by Julie Carpenter
I bet a lot of Sacred Chickens followers are going to be spending their time reading during this time of quarantine. Probably a number of you are going to order books: classics you’ve always wanted to read; brand new best sellers; fantasy trilogies; or dusty historical tomes you promised yourself you’d get around to.
So, this is a good time to remind all you guys that you can order pretty much any book with an ISBN number from an independent bookstore. Check out the picture that goes along with this blog post. That’s my latest purchase from Poetic Justice Books and Arts. It looks like a great read. (Besides, it goes really well with my turquoise bookshelves.) I’m planning to grab a couch and get started on it later this afternoon.
It’s election season again…get out your tums, aspirin, and a bottle of your favorite flavored brandy – your election survival kit, as we like to call it here at Sacred Chickens. The other thing we do here to keep calm and decide how to vote is read. No surprise.
Here’s a list of some of the books we find intriguing. Some of these books bring insight to current events, some we ingested long ago, and they have become part of our internal political microbiome. All of them illuminate some aspect of political life we think you’ll find helpful or at least interesting. What books are you going to read this election season?
Julie - I’ve read quite a few books over the last decade or so that have influenced my thought processes on politics. A couple that I read nearly ten years ago stuck with me and I still refer to them. Even though these books are not new releases, they still resonate. In fact, in a way, I think they’re even more interesting now than they were then because they provide some insight into the underpinnings of our current political landscape. I don’t mind skipping around in time a little. (On my current reading list I have a couple books, one much older, Chaos and Community, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and one extremely current, Why We’re Polarized, by Ezra Klein.) But the time period represented by the two books I’ve chosen is one in which I was changing, and these books gave me a lot of insight into the systems that molded me.
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
2010 (new edition released in 2020)
Written by a civil rights attorney and legal scholar, the book explores the racist underpinnings of the American justice system with fact after fact, statistic after statistic. Her clear, rational prose leaves no room for escape. The system is broken, broken on purpose, and it damages us all. This book makes a compelling case for change based on a heart-rending exploration of the past and present foundations of incarceration in this country. Whatever you think you know about the justice system, you will be surprised at what Alexander turns up in this thoughtful and harrowing book.
Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Poetic Justice Books and Arts
Here at Sacred Chickens we like to review as many books from small presses as we can. And what better place to purchase one of these books than at an independent bookstore. If you like supporting independent bookstores, how about Poetic Justice Books and Arts. It’s a great little bookstore. Might I have an ulterior motive for asking you to go order something from them? Yeah, probably. Poetic Justice Books and Arts is also my publisher! (If you haven’t ordered Things Get Weird in Whistlestop, why not go and get one now? You know…while you’re thinking about it.)
Happy Holidays from Sacred Chickens!
Julie - I’m going to start with the most embarrassing stuff and work my way up. I rewatch Love Actually and Christmas Vacation every year. There. I said it. Does that make me feel like a person of intellect…no. But both movies make me laugh and even cry a little. I feel slightly better about indulging in my favorite TV Christmas specials. There’s the Father Brown Christmas episode, The Star of Jacob, and, of course, the Black Adder Christmas Carol. As for books, I LOVE cozy mysteries at Christmas. There are plenty that take place at Christmas. Martha Grimes, Jerusalem Inn, is a favorite and now I’m old enough to forget the endings so I can read it again. Mysteries have atmosphere going for them and the fact that no matter what kind of bad things happen, they’re all wrapped up by the end. I’m also going to read The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald. If there’s anyone who always understood that Christmas is an invitation to a wider universe of love, and not a cudgel to force others to partake of your particular version of religion, it’s him.
We all have that one book that we like that just never seems to get the love it deserves. Sure, it might not be the best book ever, but is it so bad that it should be regulated to the bottom shelf of the world's worst thrift store, ignored for all time? Here's five books that in my opinion should be getting much more praise than they currently do. And, yes, I've read all of these!
The Last Rock Star Book: Or: Liz Phair, a Rant
by Camden Joy
A down on his luck writer is commissioned to write a quickie bio of musician Liz Phair but can't get his life together enough to even get her song lyrics correct, much less finish the book. Haunted by the memories of his sister who ran away from home when he was young, his ex-girlfriend who just might be the illegitimate daughter of dead sixties rock star Brian Jones, and a photograph of a mysterious woman, Joy writes in a spit it out spiel like a man setting fire to his life. At turns hilarious, sad, morbid, and
too true and familiar, this rambling journey of a rant on a life gone haywire is compelling and, for me as an outsider musician, hits extremely close to home.
Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality
by Paul Barber
Vampires and the undead have been a constant in many culture's myths and legends for thousands of years. Across the world, the stories are eerily similar. Yet how is this so? Paul Barber wondered about this and has written an excellent book here that starts out with true accountings of actual claimed vampire encounters throughout history, then moves onto the scientific rational of how a decomposing corpse could have been believed to have become a vampire. Now we ain't talking about Dracula or Twilight here, which Barber makes clear; he makes a distinction between "fictional" vampires and those of folklore. He's after the facts, and only the facts.
This book is not for the squeamish as Barber gets extremely detailed with what happens to a human body after it's buried, and believe me, it ain't pretty. Thankfully Barber presents it with a slyness that makes it palatable, entertaining, and informative. I love books like this.
Book Launch:Chapter One
Pre-Ordering at Poetic Justice Books
Some of you have been following this site for a while and you have read a few of the Whistlestop stories. But there are more. The entire collection is available now!
Order with all haste at Poetic Justice Books and Art.
Here's a random excerpt to get you started...
