A Review of HP Lovecraft: The Mysterious Man Behind the Darkness by Charlotte Montague

I’m beginning to think that horror authors from the the turn of the century into the 1930’s must take their inspiration from rough childhoods and nightmares. Lovecraft has said he was influenced by Poe and it seems they were both haunted in many ways. Lovecraft was raised by a single mother who was entirely overprotective and raised him to think he was weak and sickly. He was also raised by 2 aunts and therefore didn’t have much in the way of strong male influences. It was thought, based on things Lovecraft wrote to friends and family about his health and symptoms, that he was not necessarily sickly but quite possible suffering from a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. From early childhood into adulthood he dealt with and obsessive personality, tics, and fits of fainting and seizures. As he got older he enjoyed great and very close relationships with fellow amateur writers but his one attempt at marriage failed miserably as he was more interested in himself and his friends than any sort of romantic relationship.

This is the second biography I have read written by Charlotte Montague, the first being Edgar Allan Poe. This one was in the same format and just as interesting and entertaining. I really love how the chronology of his works and where he drew inspiration for these stories are woven together with facts from the things going on in his life because you can really tie together how life and various relationships influenced him. Unlike Poe, Lovecraft was able to sell many of his stories for, at the time, hefty sums. But like Poe, he never really gained much popularity in the literary world until decades after his death.

You must be very familiar with HP Lovecraft’s work if you’re going to read this biography though. There are complete plot summaries for most of his major works. While this is fantastic for someone like me who has already read all of his work in the past, there are a plethora of spoilers for those who are just beginning to visit his library. For me, it was a nice reminder of what I have read by him and a fun revisit.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of HP Lovecraft. This is a very in depth exploration of his life and work and I now feel I know so much more than I did before. Lovecraft wrote so many lengthy letters to friends and family throughout his short life that much of what is found in this book is words and revelations from his own mouth and mind.

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A Review of Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide by Stephen Jones

This guide gives a short synopsis and some behind the scenes commentary of every film based on a Stephen King movie up to it’s print date of 2001. It even talks about the movies very loosely based on his stories and the episodes of popular television series that he scripted, Chinga from X Files for instance. I was surprised to see that he had a close circle of friends that included movie industry big wigs that he frequently works with, like Mick Garris and George Romero. This book also talks about the reception of the films, how much creative control King had and his involvement, and how closely the film follows the book, which in most cases isn’t very close.

I quite enjoyed this book, because as a cinephile, I’ve seen a good majority of those tv mini series and films based on his books. I’m not as familiar with the lower budget works or his dollar babies, but now this gives me a list of things I need to check out. The book ends with an interview with the man himself and what I liked best was how he talked about his near fatal accident of 1999 that almost prevented him from ever writing again. At the printing of this interview, his only plans for writing were to finish the Dark Tower series and one more novel and then he was going to retire. I’m incredibly glad he decided to scrap that idea because he has printed some fantastic works since then.

I give this one a 5 out of 5.  It has great info on the movies and the process it took to get them to the screen for us to see. The photographs and video covers only enhance the experience. This is a must have companion book for any fan of the man himself: Stephen King!

A Review of Edgar Allen Poe: The Strange Man Standing Deep in the Shadows by Charlotte Montague

First of all, I just want to say, I’ve read everything by Poe as he was at one time my favorite author. He still is one of my favorites. I thought I knew a lot about his life through the articles I’ve read here and there over the years. I realized that I really knew not much of anything about him. His story is sad and very tragic.

Without getting into too much detail, because this is a book every Poe fan should read, one of the things that really stood out to me was how socially awkward Poe was. He fought with a good majority of his literary colleagues and was somewhat of a ladies man. Though he was fiercely loyal to Virginia, he received quite a few letters of admiration from friends, writers, and poets. He would read these letters to Virginia and they would laugh together. After her death, he couldn’t bear to be alone so began passionately pursuing several women he was acquainted with. The only thing that really stopped Poe from remarrying was his refusal and/or inability to give up drinking.

I was saddened by the circumstances of his death. He died a not very well liked man, clouded by scandals, alone, and in poverty. Though he had gained quite a bit of popularity due to his stories and poetry, he never made any money from any of it. It took him many years after his death to gain the fame and understanding of his genius that he truly deserved.

I  definitely recommend this book. It is fully illustrated. It gives a synopsis of each of his more famous stories. There are explanations for things and events happening at the time that help to shed some light on the corresponding events in Mr. Poe’s life. Charlotte Montague wrote a series of these books on different historical figures and I intend to delve into her biography of HP Lovecraft next. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

A Review of Death by Petticoat by Mary Miley Theobald

Death by Petticoat is a collection of myths that people have been led to believe over the years about our colonial ancestors. These myths, though one time thought true, have since been proven wrong. This book was put together with the help of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Its not categorized in subject matter or chapter, but rather, numbered by myth. There are 62 different ones. Some of them I remember learning, while some I thought were fairly obscure and may have only been known by history buffs. This book even goes so far as to explain where these myths may have originated.

