Book Review| Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Book Review| Talking as Fast as I Can

By Lauren Graham

I became a Gilmore girls fan late. During the years we were homeschooling, I rarely watched television of any sort. Who had time? I started watching the show when it was on Netflix one day when I wasn’t feeling well. I felt an immediate connection with the characters and was delighted by the quick banter. I shared the show with my daughter, who, at the time, was a very reluctant teenager. You know that there is a certain age when anything mom likes is certain to elicit a negative response.

A few moments into the show, she turned to me and said, “It’s us!”

Obviously, we are not the only duo  to feel this connection to Gilmore Girls.

I loved Lauren Graham’s memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. If you are a Gilmore girls fan I think you would enjoy this book. The Lorelai Gilmore fast-paced dialogue we are all familiar with is infused throughout this small volume. Lauren is so personable. Reading this book was like reading letters from a dear friend, one who is generous with advice and laughter. I don’t usually read celebrity memoirs, but I enjoyed every minute of this book, even when I was crying. Yes, I did cry.

I was encouraged by her advice on everything from writing, making choices, dieting, and technology. She did this all with a splash of humor.

“Eventually I learned that, in the beginning at least, it was better for me to be finished then to try to be perfect. I had to get out of my own way.”

“Often, waiting reveals the truth about something, and not responding to your every impulse can save you the heart ache of waking up in the morning with a sense of regret.”

“Talking about getting a tattoo was, I realized, a perfect case of life thing about the journey not the destination.”

To me, this memoir feels like a gift. Thank you, Lauren Graham! I will definitely be checking out Lauren Graham’s novel, Maybe, Maybe, Someday.

To The Bone Netflix Movie Review

The Netflix film To The Bone is a drama that brings attention to the problem of eating disorders.

Nearly every book or movie about an eating disorder can be triggering for those who struggle with these issues. Use common sense and caution if this is a problem for you or your family member.

In To The Bone, the main character, Ellen, is given one last chance to get herself together. Her stepmother has enrolled her in an unconventional away from home treatment program.

Ellen has a love interest, a quirky male ballet dancer, Luke, who is also at the treatment center for anorexia. To fill out the group at the center, there are a few other anorexic girls and one binge eater. Ellen’s family life is complicated. She lives with her father, stepmother, Susan, and half-sister, Liana. The only good relationship that Ellen seems to have among her family members is with her half-sister. The father is never seen onscreen, leaving his wife to handle Ellen and her problems. Ellen’s mother, Judy,  lives in another city with her partner, Olive.

I felt the setup for the movie  was a bit stereotypical. The main character is a white female with obvious family issues and plenty of money to spend on treatment centers. Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life and this film did not represent those people. Even so, this movie is useful to educate in an entertaining way. The characters caught my attention and kept it to the end. I was left wanting to know more of their stories.

I liked the dark humor and the drama keep me watching. In the scene where her half sister asked Ellen to play a game, guessing the total calorie count on the plate without looking it up I had a bit of a flashback. During my junior high days and beyond, counting calories was a given for most girls as it is today. If think about it, I can still easily tally calories. I felt a certain affinity with her when she kept feeling her arm to see if her fingers would reach around for forearm. Did you do that in junior high?

Today, recognizing an eating disorder as an addiction may be a common reaction, but that was not the case when I was a teen and young adult. To The Bone draws attention to this problem and  attempts to broaden our understanding.

To The Bone takes us through a small part of one person’s journey. In the end, Ellen gathers her courage, surrenders, and takes charge of her own healing, and recognizes that she is never really alone. We are  left rooting for Ellen  to be successful in her quest for healing and health. There is a romantic element left unresolved as well, although the film ends on a note of hope. If To The Bone was made into a series I would want to check it out.

As a young girl and teen I had my own struggles with image and weight, alternately denying myself food and binging. I couldn’t starve out the pain, or cover it with fat. By the grace of God I found people who helped me find acceptance and emotional healing before it could develop into something worse. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders approximately eight million people suffer with eating disorders. I’m not sure what the answer is, but pretending it doesn’t exist will certainly not help anyone.

Maybe, for your family, Netflix’s To The Bone can be a starting point to begin an important conversation.

This film is rated MA for mature audiences. If your teen is watching this film, I recommend you watch it with them and talk about the topic.