You can also purchase at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Father Dingle, Some Mice, and the Portal to Hell -
Maybe it started with the mice. Maybe the exodus of mice was the first sign that there was something amiss in the church basement. The choir room had been plagued by mice for as long as Father Dingle had been there. Alan Cunningham, the choir director, had been belly aching about adequate storage for music since he’d been there. Father Dingle remembered Alan had nearly been in tears at a staff meeting after finding a mouse nest made with scraps of the Hallelujah Chorus. Alan found this situation neither economically nor spiritually tolerable. But the following year, early in the spring, church mice began moving out of the basement in droves. Father Dingle arrived at church one morning to find several families of mice scurrying up the basement stairs, down the hall towards the front doors. More mice appeared each morning, waiting to dash out as soon as the heavy wooden doors were opened.
Fall is my favorite time of year. Comfy sweaters and warm coats, changing leaves and dark nail polish. And books. Lots of books. (Ok, besides the coats and sweaters that’s how I am most of the year but fall makes it all extra special!) Now that the cold weather seems to be here to stay, it seems about time for some fallish books. Here are some of our favorite books to curl up with under a large blanket!
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious- Some books set a tone, and this one screams fall. It is a novel that was published in the late ‘50s, and the blurb on my cover reads, “The novel that shocked a nation.” It is a book that seeks to dismantle the bourgeois, and to uncover the truth behind the perfect veneer. It is a novel about a small town called Peyton Place, where on the surface everyone looks normal, but, chapter by chapter, everyone’s dark secrets are revealed. There’s a dark and incessant undercurrent throughout, and Metalious does an excellent job of making the mundane horrifying, and essentially, she exposes the true character of the people in that town. However, please be advised and keep in mind that this novel deals with graphic sexual violence if you decide to pick it up.
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton- This is another subversive novel, concerned with the patriarchy and the male gaze. It is a gothic novel and has all the creepy elements that go along with it. I feel that I can’t say anymore without giving things away, but just know that there’s a castle, murder, and undercurrent s of feminist and anti-war commentary!
Like cats and writers, books and tea go hand in hand. Julie and Jarad could probably be termed, "tea addicts." As such, they're here to tell you all about their favorite teas today!
When I was a little girl, hot tea was more than a drink for me, it was a connection with a cosy world of English bedtime stories. In my favorites stories, particularly Alice in Wonderland, tea played an important role. Tea felt like something a writer would drink. Where I grew up in the South, iced sweet tea was popular, but in the morning and the winter, most people went to coffee for warmth and caffeine. Other than my mom, a yankee, I didn’t know a lot of people who sat down with a cup of hot tea in the afternoon to read a book. But she did, and it was a habit I picked up.
I can remember bringing flowers in from the yard to place on the table, another of my odd habits as a child, making a cup of tea and reading. If the characters in the book I was reading fell on hard times, sometimes I pretended that they could leave the book for just a few minutes and come have tea with me, usually with bread and butter. Of course, I they always had to go back into the book because I needed to finish it…but just minute to pop into the kitchen and refresh themselves? Surely no one would miss them for an hour of tea. (I was quite glad I did this for the dwarves in the hobbit, since so many of them fell in battle at the end, something I was quite inconsolable about.)
When I was growing up, we had regular Lipton tea bags with black tea. I remember being slightly offended when Connie disparaged Miss Bentley’s tea in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I still prefer a black tea, but I’ve broadened my tastes somewhat. I like flavored black teas. Blackberry is the best. If you make it with honey, it’s summer in a cup. When winter starts to drag me down, I make a steaming, tongue burning cup of it and feel like I’m back in the summer heat, risking the inhospitable teeth of the briars to steal the food of the gods. (Yes, my life is boring…why do you ask?) Although I love winter and autumn spiced teas, like apple and cinnamon or Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet I get tired of pretending to like cold weather after Christmas so blackberry brings me a little early summer in a cup. Like Jarad, I’m a fan of the old standbys Lady Grey and Earl Grey. As an old lady and a grandmama, I have to admit that I love Constant Comment, an old lady tea if there ever was one.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me because I fancy a cup of tea and I need to decide which of my favorite fictional characters I would like to share it with.
You may wonder why Jarad and I continually prattle on about gardening. If you do, it probably means you’re not a gardener yourself. Most of the gardeners we know kinda can’t help but wax on about varieties, heirloom seeds, the best fertilizers, and whether or not you can squeeze a drift rose into a spot with only four hours of sun. We are also writers and readers…this combination means garden posts for you! At least we don’t collect vacuum cleaners or take pictures of roundabouts.
But today we are no longer satisfied with simple loquacity, we have crossed the border into proselyting. Here’s Jarad on the benefits of gardening.
At this point in time, I believe I’ve prattled on about plants to the point where my friends and family are in danger of becoming homicidal. (Guys, if you do decide to kill me, at least bury me under the vegetables). Aside from actually being annoyed to death by an overly enthusiastic plant fiend, there are benefits to being a gardener. Here are some that I have discovered.
The Fall temperatures may not be here yet, but we're hoping that we can convince ourselves that they are with books! If you are also suffering under the heat and wishing for fall, these might help you!
When it starts getting cool, I love to sit outside and read. Of course, in Atlanta, cool is relative. By cool, I mean an occasional breeze and not quite feeling like my skin is boiling off. Because it doesn't get really Autumn crisp until late November around here, I like to read anything that makes me feel cool. So I read books set in colder climates. I love the Mary Russell books - the ones set in England - in the fall. They make me feel like I'm sitting next to a hot fire with a cup of tea, even though I'm sitting on a lawn chair in shorts, pretending the slight puff of occasional air is a fall breeze. Any books set in cooler climates will do. I would love to be more specific. Normally, I peruse my bookshelves to jog my memory. But this year, alas, my books are still packed waiting on my library shelves to go in. I will hopefully have them back in my possession by the fall. Sigh