Don't Call it a Sequel: Attica Locke Revisits Houston in Her Latest Novel Pleasantville

Attica Locke hasn't lived in Houston for 20 years, but the city in which she grew up leaps off the pages of her latest novel, Pleasantville. The book is a follow-up to her popular 2009 novel Black Water Rising--a look at the intersection of race, oil money, and politics in 1980s Houston--and reacquaints readers with protagonist Jay Porter, the disaffected lawyer whose inner turmoil drove much of the action. That doesn't mean Pleasantville is a sequel, though--not quite.

"There was a lot of back-and-forth about whether I was pulling this off," confessed Locke. "I wanted to write this so that you didn't have to read the first book. I bristle at the word 'sequel'. I feared that people would expect the same experience, the same character, and I wanted Jay to grow as an individual who has aged, and a city that has grown up a little bit since 1981."

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UH Professor and Author Kimberly Meyer Writes a Memoir About Mothers and Daughters

When Kimberly Meyer was a senior in college she thought she was about to embark upon "a Bohemian-explorer-intellectual kind of life". As often happens, life had other plans. Kimberly found herself pregnant, and soon enough her duties as a single parent forced her to put her Bohemian-explorer-intellectual dream aside. She raised her daughter, Ellie, and eventually married and had two more daughters, but Kimberly's wanderlust remained intact -- if untapped. When the time came for Ellie to head off to college, Meyer made a decision. Mother and daughter would take a journey together--to bond, to heal old wounds, to create new memories--and then mom would write a book about it.

"To me the trip was a lens to look back on this complicated relationship, and myself as a mother," explained Meyer. "If you leave something in your head it can feel overwhelming and chaotic. Writing is cathartic; it helped me put things in order, and give it meaning."

Meyer, a professor at the University of Houston, will appear at Brazos Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, to present The Book of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage.

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Nigel Barker Presenting Models of Influence at Brazos Bookstore

Categories: Books, Fashion

Photo via
Nigel Barker presents "Models of Influence" at Brazos Bookstore on Wednesday, March 4 at 7 p.m.
A photographer, television personality (The Face, America's Next Top Model), and former model himself, Nigel Barker is a man who understands the fashion industry. It's his insider's point-of-view and keen eye that make his new book, Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion so absorbing. You'll meet models you've never heard of, and learn about some of the most famous faces in fashion--all between the same two covers. Barker will be presenting Models of Influence on Wednesday, March 4, at 7 p.m. at Brazos Bookstore--an incredible opportunity for model-watchers and fashion fans alike.

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Texas's Unknown WWII Prisoner Camp: Jan Jarboe Russell's The Train to Crystal City

Categories: Books

It's a little known and dark episode in Texas history: the WWII family internment camp in Crystal City, just north of the Mexican border. Thousands of German and Japanese immigrants -- and their American-born children -- were held in the Crystal City facility, deep in South Texas. Jan Jarboe Russell, a contributing editor for Texas Monthly, recounts the events in her new book, The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II.

Russell focuses her story on two American-born teens, Ingrid Eiserloh of Ohio and Sumi Utsujogawa of California. The Eiserlohs were forced to leave their home in Ohio because a neighbor reported they had a large cistern in their basement. It could be used for a secret room or "filled with quicklime used to dispose of dead bodies in the event of war," the neighbor alleged. That one unfounded, unproven accusation got them sent to the camp and eventually to Germany.

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Houston Author Kathryn Casey Explores the Texas Killing Fields in Deliver Us

Categories: Books

True Crime Author Kathryn Casey
To most of us, I-45 is just another highway. To true crime author Kathryn Casey, it's a crime scene. A 50-mile stretch of I-45 connects Houston to Galveston. Over the past 40 years, dozens of bodies of young women, mostly teenagers, have been found dumped in the woods that border the highway.

Casey's newest book, Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields, is a look at the reasons the majority of those cases remain unsolved.

"I've been looking at pictures [of the victims] for 20 years, off and on, in the newspapers. I wanted to know what happened to them and why the cases weren't being solved.," Casey says.

During the three years it took her to write the book, she found there were several factors.

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8 Kid's Books and Movies That Were More Than a Little Intense

Categories: Books

Photo by Karen Cox

People in this country spend their childhoods reading and watching material aimed at their age group, but of course times change. What is considered quality or age appropriate during a certain period of time might not look so great to parents in ensuing generations. Books and films created for kids seem to have many functions besides pure entertainment. Many of them also attempt to pass along a lesson of some kind, as anyone whose ever watched Sesame Street can confirm.

Many of the really old fairy tales went to very dark places, when one thinks about it. For instance, Hansel and Gretel tells the story of two kids abandoned in the woods so their parents won't have to feed them during a famine. After finding their way home, they are left in the woods again, where they are eventually captured by a cannibalistic witch, using her candy house as bait, who enslaves Gretel and locks Hansel in a metal cage to fatten him up. Hansel tricks the witch for a few weeks by offering a bone he finds (presumably from an earlier victim) each time she asks to feel whether his finger is growing plumper. Soon though, she decides she'll eat both children regardless of how thin they are, and Gretel manages to push the witch into her oven, burning her alive as she screams in agony.

The kids then discover the witch's treasure trove and make their way home where they find their father. The stepmother responsible for sending them to the woods has died in the meantime, and everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

Let's think about that. What would happen to me if I wrote a children's book today that involved sending young kids to fend for themselves in the woods because they had become inconvenient to their parents? Where they were captured by a cannibal and tormented for weeks, before they finally were able to burn her alive? I'm pretty sure every parents' group in the country would rise up to destroy me, although I read "Hansel and Gretel" as a young child and loved it. I still love the Grimm's Fairy Tales, although those often covered frightening and violent subject matter. I'm not a parent, and I won't take a position on whether or not certain kid's material is too harsh or scary for little kids. I was exposed to a lot of great stories that had really sad or scary moments in them as a child. These are a few though that often come up when I ask people I know what stories upset them as kids. Warning: This article will contain a few spoilers.