Contains profanity, irreverent humor, smoking, eating disorders, alcohol, family issues.

It was disturbing to think that Lily Collins, who plays Ellen and has an eating disorder herself, had lost weight for this role.  She talks about the weight loss for her role in this interview.

 

If you or someone you love has an eating disorder you can get help at or help at the National Eating Disorders website here or call the National Eating Disorders Helpline at (800) 931-2237.

Watch the trailer for Netflix’s To The Bone.

Did you watch? What did you think? Do you have any other films or books on eating disorders you recommend?

 

Book Review| Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Book Review | Imaginary Girls

by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma is a bit of a departure for me.

Ruby is the town darling and everyone wants to be her friend. Chloe is her younger sister. One night the teenagers of the town are partying and at Ruby’s urging, Chloe attempts to swim across the reservoir. In the darkness Chloe comes across a boat and discovers the body of her classmate, London. Chloe leaves town to go stay with her father. After two years, Ruby wants her sister to come home. Chloe returns to find London alive and well. Somehow, Ruby, who always gets her way, is involved.

I chose this book based on a recommendation by my library without really knowing what it was. Imaginary Girls is a novel about two sisters caught up in a paranormal mystery. The story is a haunting one. At first, I was a bit leery of it because suspense is not usually my thing, but two pages in I was hooked.

In this novel, it’s difficult to tell what is real and what is not. The prose is magnificent. This twisted tale of tragedy unfolds in a series of surreal events. Imaginary Girls leaves you slightly unbalanced, guessing right up to the end.

I recently re-read I Am The Cheese and perhaps it primed me for this type of story. Perhaps it’s been a while since I heard a good ghost story. This novel reminded me of how much I loved to spin, and hear, a good campfire tale. In any case, this story caught  my interest and held it to the last page. 

The story is told from the younger sister’s point of view. The characterization of the sisters and their relationship is a fascinating exploration of obsession. This novel combines a complicated sisterly bond with the strange other-worldliness of a dark, fantastical world and lyrical prose.

Imaginary Girls is rich in its characters and prose. It is not a fast-paced book, but is absorbing and intense. I do believe at one point in the book I actually shivered picturing the water of the reservoir. There is an eerie twilight zone vibe to this story.

Be forewarned, the characters in this novel do not behave well. There is much language. Imaginary Girls is for mature teens. If your teen is reading this book, I suggest you read it as well and discuss the issues and themes in the book.

Sex, drugs, alcohol abuse, death, language.

 

Book Review|You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

 

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon is a short collection of short stories following different characters. The thread weaving the stories together is that they are either servicemen  or the wives of servicemen of Fort Hood, Texas.

The book immediately grabbed my attention from the first page and never let go.

Gritty and realistic, each chapter gives the reader a glimpse into the experiences of military life for those serving in Iraq and for the families left behind waiting for their loved ones to come home.

I completed the book in one sitting. I found the stories fascinating and so well written that I wished it had been longer, even though some of the scenes were disturbing at times. The depictions of characters and their actions felt true to life.

Fallon is a writer to watch.

This was a book chosen by a local library book club.

Topics

War, violence, graphic descriptions, profanity, incident of verbal sexual harassment, infidelity, abandonment, spousal abuse, alcohol, death.

Click here for Lit Lovers Book Guide for You Know When the Men Are Gone.

Click here for another reading guide from Book Browse for this novel.

Find out more about the author at Siobhan Fallon’s website here.

 

Book Review|Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Set in 2030, Free to Fall by Lauren Miller is a young adult dystopian novel in which “The Doubt”, a small inner voice, is labeled as mental illness and medicated away in those who cannot ignore it. In this world, nearly everyone has an app on their phone called Lux. Lux keeps track of all data and helps the user with every decision, major to minor. This setting is ripe for the unfolding tale of high tech social engineering.

Sixteen year old Aurora “Rory” Vaughn is accepted to Theden Academy, an exclusive college prep boarding school. Rory and her friends are addicted to social media, selfies, and coffee. 

The characters struggle with the typical teen issues ranging from dieting to dating, as well as the school work load you would expect at a private prep school. Secret societies, teen angst, conspiracies, mysteries, betrayal, and romance keep the action flowing while the characters grapple with moral questions brought up in Free to Fall. I liked the allusions and themes from The Bible and Paradise Lost woven throughout.

