Book Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The Princess DiaristThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: November 22, 2016
My ratingg: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford. 

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes.  Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

The Princess Diarist focuses on Carrie Fisher’s time filming Star Wars: A New Hope. Specifically, it narrows in on her affair with Harrison Ford during filming. There is a little bit at the beginning about how she got her start in the entertainment business, including her role on Star Wars, but it shifts quickly to focus on her and Harrison’s relationship.

Carrie was only nineteen when she was cast as Princess Leia and very inexperienced in both sex and relationships. Harrison was in his mid-thirties with a wife and children. Their relationship only lasted three months. Carrie was in love with him but it seemed like she more of just a way to deal with the loneliness of shooting on location away from his family for him. Honestly, I thought he was kind of a jerk, although Carrie didn’t seem to, neither then or in retrospect.

I listened to the audio version of The Princess Diarist. Carrie’s daughter Billie narrates the excerpts of her diary. I think this was a smart choice because Carrie’s voice is gravely now, like someone who’s smoked a lot and had a hard-living lifestyle, as she did when she was younger and involved with drugs and whatnot. She did not sound like Princess Leia anymore! Billie’s voice sounds like the young person she is and was better able to portray the native of Carrie’s perspective at the time. The diary itself is stream of conscience punctuated with short, angsty love poems written about Harrison.

Carrie narrates the other parts of her book, which is told in a narrative format. This was also a good choice because Carrie’s parts of the book are pretty funny and no one is better to deliver her witty lines than her. She definitely looks back on her relationship with Harrison as a fond memory and doesn’t bare him any ill will. I couldn’t help wondering what both Harrison and Mary Marquardt – the woman he was married to at the time of Harrison and Carrie’s affair- think about the book. I couldn’t find an official response from either one of them.

This is not the book for you if you want to know more about Carrie’s life overall. It has a very narrow focus. She has another memoir called Wishful Drinking. I haven’t read it but from the synopsis on Amazon, it sounds like it covers her entire life.

I greatly enjoyed this book, although it was a little bittersweet listening to it after she passed away. She brought joy to so many people and was definitely one of a kind.

Audiobook Review: A Little History of Religion by

A Little History of ReligionA Little History of Religion by Richard Holloway
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: August 15, 2016
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

In an era of hardening religious attitudes and explosive religious violence, this book offers a welcome antidote. Richard Holloway retells the entire history of religion—from the dawn of religious belief to the twenty-first century—with deepest respect and a keen commitment to accuracy. Writing for those with faith and those without, and especially for young readers, he encourages curiosity and tolerance, accentuates nuance and mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith.
 
Ranging far beyond the major world religions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, Holloway also examines where religious belief comes from, the search for meaning throughout history, today’s fascinations with Scientology and creationism, religiously motivated violence, hostilities between religious people and secularists, and more. Holloway proves an empathic yet discerning guide to the enduring significance of faith and its power from ancient times to our own.

I found A Little History of Religion to be a pretty comprehensive guide to the world’s religions. Understandably, the three major religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – get more attention in the book. However, Holloway includes smaller religions as well, for example Jainism and Scientology.

The book isn’t organized by religion or chronologically exactly but the method Holloway uses makes perfect sense. He will write about one religion and then go into the spin-offs and evolutions of that religion. Then he’ll put that aside and move to another area of the world and what was going on there for a while before catching up with the first religion. I really liked this, especially since I listened to the audiobook. It kept it interesting to switch it up instead of having one long section for each religion.

Holloway writes in a conversational tone and even injects some dry humor throughout. The book contains great information without being too academic or dry. Holloway is Scottish and so is the narrator, James Bryce. I like it when the narrator has the same accent as the author. I’m not sure why – it makes it seem more authentic for some reason. Bryce’s delivery for the humorous lines was great.

This book was educational and entertaining. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the world’s religions and especially about how they have intersected with one another throughout history.

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

 

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Book Review: Ready Freddy: Thanksgiving Turkey Trouble

Thanksgiving Turkey Trouble (Ready, Freddy!, #15)Thanksgiving Turkey Trouble by Abby Klein

Publisher: Blue Sky Press
Release Date: 2008
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

It’s a Thanksgiving disaster for Freddy Thresher! When his first-grade class begins planning the annual Thanksgiving play, everyone will have a role. Freddy’s friends are all happy to be Pilgrims and Indians, but there is one part that nobody wants to be-the turkey! Freddy hopes he won’t get the part, but-you guessed it-he gets the unlucky role. Now Freddy has to find a way to play the turkey while everyone is laughing at him.

There aren’t many children’s books with a Thanksgiving theme so I was happy when my daughter brought this book home from her school’s library. She’s five years old and loves the Ready Freddy book series. This book was a fun book for us to read together. The only thing I don’t like is that some of the kids call each other names. I was worried that my daughter would start calling her brothers those names, but luckily she didn’t. This is a great middle grade series for both boys and girls.

 

Page to Screen: The Girl on the Train

the-girl-on-the-train-posterFrom Rotten Tomatoes: Rachel, devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel.

I am happy to say that the movie adaptation of The Girl on the Train is a great one. It’s been almost two years since I’ve read the book and I opted not to re-read it before seeing the movie like I usually do. I think this was a good choice because I wasn’t nitpicking little differences, although I don’t think there was much to nitpick anyway.

