Book Review | So much I want to tell you : letters to my little sister by Anna Akana

so much i want to tell you anna.jpgAnna Akana is a film producer and YouTuber living in LA. Growing up with a military Dad meant her family moved often and she experienced life in many places. When Anna was a teenager, her younger sister committed suicide. The event had a strong impact on her and is said to be the preface for this book. Though subtitled “letters to my little sister”, there actually are no traditional letters, with the book having more of an essay type approach. Think of the book as advice from life-learned lessons, as relayed by a millennial on the following topics: creativity, identity, relationships, money, works and career.

As a YouTuber, Akana has a lot of experience distilling broad topics into short, digestible chunks. This book read similarly to video script ideas. Though I found much of the advice valid, it all seemed pretty straight-forward, without offering any groundbreaking news. The helpful anecdotes contained within would be much more beneficial to a younger reader (high school / college age), or someone with less life experience. The book is a quick read with short sections, making it easy to pause often. Check it out from a library near youI received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino

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Malafemmena is a collection of Ermelino’s short stories, some previously published, focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations. The sixteen pieces are of varying lengths and take place at different times, on different continents, over the past few decades. From women crossing borders abroad, to drug fueled relaxeés on permanent holiday, to the delusional and victimized, Ermelino has incorporated tales for all depraved readers to relate to.

Ermelino’s distinctive writing style is both easy to read and picturesque. The reader will be able to envision two naked women described sharing a bed in a rented room in India and other scenes. Tastefully written, some of these stories are particularly thought provoking. Though sex, drugs and violence are incorporated into the stories, none of them are overdone. Some of the character’s delusions are quite impressive, and some of the stories are much better than others. This book is a quick read, great for commute or travel. Check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | Stepmother : a memoir by Marianne Lile

image1As the title suggests, Stepmother is a memoir about Marianne Lile’s experience marrying an older man with two children from a previous marriage and raising their family together. The book takes place mostly during the early 1990’s in Washington state and focuses mainly on Lile’s first few years as a stepparent – trials, tribulations and anecdotes.

As other reviewers have noted, stepparents or live-in partners will easily relate to Lile’s account. This book is recommended to partners who are considering taking on the role of a stepparent. It does a thorough job of examining many of the daily challenges involved in being a part of a blended family. The first half of the book reads as a very entertaining, chronological piece. After that, there is a slight organizational breakdown. Lile tries to address certain themes with the remaining chapters, and succeeds, but in a disjointed and sometimes slightly repetitive fashion. Overall, the book is a good read with valuable insights. It was published in September, so may not be at your library yet, but you can check current national holdings here.

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Film Review | Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski

ida dvd coverIda has grown up an orphan in a convent in Poland. She is known there as Anna and her only living relative, an aunt, has let on she has no interest in meeting the girl. Just before taking her vows to become a nun, Ida is forced to visit her aunt. Together the two women find a common bond in the family members they have lost. They confront the ugly Holocaust history as they search for the remains of their Jewish family.

After seeing the preview, I was expecting this movie to be really good. The entire film is in black and white and I have to admit, rather slow moving. Though the story told in the film is a touching one, the characters are not developed enough for the viewer to actually be touched by the story. I was surprised by other viewers’ positive responses to this film. On the whole there is not too much acting and the film is a bit flat. That said, I did enjoy Agata Trzebuchowska‘s performance as Ida and hope to see her in other upcoming films. This film may be better suited for those with some kind of personal connection to the subject matter. Check out Ida from a library near you.

Book Review | Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

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In Beautiful Youaverage 20-something Penny Harrigan stumbles into billionaire C. Linus Maxwell and a strange relationship begins. Penny has failed the bar more than once and her law career is worse than at a standstill. Things look up when Maxwell flies her to Paris to live in his penthouse and wine and dine with who’s who of high society. Penny loses control when Maxwell introduces into their relationship a series of erotic gadgets he’s invented. As the final test subject before they hit the market, Penny feels responsible when women begin losing their lives and careers to new pleasurable addictions.

The novel seems divided into two parts. At times the first half reminded me of Fifty Shades and the second half of Tom Robbins stories, but each of these authors proved more successful. While Palahniuk tells an inventive tale that flows better than most of his recent works, it is no match for his original novels (think Diary, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby…). This book is a quick read with a story that decently holds the reader’s interest and includes a few plot twists. The plot and sexually graphic content may be off-putting to some readers, but as other reviewers have noted, the story is fairly unique. If the jacket description sounds inviting, check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | October : a novel by Zoë Wicomb

october book coverTaking place in South Africa and Scotland, October shares pieces of two women’s lives. Protagonist Mercia grew up fairly well off as the daughter of a teacher in the town of Kliprand with her brother Jake. Wishing to leave racial tensions and other family and village business behind, she left for university and eventually became a respected professor in Glasgow. Though successful in her work, her personal life takes a major hit when her domestic partner abruptly leaves her for another woman. Soon after, a mysteriously terse postcard arrives in the mail from Jake demanding she return home. Mercia obliges and upon returning reaquaints herself with the village ways and Jake’s wife Sylvie and son Nicky. Mercia and Sylvie seem unable to understand each other, but as pieces of the past and present come together, a deeper connection is revealed.

I read Zoë Wicomb’s book You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town and enjoyed it, which influenced my choice of this title. Appropriately, I started it in October but found myself unable to finish it for nearly two months. The characters were imaginable, but unlikeable. The descriptions were precise and allowed the reader to envision scenes clearly, however, it was sometimes hard to ascertain the actual chronological order of events. Within a chapter Wicomb could jump a timespan of over 40 years with only minimal contextual clues. Slices of life were clearly presented, but in a way that made them hard to relate to. While reading I found myself disinterested in what would ultimately happen to each of the characters. This book may resonate better with recently separated women over 50 or those who have struggled with leaving behind their homeland. Check your local library for a copy of October.

Book Review | A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik

book cover  A Marker to Measure Drift A Marker to Measure Drift begins after tragic events in Liberia, when 24 year old Jacqueline has fallen into a vagabond lifestyle. Hungry and alone, she wanders from place to place, trying to avoid danger while looking for somewhere to make her new home. Jacqueline is living in a cave on the Greek Island of Santorini, attempting to squelch hunger pains and eat enough to allow her to walk upright all day. She silently battles with past demons by using her intense and immediate needs to block them out. As Jacqueline plods on, the reader is given glimpses into Jacqueline’s past, flashbacks involving her pregnant sister, her government employed father, her drink-in-hand mother and her diplomat boyfriend. The book comes full circle only at the end when Jacqueline’s account of events in Liberia takes us back to how everything began.

This book was a great read. Though most of the book was fairly slow paced, it was very interesting. Maksik’s descriptions allow the reader to visualize each piece of the story. He allows those unfamiliar with day-to-day suffering to get a better understanding of it through the text. A Marker to Measure Drift is certainly not an uplifting book that you would want to read to your kids, but it is a gripping story about surviving that would make a great book club read. Check it out from a library near you.