on sets and costumes, but certainly the most significant, and most hurtful to Cukor was how his leading man, Clark Gable, felt about him.

“Everyone was dumbfounded. Because whatever else he was, Gable was an absolute professional. Somebody asked, ‘What’s the matter with you today?’ And suddenly, Gable exploded. ‘I can’t go on with this picture! I won’t be directed by a fairy! I have to work with a real man!’

With Clark Gable on the set of Gone With the Wind

With Clark Gable on the set of Gone With the Wind

The bigoted Gable was the King of Hollywood, but most likely he was mostly concerned that Cukor was spending most of his time showcasing Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland’s performances in the film, to his detriment. Cukor didn’t find any support from long-time friend and producer David O. Selznick.

“I think the biggest black mark against our management to date is the Cukor situation and we can no longer be sentimental about it. We are a business concern and not patrons of the arts.”

Gone With the Wind wasn’t the only film that Cukor was dismissed on as director, but it was the one that he and Hollywood never forgot.

As comprehensive as his behind-the-scenes detailing of Cukor’s many films (and film ideas that never came to fruition), McGilligan is not much of a film critic. He completely dismisses Cukor’s classic The Women in just a few negative paragraphs, while dwelling on the merits of lesser efforts like The Chapman Report and The Blue Bird. He does help bring Cukor’s early days to life and his youth in New York City. Cukor was able to turn a love of going to the theater into a career, first by directing summer stock shows in the 1920s in Rochester, N.Y. and later on Broadway, to joining the talkies revolution and heading out to Hollywood in 1929, first as a dialogue coach, and later as a director.

Once Cukor left New York he never really looked back. He loved living in Hollywood and was an enthusiastic product of the studio system. He worked with all of the great producers, including David O. Selznick and Irving Thalberg. Cukor was dubbed “the women’s director,” which some came to take as a euphemism for homosexuality. But Cukor truly was interested in actors, and helped direct many Academy Award-winning performances, including Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, Ronald Colman in A Double Life, Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady.

With Greta Gable on the set of Camille

With Greta Gable on the set of Camille

Cukor was definitely the recipient of homophobic attitudes, but seemed to not hold any grudges. He was especially appreciative of films by the “macho” director John Ford. In his own films he tended to showcase stereotypical homosexual characters. It’s hard to determine whether this approach was some inner self-loathing or an attempt to “fit in.” Cukor had every reason to try to keep his sex life secret. MGM helpeddismiss a morals charge (when Cukor and interior designer friend Bill Haines were involved in a bar fight) and Cukor was apparently very concerned to never breach any moral turpitude clause in his contract.

Hollywood seemed more than a little aware of Cukor’s sexuality. Producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz could be both dismissive and insightful on the topic,

“In a way, George Cukor was the first great female director of Hollywood. … A woman could come on his set and be absolutely safe. … With the other directors, there was always that moment, Is he going to make a pass at me?”

As good a director of actors as Cukor was, he never seemed to be too interested in the camera, preferring to stage a scene and perfect a particular piece of dialogue or bit of business for an actor. His cameramen were more responsible for a shot’s composition — something that seems anathema in our concept of how Hollywood directors/auteurs should work.

What really comes through in George Cukor: A Double Life is the sheer amount of wonderful and eclectic films that were directed by Cukor. He definitely had a flair for comedy, as evidenced by  Dinner at Eight (1933) and two films with Judy Holiday, Born Yesterday (1950 ) and It Should Happen to You (1954). Although not particularly interested in musicals (he would usually have the dance numbers staged by someone else, like choreographer Jack Cole), he directed quite a few: A Star Is Born (1954), Les Girls (1957), and My Fair Lady (1964). He even directed two films with Marilyn Monroe,Let’s Make Love (1960) and her last film, the unfinished Something’s Got to Give(1962).

With Marilyn Monroe on the set of Something's Got to Give

With Marilyn Monroe on the set of Something’s Got to Give

George Cukor: A Double Life more than anything makes one want to hold their own mini Cukor film festival. So many of his films are Hollywood classics, and film buffs could program a few movie marathons, depending on where they would like to focus. The films he made with Tracy and Hepburn? Try Keeper of the Flame (1942), Adam’s Rib (1949), and Pat and Mike (1952). The five that were written by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon? How about A Double Life (1947), Adam’s RibPat and MikeThe Marrying Kind (1952), and It Should Happen to You. Or maybe check out some of the films that helped give him the reputation as a “women’s director.” Camille, with Greta Garbo (1936); Susan and God, with Joan Crawford (1940); GaslightTravels with My Aunt(1972), with Maggie Smith; or Rich And Famous (1981), with Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset. No matter what the choice, it will be impossible not to think of George Cukor reading those scripts and working out the costumes for his actors after one of his lavish Sunday night parties.

Originally published as Book Review: ‘George Cukor: A Double Life’ by Patrick McGilligan

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

xoxoxoe’s #CBR5 Review #14: D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods & Giants

I grew up with D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Mythsa wonderful book full of fabulous interpretations of the wild lives of the gods, complete with illustrations by the talented husband and wife children’s book team, Ingri and Parin D’Aulaire. I spent hours reading and re-reading these stories, trying to draw Aphrodite, Dionysus and the other gods and goddesses that the D’Aulaires portrayed in their distinctive lithographs.

I remember seeing their book on the Norse Gods when I was a kid. I must have taken it out of the library, but I frankly don’t remember it at all. When I was with the kid at the library the other day and saw D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods & Giants (reprinted recently as D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths) again I grabbed it, figuring it would be like my favorite Greek myth book. Well, sorta. The illustrations are as wonderful as one would expect. But the stories — they are so very, very different from the Greek myths. The Norse pantheon, although it shares a superficial resemblance to the Greeks, with creation stories and Odin as the head of the gods, is full of very distinct and different personalities from Zeus and his brother and sister gods and goddesses.

Untitled

Battling a frost giant

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Ygdrassil

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Loki plans his next trick

The D’Aulaires seem to be having a great time telling stories about the world of the Norse gods, including the world tree, Ygdrassil, Valhalla, and the gods’ ultimate destiny, Ragnarokk. Fans of comic books and recent superhero moves will recognize some of the main players — Odin the all father, hammer-wielding Thor, the god of thunder, and the shape shifting trickster, Loki, as well as the lovely Freya and the Valkyrie. The D’Aulaires’ books are geared towards children, but their retelling of these classic stories are dense and layered and could be equally enjoyed by adults. I’m glad I got a chance to find this book again.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

Katie′s #CBR5 Review #30: What You Need To Know Before You Invest by Rod Davis

Title: What You Need To Know Before You Invest
Author: Rod Davis
Source: library
Rating: 
Fun Fact: The Dow Jones index was created in 1884, when it included 11 companies and was computed by hand.
Review Summary: This was mostly an easy read and seemed like a good introduction to the different types of investments.

Investing is a topic that makes me anticipate being confused, bored or both, so I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all if it weren’t for two things. First, my significant other and I are reaching a stage in our careers where knowing something about investing seems responsible. Secondly, my attempt to read through the Dewey Decimal system made this day inevitable. Fortunately, the majority of the book was a much easier read than I expected.

Read more at Doing Dewey…