An Embattled President, Immigration Reform, Religious Fervor and New Technology Marks America of...1844

Categories: Books

Chicago Review Press/American Antiquarian Society/The Bridgeman Art Library
"Catholic Priests Burning Bibles," an illustration from an anti-Catholic pamphlet, 1842.

America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation
By John Bicknell
320 pp.
Chicago Review Press

It was a tumultuous year for the United States. An embattled President whose public approval was dropping fast waged legislative war against an unfriendly Congress.

Immigration was a hot topic as natural born citizens and those new to these shores clashed in riots and demonstrations. Religious leaders were prepping for Christ's return, and a new communication method was linking people and messages at faster than ever speed.

Welcome to America in...1844.

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Author John Connolly: Living With Small Evils

Categories: Books

Courtesy of John Connolly
Novelist John Connolly, the Irish writer behind the Charlie Parker thriller series and several other books, is coming in for a signing session of his latest release, The Wolf in Winter. This won't be his first time in Houston; he's been here before and taken away, can we say, vivid memories of his visit.

"I remember spending some time in Cairo and thinking that the only people who drive worse that the people in Cairo are the people in Houston," he tells us, laughing.


In spite of his low opinion of Houston's drivers, Connolly seems like an awfully nice guy, much too nice to spend all his time writing about hit men, serial killers, perverts and deviants. But he does. With the release of Wolf, the 12th novel in his bestselling series, Connolly continues the story of the investigator and his friends (among them a pair of gay hit men and two serial killers) as they search for their own versions of justice. Each of the characters, from victims to heroes, major characters to minor ones, is a complicated mixture of good, bad and indifference.

Oh wait, Connolly doesn't believe in minor characters.

This story continues on the next page.

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Five Fashion Books to Read Now

Photo via
Whether you're bored stiff with your current reading list, or getting a jump on your Christmas shopping, fashion fans will find a lot of delicious new literature at their local bookseller. We talk a lot about fashion, we watch a lot about fashion, and--according to celebrity stylist and Project Runway alum Nick Verreos--we should be reading a lot about fashion, too. After all, the history of fashion is a fascinating (and lovely) lens through which to view our world, past and present.

Although 2014 brought us dozens of new fashion and beauty titles, the following five each bring something special--a hidden backstory, a cautionary tale, an insider's peek--and deserve examination, and a place on your home bookshelf or coffee table.

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Pop Quiz: Are These Violent Verses From the Bible or the Koran?

Categories: Books

Almost against my will I have been following the tale of Jan Morgan, a proud gun range owner and public speaker on run rights who set the internet ablaze with her blog post, Why I Want My Range to be a Muslim Free Zone. In it she claimed that she'd repeatedly received death threats from Muslims over her views on their religion and that she felt arming them and allowing them to practice with firearms was detrimental to the safety of Americans.

I'm not really here to point out the endless parade of fallacies and flaws in Morgan's "argument". That it is bigoted drivel is pretty much a given, not to mention that her proposal to ban members of a federally recognized religion is blatantly illegal. I was surprised to see that she'd doubled down and returned to her favorite topic; that Muslims were inherently violent and dangerous because of certain passages in the Koran, which of course all 1.6 billion Muslims in their more than 20,000 denominations all follow absolutely literally and without any disparity in interpretation.

"I understand that not all muslims [sic] are terrorists," said Morgan in her initial post. "I also believe there are as many Muslims who do not know what is in their Koran as there are Christians who do not know what is in their Bible."

I thought it would be fun to test Morgan's theory.

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Women Who Kill: Kathy Reichs Balances the Science and the Story in Bones Never Lie

Categories: Books

Photo by Marie-Reine Mattera
Kathy Reichs
Novelist Kathy Reichs and Temperance Brennan, the lead character in Reichs' series of best-selling thrillers and spin-off television series Bones, are a lot alike. Both lead fascinating lives working as forensic anthropologists and novelists; both travel the world working on high-profile cases (Reichs helped identify victims of 9/11), training FBI agents and teaching at universities. Both, however, will not be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science lecture, discussing and signing her latest book, Bones Never Lie. That will be just Kathy Reich.

