Book – Author Laurie Halse Anderson first gained notoriety in 1999 for her novel Speak, which won numerous awards and honors and is rightfully considered a modern classic in Young Adult literature. In Speak high school freshman Melinda deals with great personal trauma all the while being ostracized by her peers. I highly recommend reading the original novel, if you haven’t already.
In 2018, the Graphic Novel Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll received strong reviews owing to its meaningful remake for established fans and introducing new readers to the story.
20 years after the publication of Speak, Anderson releases Shout – a powerful memoir in free verse. Here, she shares deeply of her complicated relationship with her parents, personal experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the reactions shared by readers over the years. Shout comes on the heels of last year’s #metoo and #timesup movements promoting awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Anderson is not a new voice in this conversation. Since the publication of Speak, she has advocated for open conversations about sexual assault.
Shout is a quick and powerful read and will interest fans who want to see how Anderson’s experiences found their ways into her books and learn more about her life as an author. Those interested in delving into the issues of sexual assault and harassment, will find jumping off points for thoughts and discussions.
DVD- This movie is based on the book by Ian McEwan, which has an amazing cast lead by Emma Thompson. She plays a British High Court judge who makes difficult and serious judgements, that affect the life and death of people on a daily basis. Stanley Tucci plays her sexually frustrated, left behind, husband. The film revolves around the child Adam Henry, played by Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk). Emma Thompson’s character has to decide a whether the hospital has legal standing to authorize Adam to undergo a blood transfusion which will save his life or, grant him the autonomy to trust in a faith that prevents him from accepting blood products.
I found this movie serious and intense. A few of the heavy hitting topics this movie works through include: religion, law, middle age marriage, affairs, and an infatuated youth of a mature woman. How courts are governed in Britain, with their customs and rules is an interesting feature, as well. Lastly, the locations depicted in the film, are beautiful.
If you are looking for an excellent, cerebral movie, this is it! If, however, you are looking for a lighthearted movie with the normally-silly Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson, keep looking!
Book – 30 Before 30: How I Made a Mess of my 20s, and You Can Too by Marina Shifrin is a fantastic read. Marina details her journey attempting to and succeeding in achieving 30 goals before turning 30 years old. Some goals were bigger: “Getting a Dog”, “Visit Russia”, and “Live in a Different Country”, while others were easier to accomplish: “Eating a Meal Alone” and “Take a City Bus Tour.” For any millennial working through their mid 20s, or for any age seeking to create their own bucket list, this book is a fun beacon of light in all the stresses adulthood can bring.
I was so inspired by Marina’s list that I decided to create my own! I will admit I stole some of her goals, specifically “Getting a Dog”, “Eating a Meal Alone”, but some of my other goals include: “Baking an Obscene amount of French Macarons” (Because why not?) and “Taking a Roadtrip Through the 6 States Most Abundant in Cacti” (and of course buying a ton of new houseplants along the way). Because of the format of the book, it was easy to browse for chapters that were most relatable to me, but I still found myself reading through each section. Marina’s humor is a great addition to this memoir, and I really enjoyed her writing style. Her parents emigrated from Russia and it was interesting to see how that heritage has influenced Marina in her life and partaking of the 30 before 30 project, especially in her goal to travel to Russia. An easy but fun read for anyone!
TV Series – It seems to me that the TV series Girls has become an obsession in the world of millennials, and just in general. It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of mid-twenties life that I’ve seen in a television show. Sure, certain aspects are clearly dramatized, as in any popular series, but it just feels real.
Lena Dunham stars as the main character, Hanna, but is also an executive producer, which is pretty impressive. The series follows a group of budding adults: our starring character, Hanna, her best friend, Marnie, the bubbling Shoshana, and eccentric Jessa. They each have such distinctive personalities; it’s fascinating to see how they change and grow as the seasons progress. They’re in that phase of their lives where they’re cut off from their parents, struggling to pay rent, while also trying to maintain friendships, romantic relationships, and holding down jobs to support themselves. The experiences can be crude, disturbing, and intensely sexual, but it’s also though-provoking and something good to reflect on. It deals with difficult topics including: mental illness, drug use, sexuality and the daily struggles of life.
I turn to The Office when I need some comedic relief after watching Girls, which often makes me think too much about my own 20’s life. It presents characters that feel like people I might know and provides a good example of how relationships change after college. I really enjoy this series as a whole. As an added bonus, Adam Driver stars in the show, albeit as Adam, an often disturbed/disturbing love interest. I adore Adam Driver as the angsty Kylo Ren, so it’s always a pleasure to see him on screen.
Book – Girls in White Dressesfollows the lives of three friends: Isabella, Mary, and Lauren. It seems like everyone around them is getting married, and they are constantly taking on roles as bridesmaids. The madness is never-ending! Each weekend passes by with bridal showers, oh’s-and-ah’s over pretty gifts, and dresses in every shade of pastel. Honstely, they are getting a little sick of all this love and wedding business. Told from three points of view, this novel delves into the terrifying world of adulthood, relationships, and just life in general.
