Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Julie's Review: I'll Take You There

Author: Wally Lamb
Series: None
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A great story about how the women in the narrator's life influenced him
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen. In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses. Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

  Review: I'll Take You There is another great novel by Wally Lamb as he explore the relationships within family. Specifically for Felix, his relationships with all of the females in his family; from his mother to his daughter and how it's shaped his life and how he views the world. Felix Funicello is later in life with an adult daughter who continues to amaze him. He's not so amazed by his ex-wife and prefers to think that his daughter was heavily influenced by him. Felix isn't one of those people that spend a lot of time worrying about the past and how things could have been different. He's more of a here and now guy so when an apparition appears and offers him the ability to look at his life on film, he's hesitant but curious; after of course he wonders if he going a little crazy.

 As he goes through pivotal times in his life throughout the film, he begins to understand his relationships with both his sisters and his mother. Perhaps the relationship with the biggest effect on his life is his sister Frances. They had the typical sibling rivalry but it is obvious that Frances' ribbing of him goes much deeper. It isn't until Frances has health issues that the family begins to understand the issues are much greater than they had ever thought. He spends time viewing his life at different periods and it's pretty amazing how your mind can alter your perception of events to protect you. 

Felix is a wonderful character and even though he's male and my dad's age, I could relate to him. We all get a little nostalgic and it manifests itself in a variety of ways. He's the kind of guy who would listen to you and then make movie recommendations based on what you've told him. He also has a fantastic relationship with his daughter Aliza, who is a talented writer but frustrated in her current situation.

I liked how Mr. Lamb wove in the Miss Rheingold story and how it wasn't just filler but it played a significant role in the story line of Felix, his sister and eventually his daughter. Mr. Lamb reminds us that to be a feminist you don't need to be a female. That men can champion the women in their lives just as clearly as the men. He also highlights that maybe using a little honey with your views can sometimes catch more interest than having such a hard stance. That sometimes you can't force your views on someone but demonstrate them by living your life in the manner in which you speak. This is definitely one of his shorter novels but it packs a punch and will stay with you long after you close the back.

I'll Take You There then begs the question of the reader, would you want to relieve your past in film if offered the chance? Would you be afraid that your childhood wasn't exactly how you remembered it? What if highlighted how your relationships shaped you and how you viewed the world? Would that change your outlook? These are all questions that you will ask yourself as you read the novel.

If you are a fan or haven't read Mr. Lamb, I'll Take You There is a good place to start but really his best work is She's Come Undone.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Julie's Review: Faithful

Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: None
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A story about pain, sorrow, love and healing
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt. What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night. Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.  

Review: Faithful is no different than Alice Hoffman's other novels because it has a bit of the mystical element to it. This novel is the study of forgiveness, guilt and moving on. Ms. Hoffman uses Shelby as her conduit and she's the perfect one for this novel. You can't help but feel for Shelby but you also want to shake her at times. She carries around much more pain and guilt that is needed. Over time we her grow and learn to move on and eventually forgive herself. It is about love, life and death. How all of those things are intertwined.

Shelby is lost. She is depressed and she has no clue how to dig herself out of the hole she is in. Her only friend is her weed dealer, Ben Mink. She's talked to him more in the past year than her own parents. She's looking for a way out of the town she feels suffocated in since the accident that set her on a different path than the one she was on. You see Shelby was one half of the duo Helene and Shelby; Helene was the truly beautiful one and Shelby was pretty enough. Helene was her best friend but she was the one that was the troublemaker. Shelby went along for the ride.

Shelby is on a long journey to rid herself of the self-loathing and guilt. She needs to learn to trust herself, let go of her demons and to open herself up to others. She's punishing herself for the accident and doesn't think she deserves happiness. Through the persistent of others, little by little, Shelby is restored to life. 

Faithful is about being restored by love, hope and persistence. It's about finding something that brings you joy and makes you feel alive, even if it seems like a small thing. Small things can have profound effects. This book make me laugh and made me cry. I felt sorrow for Shelby but I also felt joy and hope for her. I wanted her to find what she was looking both inside herself and in the world. I loved the way the mysterious postcards played out. I loved how she looked forward to them and that they gave her hope. Don't we all need a little hope and joy in our lives?

If you've never read Alice Hoffman, you are missing out. If you have, then you won't want to miss


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Julie's Review: Small Great Things

Author: Jodi Picoult
Series: None
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 480
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Her best and most insightful book to date
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.  

Review: Small Great Things is a book that will make you uncomfortable. It will make you question your own biases, because let's be honest we all have them. I find that biases are based on experiences, either negative or positive. You will experience strong feelings while reading it and you SHOULD. This is one of those books that I felt the need to give my husband updates about, even if he wasn't going to read it. The interesting thing is a couple times he wanted to know what was going on, which he really never does.

Ruth is a great nurse, she knows her stuff, she's been doing it for 20 years. So she's not sure what she did to piss off  new parents after examining their newborn son when they ask to speak to her supervisor.  She's immediately pulled off the case and not to have any contact and then she see that there is a sticky note on the baby's file "No African-Americans". Which pissed her off and rightfully so. So when the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is the only one in the room, she does what she's been trained to do, be a nurse.

Turk, is the father of the baby and the requester that Ruth be taken off their case. So it's easy to understand his distress when his baby dies and he's looking for someone to blame. Who easier to blame than Ruth, the black nurse. When tragedy happens, we look for someone to blame. Now don't get me wrong he's a despicable human being but he suffered a great loss and is grieving. The way he lashes out it horrific and eye opening. It is how the white supremacist movement operates now that is perhaps the scariest thing of this book. They aren't in your face, burning crosses (well some still do) but they could be your neighbor or your co-worker. They spew hate without thinking twice and it's not just if you are of a different race these days, they hate anyone who isn't like them. 

One of the things that has stuck with me since closing the novel is when Kennedy says that she now sees color instead of saying that she doesn't. Once we acknowledge there are difference based on race, perhaps that's when real talk, healing and change can happen. Until we try to walk in the shoes of those that are different than us and open our eyes to their struggles or challenges, we won't move forward.

We have made great strides in the last 50 years and I believe that we will continue to make those strides but only if we each make a conscious effort to understand each other. I highly recommend Small Great Things because it will make you think, pause and want to understand.