What Reader Species Are You?

I saw this infographic online and thought I'd share.

This would be my profile:
Domain: Reader
Class: Book Lover
Family: Compulsive -
Genus: Book Cherisher
Species: Book Worshipper

I also have the tendencies of the following:
The OCD Reader
The Book Preserver
The Hoarder
Compulsive Book Buyer
The Multitasker
The Audiobook Listener
The All-the-Timer
The Anachronist
Delayed Onset Reader

Attribution to Laura E. Kelly . (Click to view at original large size.)
What Species of Reader Are You?--Infographic
Visit Laura-e-Kelly.com for more about books, reading, and authors.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolfo Anaya
Originally published 1972

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Oh dear. This one was a struggle for me. I really wanted to like Bless Me, Ultima. It's considered a classic in Latino Lit but I just couldn't connect with it.

Bless Me, Ultima follows the story of the young boy Antonio Marez. He lives in New Mexico and his life, his community, his culture is steeped in Roman Catholicism and the Pagan beliefs of the Llano (pronounced Ya-nu). The Marez family has just taken in the Curandera (healer) Ultima. Ultima is getting old and they wanted to pay her back for her years of service by taking care of her in her later years. Antonio learns a lot from Ultima and spends most of the book doing a lot of growing up. He struggles with becoming a man, sinning, the conflict between the Llano's pagan traditions and beliefs and the strict rules of the Roman Catholic church and all the death and grief he sees happening around him.

This is a coming-of-age book and to be honest I read too many of those for work as it is. I have a serious case of coming-of-age story fatigue. This book is great when placed with the right person. I'm just not that person. My biggest problem was being able to connect with what was going on in the story. I was raised religious so I usually connect with stories about religious beliefs or said beliefs conflicting with others. Whether the beliefs conflict with society, family members, work, life, etc., I usually can find something to identify with. I even love reading or watching stories about people in more extreme situations like Quiverfull families, polygamists, fundamentalists, etc. However, I was raised Protestant and I guess I can only really understand other Protestant stories. I'd probably have a similar struggle if the religion was Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or something else.

I received a free copy of the audiobook of Bless Me, Ultima from Sync, which is a wonderful online summer program that makes teen friendly audio books available for free each week. The audiobook was produced by Recorded Books and narrated by Robert Ramirez. Ramirez did a wonderful job with the narration. His accent and his fluency in Spanish made you feel like Antonio Marez himself was narrating his story to you.

I really wanted to like Bless Me, Ultima and I haven't completely ruled it out as a wash. The story was very interesting when it wasn't being drowned with flowery language or religion. Perhaps a future and more appreciative reading might be in the cards for me.

Added Note: This book was recently adapted into a major motion picture. I'm really not sure how they did that but I am curious enough to want to watch it now that I have read the book!

Unsinkable: A Memoir by Debbie Reynolds

This review was previously posted on my classic film blog.

Unsinkable: A Memoir by Debbie Reynolds
April 2013
William Morrow
320 pages

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In 1988, Debbie Reynold's autobiography Debbie: My Life was released. It depicted the often times tumultuous life of the perky and vivacious movie star who became famous with her roles in films such as Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). At the time of that book's publication, Reynolds was newly married to Richard Hamlett. Little did she know that more trials and tribulations were waiting around the corner.

Unsinkable: A Memoir picks up in the timeline of Debbie Reynolds life when she married Hamlett in 1984. Reynolds describes her tumultuous marriage to Hamlett, the messy divorce that followed, the rise and fall of her Las Vegas hotel, her daughter Carrie Fisher's emotional and physical problems, her relationship with her son Todd and the repeated disappointments and financial hardships she endured in trying to create a museum for her vast collection of movie memorabilia.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One follows Reynolds life from 1984 to 2011. Part Two kicks off at 2012 and dips back into time following her movie career from 1948 until 2013. It's mostly a continuation of her first autobiography but she does include plenty of information about her early movie career and her troubled marriages to Eddie Fisher and Harry Karl.

Reading Unsinkable was quite an interesting experience for me. Debbie Reynolds is very candid. Some readers might be a little uncomfortable with some of the things she reveals. I don't think I'll ever look at Tony Randall the same way after reading this book. But that very open and sharing nature is just Debbie Reynolds' style. Her personality definitely comes through, whether the writing is mostly hers or that of her co-wrieter Dorian Hannaway. Reynolds also makes some big revelations including the fact that she thinks her third husband Richard Hamlett tried to kill her.

Debbie Reynolds spends a lot of time in this book discussing her passion for movie memorabilia and how she treasured the costumes and props she purchased or collected over the years. In 2011, Reynolds was facing financial difficulties and after years of trying to create a museum for her memorabilia she made the controversial decision to sell the pieces at auction instead. The most famous piece was the white dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in the subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch (1955). Reynolds spends a lot of time talking about the memorabilia, her attempts at creating the museum, her regrets and how it pained her to auction off all those pieces. She seems genuine enough but sometimes I wondered if she was trying to seek validation from her readers and her skeptics.

