Chatty, breezy and often hilarious: an enjoyable reminder that it’s best not to take things like the “blood-sucking undead”...

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THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST

STALKING VAMPIRES FROM NOSFERATU TO COUNT CHOCULA

NPR contributor Nuzum (Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America, 2001) humorously sinks his teeth into the elusive, enshrouded world of vampirism.

He launches his quest for immersion in vampirism with a clumsy attempt to drink his own blood from a shot glass. Then he watches every vampire movie ever made—605 in all. Conclusion? “They suck.” Attempting “to understand what it means to be a vampire,” he spends a thankless weekend playing one in a local haunted house. At home in Washington, D.C., Nuzum conducts an unrevealing interview with a wily group of self-declared vampires initially contacted via Meetup.com. In California, a plucky guide who calls herself Countess Mina—“Mina Harker from the novel…turned into a vampire and then sent to San Francisco by Count Dracula himself”—energetically dispels “a lot of Hollywood’s lies” in her vampire-themed tours. Nuzum joins an eclectic group hosted by former child actor Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on TV, for a trek through the ominous castles and monasteries of central Romania to discover the real history of torturous prince Vlad Dracula. Wife Katherine comes along on a brisk jaunt to England to view historic Highgate Cemetery and the significant Whitby Abbey. Less interesting are visits to the topless vampire revue Bite in Las Vegas and a party thrown by the curiously aloof “vampyre society of greater New York,” aka the Court of Lazarus. Nor do Nuzum’s frequent detours from bats and fangs to address issues like AIDS, bareback sex, Netflix, etc., really gel with all the blood facts, word origins and extensive meditations on Bram Stoker and his Dracula. Still, you have to admire a guy who adroitly plods through episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Dark Shadows convention, all the while disbursing such random footnotes as, “there never was anyone named Count Dracula.”

Chatty, breezy and often hilarious: an enjoyable reminder that it’s best not to take things like the “blood-sucking undead” too seriously.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-37111-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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