Tag Archives: travel

{Books} by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road
So, this is how I remember becoming acquainted with the works of Helene Hanff:

In 1991, the movie The Silence of the Lambs came out. I immediately became a fan of Anthony Hopkins. He went on my watch-everything list (along with Jeremy Irons, Peter O’ Toole, and Anthony Perkins). Now, this was the early 90s. I couldn’t just search for Hopkins on Just Watch and find which streaming service are showing any particular movie of his. No. I had to scour through the satellite TV guide and plan my weekly movie watching/taping. One of those movie I managed to catch was 84, Charing Cross Road (1987, dir. David Jones). It was a lovely movie about one of my favorite things, books. And I discovered that it was in fact based on a book, which I promptly put on my must-read list. Now, again, this was the early 90s and I couldn’t go to Amazon and just order it. No. I pestered my mom to take me to bookstores. (These were my high school years, but I don’t drive.) I finally found a copy at Combs & Combs in the swanky area of Omaha known as Rockbrook. And then, I found out that Helene Hanff wrote other books… Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street Underfoot in Show Business
Apple of My Eye Q's Legacy

Over the years, I collected more of Helene Hanff’s books. The are comfort reading for me, and beginning in mid-December, I needed some comfort reading. All five books are short and I read through them over the last three months. Underfoot in Show Business is chronologically the first Hanff published, pre-84, Charing Cross Road. It tells of her early years as a struggling playwright in New York in the 1930s and 40s. If you’ve already read Charing Cross, you will recognize some of the events and people from the letters in that book. They overlap. All of these books overlap as a sort of biography mosaic.

84, Charing Cross Road is a narrative told in letters between Hanff and a Frank Doel, a bookseller in England. Again in the background are Hanff’s money and employment woes as she writes plays, telescripts, and short histories for children. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and Q’s Legacy are what happened after 84, Charing Cross Road is a hit. Hanff finally visits London and surrounding England for the book’s release and later for the BBC’s TV adaptation. Apple of My Eye is sort of the odd book out, but not really. In it, Hanff showcases her other favorite city, New York City. These three books are travelogue heavy, but that’s okay. Hanff balances her experience of places with their histories.

I love Helene Hanff’s voice. She’s smart, opinionated, and funny, though occasionally a little unkind. She is eternally befuddled by how success came to her, however fleeting or conversely enduring. May we all be so lucky.

Review ~ Eerie America: Travel Guide of the Macabre

This book was provided to me by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Eerie America: Travel Guide of the Macabre

Eerie America: Travel Guide of the Macabre by Eric R Vernor & Kevin Eads


America is the land of the beautiful, but it is also a land of mystery and many haunted and bizarre places. With 150 images, addresses, and directions, go state-by-state to tour the macabre side of the United States. Journey to haunted old battleships, abandoned prisons, creepy lunatic asylums, the Amityville Horror House, the Winchester House, museums such as Edgar Allan Poe’s home, New Orleans Voodoo Museum, the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, and much more! In addition suggesting places to visit, where to stay, and places to eat, chapters on each state have a break down of how best to experience the curious and bizarre sometimes just a building and other times a whole town. Come on this unusual but richly satisfying tour. You won’t be disappointed. (via Goodreads)

Eerie America is a travel guide with a distinctly Discovery/SyFy channel sensibility. In fact, if you’re a fan of shows like Ghost Hunters, Haunted Highway, Destination Truth, and the host of similar shows available, you’ll be familiar with many of the places mentioned in this book. I’ll confess; one of my guilty pleasures is partaking in this sort of pseudo-scientific fare. Nothing passes the time like watching a bunch of people scare themselves in a “haunted” location.

The unfortunate part of reviewing this book as an e-ARC rather than owning a copy was that I couldn’t take a long trip across the United States, read up on each state’s particular peculiarities, and leisurely check attractions off the list. Reading the book straight through is not ideal. Despite a few macabre museums (like Minnesota’s Museum of Questionable Medical Devices) and fun tourist traps (like Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway), most of these places are haunts. Reading about the “most haunted” hotel/asylum/prison in the state/town/district becomes pretty repetitive after twenty entries in a row. I did really appreciate the “Where to Eat” entries. Food is an important part of travel! The other place this guide shines is in the little bits of practical advice: business hours, admission prices, and other physical consideration like lots of stairs or walking.

There were a couple areas that I wished were better. One was the longer articles. There were only two and a few more would have been nice. I would have liked to hear more in-depth stories about these places or maybe about the author’s experiences. The writing was occasionally a little wonky. Some sentences were clumsily constructed, probably in an effort to add some variability to descriptions. Most importantly, maps would be an excellent addition to this travel guide. While something big and fold out would be great, even state-level page-sized maps would be helpful. Otherwise, Eerie America is beautifully illustrated and designed.

Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Publication date: Feb. 28, 2014
Genre: Non-fiction, travel guide
Why did I choose to read this book? Sounded like fun