I really enjoyed reading Death by Petticoat. It was a fairly quick read, only taking about an hour. It had some great photography to accompany each myth. I give this a 5 out of 5. Its a great little trivia book that you can use to impress your history loving friends. I definitely recommend it.

A Review of The Simpson’s Family History by Matt Groening

I am a huge Simpsons freak. This book came out last year some time and I had been eyeballing it at Barnes and Noble every since. But it was $35 and I just couldn’t justify spending that much at the time. Low and behold, I went browsing in the Barnes and Noble bargain section a few days ago and what should happen to be sitting their glowing as if calling me to buy it? You guessed it! It was now only $9.99 and I had to get it.

This is a visual history of 25 years of The Simpsons. With some explanatory text and the occasional bit of trivia, it is mostly screenshots pulled from the show. What I like about it, is that they’ve put it together in chronological order using the flashbacks from the series and current plots. It starts from Grandpa Abe simpson as a child moving to America and goes through how Homer and Marge meet, their early life together, how Homer got on at the Nuclear Power Plant, all the way to the birth of Maggie.

This is a must have for any true Simpsons fan. Going through the history and seeing the screen shots had me reliving some of my favorite episodes. It made me want to go back and start watching the series all over again. Good thing I have every season that is currently on DVD. I give this book an easy 5 out of 5. It isn’t any kind of profound reading but it will scratch that Simpsons itch in a very satisfactory way.

A Review of Disgusting History: The Smelliest, Dirtiest Eras of the Past 10,000 Years by Kathy Allen

The title pretty much says it all about this book. I picked this one up off the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble because the cover is vibrant and I’m into gross and strange history. This book covers ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the age of the Vikings, Colonial America, the American Frontier, and the Civil War. You’ll find everything from toilet humor facts, to hygiene, disease, and death. There’s something for everyone.

I loved this book. It is a fairly quick read. Each page has minimal text. It has lots of pictures and little blurbs and facts on almost every page. It’s broken up into sections based on era and the beginning of every chapter gives you a mini timeline of what is being covered. I happen to enjoy the potty humor/trivia quite a bit.

My only criticism is that it is too short. I think the target audience may be younger people. Possibly late middle school or early high school. There’s no foul language or sexual content.

I gave this book a 5 out of 5. I thoroughly enjoy fascinating facts about the things most historians don’t cover because of the gross or graphic nature of them. The fact is, this is all part of history. I would recommend this book to any fan of the history and bizarre facts.

A Review of The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is an icon to me. I have wanted to read her books for some time but never managed to actually put out the money for one. That changed recently for two reasons. One reason is that she recently passed away. As a long time fan of Star Wars and her iconic role as Princess Leia, this hit me hard. Second, I have a subscription to audible and she and her daughter, Billie Lourde, narrate this book. I was sold.

This book is mainly her confession to having an affair with Harrison Ford during her time filming the first Star Wars film. She has spent her whole life denying this relationship because at the time of their fling Mr. Ford was married to someone else, albeit an unhappy marriage. This is her account of that time period and the early stages of fame. She found her diaries for that time period and decided to publish some of the contents in this book. This part of the book is read by Billie while the rest is read by Carrie.

I enjoyed most of this book quite a bit. It was interesting to find out how being the daughter of famous parents affected her. She also talks about auditioning for Star Wars and her first impressions of George lucas. The real interesting stuff starts when she meets Harrison and their affair begins. Hearing it told from her perspective, it was basically a sexual relationship on his part and she gradually fell head over heels in love with him. She was only 19 and had a single relationship prior to Harrison. He confided in her about a marriage in ruins and a wife who didn’t understand him, all the while giving Carrie the idea that he was going to leave his wife for her.

She goes on for many chapters about how much she cares about him and is trying to fight it. It even seems like she’s trying to convince herself to be aloof about it. Her diaries entries are just verbal diarrhea about loving yet not being loved, some interesting poetry on the subject, and how horrible she feels being the other woman, yet not doing anything about it. This is all her side of the story and I have no idea how much of it is actually true.

I gave this one a 4 out of 5. I was entertained and I loved hearing Carrie reading this to me. I would have rather her read her diary entries as well. Billie Lourde’s voice is a bit monotone and scratchy for me. I can see how they were trying to capture a young Carrie Fisher with the transition but for me it didn’t work. I recommend listening to this on audio if you like audio books. It didn’t feel like it was very long at all and all the Star Wars facts and anecdotes from fans was very entertaining.