The first time I read Free to Fall, I was stuck by the eerie parallel of current social behaviors and the technological advances we have made that make this imagined world a little too plausible for comfort.

Highly recommended for teens and up. This is an excellent book for discussion.

Some language, kissing, intimacy and heavy petting (not graphic), secret society, simulated death and violence, mind control, drinking, death of parents

Click here for a discussion guide for Free to Fall with Bible verse references from Embracing the Detour.

Visit Lauren Miller’s author website here. 

Watch the trailer for Free to Fall.

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Netflix Series Review| Anne With an E

I wanted to love the new Netflix series, Anne with an E, and it is a good show, but since I am a big Anne of Green Gables fan, my expectations were high. At our house, Anne of Green Gables was our go to movie for slumber parties. This Netflix version is definitely not that happy little girl movie of my daughter’s childhood.

I liked this series, but it left me feeling as if a huge part of the story was missing.

I discovered the CBC 1985 adaptation of Anne of Green Gables on PBS during the wee morning hours of caring for a newborn. All of my children have been raised on the series. Eager to see what new writers might do, I attempted to put aside my feelings for my old favorite.

The first two episodes had me crying over Anne’s plight and ready to watch more. By the fourth episode, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good show, but I’m not sure this is one worth revisiting year after year as in the case of the earlier 1985 Anne Of Green Gables adaptation or the books by L.M. Montgomery.

The cinematography is wonderful, with gorgeous sweeping views and evocative shots. Amybeth McNulty plays Anne Shirley with depth and passion. I would watch the series simply for her performance.

In this new series, we get a peek into the past of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Geraldine James as Mirilla and RH Thomson as Matthew do a marvelous job playing the parts they were given. The brother and sister get their own story lines and character development. I felt a certain kinship with Marilla as she struggled with her emotions, but missed the familiar pithy remarks and personality.

Matthew is cast in a more heroic role, shown riding a horse along the coastline. There are other situations where he is allowed to be an obvious protector, showing his devotion to Anne. While I enjoyed the idea of Matthew as a knight in shining armor riding along a shore and overcoming great obstacles to rescue his Anne, I had to wonder, what was wrong with the quiet, steady love that Matthew Cuthbert had in his previous depiction?

The setting feels realistic, less scrubbed up; a genuineness which I liked.

Against the backdrop of Anne’s dire past we come to understand why a simple farmhouse takes on such an attractive hue in Anne’s eyes.

A series of flashbacks is provided to explain away her quirkiness and tendency to indulge in flights of fancy. Her need to escape is driven by angst rather than imagination. The contrast between the practical world and Anne’s “tragical” notions have been stripped away. Everything is dramatic. In this version, there are few moments of humor, the very thing that helped define Anne and bring her to life.

This is a darker, grittier version. I assume this is in an attempt to be more realistic. I don’t know if this actually works, because real life is rarely a constant unfolding of dramatic, emotional events. Real life is fraught with common practicality. I love emotional fiction, and consider a story good if it provokes a tear or two, but I kept waiting for the humor that never showed up. There is a “delight factor” I enjoyed in the books and the 1985 series missing from this series. Anne with an E has a different worldview than the Anne of Green Gables series or the books by L. M. Montgomery.

I think that some  of the scenes in this new television series added depth to the characters, and would work quite well with the established story. My struggle came where it veered off too far from the original writings. Yes, I am one of those people. Always read the book first!

The show had its moments. If a second series is produced, I may or may not watch. I am more likely to re-read the books than watch another season of Anne With an E.

While not my first recommendation as an adaptation of Anne’s story, it does have worth as entertainment. In my opinion, when compared to Anne of Green Gables too much of the positive is overshadowed by the shortcomings in this particular adaptation. Some of the messages that have been inserted into this version of Anne’s story seem a bit heavy-handed to me. Even though it is entertaining, Anne with an E doesn’t have the same take away value as its hard-to-follow, beloved predecessor.

Watch the trailer for the Netflix series Anne With an E.

You can download a free copy of the original book, Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery, at Project Gutenberg here.

Book Review| A Window to the World by Susan Meissner

 

Megan and Jen are best friends, enjoying a typical childhood. Then one day Jen is snatched when the girls are out riding their bikes.