8. Watership Down

I loved this book as a child, and saw the animated film version when it came out in 1978, when I was nine years old. Inspired by stories about rabbits that the author Richard Adams would tell his daughters on long car rides, "Watership Down" tells the tale of a group of rabbits led by Fiver, who was born with the ability to see visions of the future. After experiencing one showing the destruction of their warren, he and his brother Hazel lead a band of rabbits in search of a safer home. They have many adventures along the way, including encountering a murderous group of other rabbits, and that's all I'll say. The book is great, and won several awards for best children's books, and is considered a classic. It also covers some pretty dark material, with a lot of themes involving death. The movie adaptation is also very good, and is considered a classic of its own. The movie in particular is violent, with lots of bloody fights, and I remember it scared my little brother when we saw it together.

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Book Examines Crucial Partnerships of James Madison, the "Lost" Founding Father

Categories: Books

James Madison - who would become the fourth U.S. President - preferred blending his political talents with others to striking it out alone.
Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America
By David O. Stewart
433 pp.
Simon and Schuster

As the jacket flap for this book notes, its subject was "Short, plain, balding, neither soldier nor orator, low on charisma and high on intelligence. [He] cared more about achieving results than taking the credit."

And even though James Madison served as the fourth U.S. President for two terms, spearheaded both the drafting and passage of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and led the country through the War of 1812, he is somewhat of a "lost" founding father.

Madison's legacy is often overshadowed by men history has deemed more bold, dashing and heroic such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and even John Adams.

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Unbranded: 4 Men Riding Mustangs Across the American West and It Started in Aggieland

Categories: Books

Photo courtesy of Unbranded by Ben Masters, Texas A&M University Press
The photographs are breathtaking, the idea for the enterprise and how they were able to carry it out equally so.

In Unbranded, author Ben Masters tells the story of how he got the idea that what he really needed to do was to ride horses across the American West. He recounts how it started at Texas A&M University "one of the few places in the world where you can find people crazy enough to ride a horse for thousands of miles."

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Brad Taylor on No Fortunate Son

Categories: Books

Photo by Talor Brady
Bestselling novelist Brad Taylor
The real-life rescue of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who was held in Afghanistan by Taliban-aligned forces for five years, eventually sparked the plot of Brad Taylor's latest Pike Logan thriller, No Fortunate Son.

"I was looking for story ideas and started thinking about Bowe Bergdahl," the best-selling Taylor tells us. "We spent a long time looking for that guy." Taylor mused about the even more extreme efforts that would go into searching for a kidnapped soldier who was related to an important politician. The situation, he says, isn't that unthinkable. "We've got Vice President Biden, who has kids in the military. Senator McCain has kids in the military. The governor of South Carolina, her husband is in the military."

In No Fortunate Son, several soldiers, all relatives of high-profile politicians, are kidnapped and counterterrorism expert Pike Logan is sent to rescue them. The hostages are constantly being moved, which makes Logan's task especially difficult. Add to that the fact that Logan's mission isn't officially recognized (actually, he just got fired), so he has no support and authorization, and the situation seems impossible. Along with trying to find the hostages (who include the vice president's son), he has to battle the politicos who sit in conference rooms making decisions about what actions on-the-ground personnel (Logan included) should take."

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6 Strange Things I Learned Working in a Bookstore

Photo by Kenny Louie
My idea of Heaven.

I love books. I always have and always will. I have, at last count, something in the neighborhood of 7,000 of them, and a whole room in my house set aside for them. So when I got a job at a large chain bookstore several years ago, I thought I was in heaven. The pay was almost embarrassingly low, but at least I would be around books and the types of people who enjoy reading, I told myself. It'd be fun!

But as with every retail job I've ever had, I learned quite a few things working at that place. Some fairly surprising stuff, too.

6. People Steal a Lot of Books.

I was initially put in the Receiving Room, which, at that store, was the area where trucks delivered merchandise, and those items were sorted and stored until they could be put out on the store shelves. It was my duty to do all of that sorting and storing, as well as a few other things, and one of my jobs was to randomly place little magnetic anti-theft tags into some books. This policy was in place for a good reason. Something like 15 percent of the books that came into the store would eventually be stolen. With such a shocking amount of "shrink," it's no wonder that the store had me putting little alarm tags in every tenth book that I sorted. It also made me start looking at customers with a slightly cynical "Is he a book thief?" level of scrutiny.

5. People Steal a Lot of the Same Kinds of Books.

There were a few guidelines on which books got the anti-theft tags. Anything over $50 got one, for the most part, but I was also told to distribute them more liberally in certain kinds of books.

The most often stolen books were in the religious section, something I found sadly hilarious. Bibles and religious books of all types were the most heavily pilfered items in the store, and not just that store, but chain-wide.

Following that category were travel guides. Turns out a lot of people don't plan on using them more than once and don't really want to pay for them. Or maybe they funded their world travel by stealing books, I don't know. Next were college prep materials and reference books. More on college kids shortly.

And then there were the pricey art books, followed by erotica, both of which were stolen frequently. I assume that most of the thieves stole books to get reading material without paying, but occasionally another store would call us to warn us that a small group of thieves had just left their store, and usually that same group would make their way to us later in the day. They'd basically fill up backpacks, so maybe there's more money in reselling them than I previously thought.

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