In the just-released Bones Never Lie, Temperance Brennan is chasing down Anique Pomerleau, a female serial killer. Brennan has faced Pomerleau before. Years ago, she helped track her down but the sadistic psychopath responsible for the a string of abductions and murders of young women, escaped capture. Now she's back and taunting Brennan, leaving a trail of dead bodies in a twisted version of hide-and-seek.

This story continues on the next page.

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10 Tips on Getting Your Indie Book Reviewed

Categories: Books

Jessica Fitzgerald
me at my first book signing with Christian Kidd
As part of a small publishing house that is constantly releasing books, I'll be seeing my own first standalone short story come out next month from there, actually, but one of the things I constantly see posted in my house's super-secret Facebook group is that they're having trouble getting their books reviewed in major outlets.

Having worked both sides of the fence as a reviewer of indie books and an indie artist in literature and music, I thought I'd offer up a few suggestions on how to maximize the attention you'll get from the media.

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Is Freud Trolling Conservatives From Beyond the Grave?

Categories: Books

A scene from God's Not Dead
Names are important in works of fiction. Whether or not you realize the significance of what you call your characters, deep within our subconscious mind the etymology is painting in the background to fill in the gaps. And the conclusion that I've come to about some recent conservative pieces of art is that Sigmund Freud is taking the piss out of these people.

Let's look at good name in a story; Luke Skywalker. What do you think of when you read or hear it? The Bible, sure. Luke was one of Jesus' closest buds and a doctor to boot, and I don't really need to explain Skywalker except that it conjures up images of magic and flying. There's a reason it was changed from Annikin Starkiller because that's a stupid name for hayseed turned paladin.

Or look at Darth Vader. Darth is a made-up word, but it's a great portmanteau of "death" and "dark". With Vader you've got the whole "invader" connection, plus it's coincidentally close to the German word for "father" which worked out nicely once George Lucas thought about it. These are great examples of how to name a character.

Now for some terrible examples, let's look at the recent film God's Not Dead and the children's book My Parents Open Carry by Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephews.

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A Banned Books Week Celebration at Brazos Bookstore, and Thanks, Highland Park High!

Read deeply, read dangerously -- celebrate Banned Books Week!
What banned book are you reading this week? Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is always a favorite, along with Things Fall Apart, The Grapes of Wrath and Brave New World. You know, the classics. NBD. If you're fresh out of banned titles, a high school in Dallas helped us all out this week by offering up seven more options by pulling the following books from any classroom: Siddhartha, Song of Solomon, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, The Glass Castle, An Abundance of Katherines, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Art of Racing in the Rain. Thanks, Highland Park High!

For those of us with Very Dangerous Taste in Books, the celebration is going on all week long over at Brazos Bookstore, where they will cap off the week with their annual "Read Dangerously" party on Saturday, September 27 -- and you're invited.

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Dallas Author Merritt Tierce's Love Me Back a Tour de Fierce for Female Protagonists

The word "unflinching" appears frequently in reviews of author Merrit Tierce's debut novel, Love Me Back; so do words like "searing," "raw," and "unrelenting." The book follows its protagonist Marie through one bad decision after another, leaving the reader to wonder why? Of course, the book isn't just about "why" but about "who"--who is Marie, and why are we more curious about the answer to that question than she is?

Tierce created Marie in her own image, drawing on her own tumultuous years working in the restaurant industry. If you've ever worked in foodservice, the (mostly) afterhours sex- and drug-fests in which Marie seeks refuge may not be as shocking as they are familiar.

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Don't Worry, Rene Steinke's Novel Friendswood Is Not About You

Photo by Michelle Ocampo
The inspiration for her novel Friendswood came when author Rene Steinke was back visiting friends in her hometown of the same name. "They were talking about a neighborhood on the edge of town that had to be demolished," explained Steinke. "It was close to an old oil refinery where chemicals had been dumped in a field for decades." Her friends were referring to the real-life Brio Superfund site, which Steinke thought made for an excellent jumping off point for a new book.

"[My friends] were talking about how this place had become something of a ghost town. I was fascinated by the stories they were telling. My friends knew someone who had lost their home, another person who had cancer, and someone else who was related to [a refinery owner]." The interconnectedness intrigued Steinke, who saw potential in a setting where all of the characters' fates are so intertwined, that there would be repercussions for all in the end.

Steinke will present Friendswood at Brazos Bookstore on Thursday, October 9, at 7 p.m.

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