The novel, A Window to the World by Susan Meissner, follows Megan from young girlhood as she grows into an adult, showing how this one terrible event impacts every decision she makes from the moment of the kidnapping. Nightmares haunt her and fear colors her world.

I expected the story to focus on Jen, or her parents, but instead, Meissner told the story of the child left behind. This was a different angle for an abduction story.  I was interested in the story told from the perspective of Megan, although the kidnapping and my desire to know What happened to Jen! was always in the back of my mind. Just about the time I was starting to worry maybe I would never find out, the question was answered. Good storytelling.

This is an inspirational read with Biblical truths at its core. I liked Meissner’s writing style and my attention never flagged throughout the book. This was an easy to read, high interest novel. I listened to the audio book on CDs narrated by Tavia Gilbert. The recording and reading was well done and easy to listen to. It was a good weekend novel.

 Find out more about Susan Meissner’s books at her website here. 

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Book Review| Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

 

Sugar

by Deirdre Riordan Hall

“I lean against the doorframe, heavy with the truth. I am always in the way. I’ve known this for as long as I can remember.”

“I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.”

“I know how to swim, but I feel like I’m drowning.”

I loved this young adult novel. I admit I had a hard time getting into this book at the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I was drawn into the plot. Sugar’s story resonated with me, and I am glad a friend recommended this novel. 

Sugar is a 17-year-old girl with an eating disorder. Home life is fraught with abuse both mental and physical. Sugar is a good girl. She tries with all her might to please her family, but they are never satisfied. She eats to fill the painful void left by rejection.

Other readers have mentioned that the middle of the novel dragged, but I didn’t notice this. I felt the story moved along at a sufficient pace and it kept my interest throughout. It actually kept me awake when I should have gone to bed!

Sugar was a quick read.  Deirdre Riordan Hall’s storytelling style is somewhat straightforward, but the story line and characters were engaging. I found myself rooting for Sugar.

The novel has a satisfactory ending, although tragedy (more tragedy!) does visit Sugar’s world. All the ends tie up nicely without it being too gooey-happy in the end. This is an empowering read for girls going through difficult times. Upon finishing the book, my overall feeling was one of hope. This is a story about rejection, how teens value themselves, and about overcoming.

Sugar’s battles tugged at my heart. This is one I categorize as must read for teens and adults simply because the character spoke volumes to me. It is a deceptively simple tale that delves deep. I found it an emotional read that stuck with me after I turned the last page.

With a caution for younger readers about topics covered, I would highly recommend this book for pre-teens, teens, and adults.

Topics:

Obesity, abuse, abandonment, bullying, assault, attempted rape, contains language, death, mentions of Catholic religion, prayers, rituals.

Deirdre Riordan Hall talks ‘Sugar’ and speaking up against bullies

Author’s Website

 

 

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Book Review|The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

 

 

“We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urgent within us that spurs us to the pursuit.”

Containing ten short chapters, this book by A.W. Tozer is as relevant to believers today as it was when it was written. Practical and easy to read, The Pursuit of God is comforting and admonishing in turn

Tozer does not pull punches when addressing the church.  I was struck by how applicable Tozer’s writing is to the current issues we face in the church and in our individual lives. Whether we agree with all of his philosophy or not, The Pursuit of God is full of dateless advice for seekers.

There is a certain beauty in the straightforwardness  of Tozer’s prose. It is refreshing. Timeless exhortation and instruction rests between these pages. Plain speaking and simple, but at the same time profound, the writing contained in this small volume is well worth the read.

Each of the 10 chapters ends with a prayer.

This small volume is suitable for individual or group study.

An excellent book to write responses in a personal journal.

“The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect one. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”

Project Gutenberg has this book, The Pursuit of God, free here.

Click here for a discussion guide for The Pursuit of God.

 

Book Review| A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul by George MacDonald

George MacDonald was a poet, author, preacher, and a mentor of Lewis Carroll. He wrote A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul during his later years.

He wrote a poem a day for a year and the book is divided in such a manner. The poems are short. As I read, on occasion I would read ahead to see the conclusion of the days poem.

I thoroughly enjoyed the daily readings. This is a timeless classic and well worth the read.

A friend recommended this book to me and I am glad she did. I will be rereading this one.

You can download a free copy of A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul from many sites. I got mine from Amazon.com here.

To learn more about George MacDonald you can visit The George MacDonald Society’s website here.