The chapters switch between the different lives of the three main women, sewn in with their own struggles, drama, and relationships. With the different storylines, at times it was easy to get the characters mixed up and forget where the book was going. You get a little taste of a memory/themed chapter from one girl’s point of view, and then whoooosh!, the story swerves to a new theme and narrator. However, I really enjoyed these very specific glimpses into the lives of the characters, and learning more about their individual encounters and experiences The characters were relatable, funny, and quirky—-a great read for any chick lit enthusiast.
Book–Becky Bloomwood is a reluctant financial journalist with a dirty secret: she can’t stop spending money. Despite harassment from creditors, Becky cannot resist the siren song of shiny new things, particularly clothes, to the point where she invents a dying aunt to justify borrowing money to buy a new scarf. She tries spending less money (and fails), tries making more money (and fails), and even tries marrying rich. The fun of this novel comes from watching Becky squirm; she has a knack for getting herself into sticky, embarrassing situations reminiscent of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones and is a delightfully flawed character who with a distinctive and strong narrative voice. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, Confessions of a Shopaholicis chick lit at its light, airy, and compulsively readable best.
Book – Eleanor Oliphant is an awkward young woman who doesn’t have any friends. She works as an administrator in a design firm and spends her weekends drinking enough vodka so that she is neither drunk nor sober. Her only contact with people outside of work are shopkeepers, utility men and weekly phone conversations with her institutionalized mother. Then, Eleanor wins a set of tickets to a concert and develops a crush on one of the singers. Eleanor decides she must improve herself to win his love and changes (and hilarity) ensue. Eleanor’s observations about people’s habits and pop culture and her attitude about life are entertaining, but also also give a glimpse of what she has endured. I loved reading about Eleanor’s transformation and her eccentric new friends. If you liked The Rosie Project or Britt-Marie Was Here, you’ll enjoy this book.
Book – Grace Holland lives with her husband, Gene, and their two young children in a small home on the coast of Maine. She doesn’t drive, receives an allowance from Gene and spends her days caring for her children, managing the house and visiting with her best friend, Rosie. Her marriage is complacent and somewhat dull. Grace wonders why she has never experienced the “god-awful joy” when making love to Gene that Rosie once mentioned. In the Fall of 1947, the town suffers a severe drought and fires begin to break out along the coast. Gene leaves to help fight the blazes and is still gone when the devastating flames reach the town. With most of the houses destroyed, and her husband missing, Grace is forced to take matters in her own hands. As she searches for a means to make money and build a new life for herself and for her children, she is also forced to confront situations more difficult then she could ever have imagined. I admired Grace’s resiliency and pragmatism. She asked for help and accepted it, but she was determined to find a way to be independent. Shreve also wrote The Weight of Water, The Pilot’s Wife and other popular novels.
Book–In the port town of Malacca in Malaya in the 19th century (modern-day Malaysia), Li Lan is the daughter of a impoverished-but-genteel opium addict. Though of marriageable age, Li Lan receives no suitors but one: the prestigious Lim family wants her for their only son’s bride. There’s a catch, however. Lim Tian Ching, heir to the Lim family fortune, has recently died under mysterious circumstances and is demanding a bride from beyond the grave. Ghost marriage, an ancient but rarely practiced custom, is used to soothe an angry spirit, and guarantees the bride’s place in her groom’s house for the rest of her life.
Before Li Lan has even accepted the proposal, Lim Tian Ching begins to haunt her, and she is drawn into lifelike nightmares that sap away her energy. Li Lan is torn between the waking world and the shadowy ghost world where, if she’s not careful, she may remain forever.
The gorgeous, strange setting of turn of the century Malaya and the dreamlike ghost world draw the reader in, stealing the show from the somewhat milquetoast Li Lan and her trite love triangle between new Lim heir Tian Bai and mysterious spirit Er Lang. The Ghost Bride will appeal to those who enjoyed the movie Spirited Away, which has a similar beautiful, nightmarish, dream-logic setting and characters drawn with a light hand.
Book–Based on some 200 cases of ‘fasting girls’ in the US and Great Britain throughout the 19th century, The Wonder follows Lib Wright, a no-nonsense nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, who is contracted to determine the veracity of the titular Wonder, a young Irish girl named Anna O’Donnell whose family claims she, of her own volition, has not eaten since her birthday several months ago. Together with taciturn nun Sister Michael, the two women watch Anna in shifts, Lib hoping to expose the O’Donnell family as frauds and secure her own reputation back home. Lib begins to realize, though, as she gets closer to Anna, that their watch is rather cruel. If, up until their watch, Anna has been fed in some covert way and their watch has put an end to it, they are complicit in starving Anna. As Anna begins to grow weak with undernourishment, Lib must decide if she will watch Anna’s slow death, as the village seems to wish her to do, or put a stop to it.
Set just after the Great Famine, the reader can easily see how Anna and her family have made a virtue of not eating. A child who claimed to be full quickly would be a source of relief to her struggling parents. The unique setting, religious faith, and a web of irresponsible adults and family secrets conspire to keep Anna trapped in her fasting and it is difficult to read. The reader feels culpable for Anna’s abuse just as Lib does. This intense read combines the richly detailed, thoroughly researched historical fiction that Donoghue is known for with the pulse-pounding immediacy of her 2010 breakthrough hit Room.