By Part Two, I wasn't sure if I would find much value in this book. Her stories were interesting and I was especially intrigued to read about her very complicated relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. However, one chapter into Part Two and I discovered the real value of the book. Starting on page 183, Reynolds goes back to 1948 to her very first movie and reminisces about (almost) each and every movie she made up until her most recent one Behind the Candlelabra (2013) in which she plays Liberace's mother (with whom she was good friends in real life). This part was the most interesting to me. She shares her personal experiences and memories from each of those films. This is what separates a biography from an autobiography in my opinion.

This book has its bias. Reynolds is not afraid to pass judgment on certain people in her life and with some of her over sharing I wonder what she is hiding as well. I tried to take most things in the book with a grain of salt. With that said, Debbie Reynolds is quite charming so it's very likely she'll win you over with her candid style.

So what do I really think of the book? If it wasn't for that movie-by-movie rundown in Part Two, I wouldn't have liked the book at all. That really saved it for me. I would recommend reading Unsinkable if you are very interested in Debbie Reynolds as an actress and a woman and definitely if you had read her first book. It's also for those of you who are curious about Debbie Reynolds' decision to sell her memorabilia and want to know her side of the story.

Thank you so much to William Morrow for sending me a copy of Unsinkable for review!

The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era by Thomas Schatz

 This review was previously posted on my classic film blog.

The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era
by Thomas Schatz
University of Minnesota Press
Edition: March 2010
528 pages

Find the book on
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 Some of us are satisfied with enjoying films for what they are, entertainment and we are perfectly happy to leave it at that. But when we start asking questions, especially the hows and the whys, we need to evolve from being just an observer of movies to become well-versed and knowledgable film buffs.

The Genius of the System was originally published in 1988 and has since been revised with the latest edition released in 2010. Thomas Schatz takes a look at film history with two major constraints. First Schtaz focuses on the business of the studio system as it existed from 1920s through to the beginning of its demise in the early 1950s. Secondly, Schatz narrows his study to some of the major studios including Universal, MGM, Warner Bros. and Selznick's various collaborations with studios plus his own Selznick International Pictures.

The book is organized in chronological order, each section is devoted to one time period and each chapter within each section is devoted to one studio in particular. Schatz delivers an overwhelming amount of information about the studio system, an important time in film history .and I think it's crucial that the book be well-organized, orderly and clearly written. That structure and clarity helps keep the book tidy and makes it a lot easier to follow.

In this book, you'll learn about budgets, business decisions, the roles different people had in the script development, casting, filming, production and distribution. Different studios had different ways of doing things. For example, Warner Bros. was strict about typecasting and were reluctant to loan out their stars which proved stifling for many including Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.  Other studios and independent contractors depended highly on loan outs from big studios in order to boost their films with big names. Sometimes the movie business worked like a well-oiled machine: efficient and fast. Other times it dragged along and was plagued by excess and poor decisions. Deals, contracts and economic shifts changed how studios utilized their big stars and their small players as well. The Great Depression, World War II, the advent of TV and the HUAC all affected how the studios worked.

I learned a lot of interesting things about the business of filmmaking during the studio era. I learned that Universal focused on making horror pictures because they could be made with low budgets, partial sets, they could hide things with smoke and fog and they didn't need major stars. The focus of these movies were the monsters and in the end these films were cheap to make and proved to be both profitable and popular. That wasn't to say that Universal didn't have any big names. Deanna Durbin provided Universal with one box office hit after another and helped keep them afloat during a difficult time in American history. MGM's early history could be divided into Thalberg and post-Thalberg years. There are a couple chapters in the book devoted to the collaboration between Selznick and Hitchcock and it's very interesting to see how it evolved and how it came to an end.

While Schatz tries to keep the focus on the studio during a particular era, he sometimes stops to focus on a film in particular especially if it's story is a complex or important one and demonstrates the workings of that studio. Films spotlighted include Gone with the Wind (1939), Wizard of Oz (1939), Rebecca (1940), Notorious (1946), Key Largo (1948) and others.There are some plot spoilers but not many because the real focus is on the business side of filmmaking and not about the stories themselves.

It took me quite a long time to read this book because I really wanted to take in and reflect on the information I was acquiring by reading it. I highly suggest not reading this from cover to cover but taking it one section or one chapter at a time.

The Genius of the System  is a wealth of information and an absolute must-have for any film buff who wants to know more about the mechanics of the studio system and how that business influenced how and why certain movies were made. This book can prove to be a challenging read but if you are committed to learning about the history of film then this books is not to be missed.

Thank you to the University of Minnesota Press for sending me a copy of The Genius of the System to review.
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