The biggest change is that the setting has been moved from London to New York, presumably to make the movie more relatable to us Americans. I was surprised when I heard the filmmakers were making this change because I thought one of the main reasons Emily Blunt was cast as Rachel was because she’s British. The only difference that I could tell the change in location made was that instead of buying canned gin and tonics, Rachel poured vodka into a water bottle.

Also, her relationship with her roommate was cut down to two or three scenes and her mother wasn’t in the movie at all. I’m sure this was to keep the movie’s running time under control. I actually think it was a good thing. It tightened the focus of the story up to just Rachel and the audience trying to figure out what happened to Megan.

When I found out that Emily Blunt was cast as Rachel, I was worried. First of all – she’s way too thin. Secondly, she’s so beautiful – how could she be made to look as rough as Rachel? Turns out I needn’t have worried on that point – Emily Blunt looked awful. (I mean that as a complement!) She wasn’t chubby (even though she was pregnant in real life) but it didn’t matter. You still understood that she had definitely let herself go.

I believe the twists and turns in the movie that made the book so great will be surprising to movie goers who haven’t read the book. My husband didn’t read the book and he was very surprised by the ending. I thought this was a great movie for thriller fans, whether you’ve read the book or not.

 

Book Review and Giveaway: The Yard by Ailyyah Eniath

The YardThe Yard by Aliyyah Eniath
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books
Release Date: April 5, 2016
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

A story of love and redemption, set in Trinidad, that exposes the fault lines in Indo-Muslim culture. Behrooz is brought to a familial complex, The Yard, to live with a devout and extended family, where he struggles to belong. He forms a childish alliance with Maya, a willful and rebellious girl, and his guardian’s daughter. After they share a night of adolescent tenderness, Maya, fearing retribution, flees to London. Behrooz painstakingly rebuilds his life and marries another. When tragedy strikes, Maya returns to her childhood home. There, she and Behrooz must face up to old demons. Can their love endure? Even after Maya is dealt the most righteous” blow of all?

The Yard is the family compound wherein Father Khalid, his four siblings and his elderly mother live. One day Father Khalid brings home Behrooz, an orphan boy who remembers nothing about his past. Over his extended family’s objections, he and his wife take the boy in to raise as their son. Father Khalid’s brother is concerned because Behrooz and Father Khalid’s daughter Maya soon strike up a special friendship and Muslim law permits marrying your adopted sister.

The Yard is an epic story, beginning when Maya and Behrooz are just children and chronicling their lives as well as their family’s lives well beyond their childhood. There are a lot of characters to keep track of! The author’s prose is sparse and charming. I was captivated. I love books with Indian characters and culture. The Indo-Muslim culture of Trinidad and Tobago was new to me and I enjoyed reading about it. My only criticism is that some events, including the ending, seemed rushed. Overall, the story was authentic and I definitely recommend it. Scroll down to the bottom to enter for a chance to win your own copy!

About Aliyyah Eniath

Aliyyah Eniath was born in Trinidad and Tobago; her ancestors hailed from Uttar Pradesh, India. She’s a director ataliyyah-eniath-ap Safari Publications, a magazine publishing house, and founder/editor-in- chief of Belle Weddings (Caribbean) magazine.

Her debut novel The Yard (literary, romance) is published by Speaking Tiger Books in both paperback and ebook formats.

She explores the ideas of breaking free from imposed boundaries (familial or otherwise), understanding and feeling supported in who you are, overcoming self-doubt, and finally being true to yourself. Her writing looks at strict religious ideologies and their potential consequences and begs for a softer approach and innate understanding and compassion towards every human being.

She writes from the perspective of East Indians whose forefathers were brought to Trinidad from India through the British colonial indentureship scheme in 1845.

Find out more about Aliyyah at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m pleased to be able to givaway one copy of The Yard to a lucky reader with a US mailing address. Just fill out the form below. I will take entries until 11:59pm CST on September 27, 2016 Good luck!

tlc tour hostThank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book. Check out the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, September 6th: Book by Book
Wednesday, September 7th: Dwell in Possibility
Thursday, September 8th: G. Jacks Writes
Monday, September 12th: Show This Book Some Love
Tuesday, September 13th: Chaos is a Friend of Mine
Thursday, September 15th: #redhead.with.book
Wednesday, September 14th: Real Life Reading
Tuesday, September 20th: The Book Chick
Wednesday, September 21st: Lit and Life
Monday, September 26th: Book Chatter
Wednesday, September 28th: Mom’s Small Victories
Friday, September 30th: Dreaming Big

Book Review: Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American SoulDemocracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: January 12, 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

America’s great promise of equality has always rung hollow in the ears of African Americans. But today the situation has grown even more dire. From the murders of black youth by the police, to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to the disaster visited upon poor and middle-class black families by the Great Recession, it is clear that black America faces an emergency—at the very moment the election of the first black president has prompted many to believe we’ve solved America’s race problem.
 
Democracy in Black is Eddie S. Glaude Jr.’s impassioned response. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap”—with white lives valued more than others—that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why black politics based on the civil-rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of black America–and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion as we move toward the end of our first black presidency.

In Democracy in Black, Glaude discusses in detail how and why the 2008 recession disproportionately impacted black people. He also writes about the value gap – the fact that white people are valued more than black people. His analysis is hard to dispute. Glaude doesn’t pull any punches. Anyone is fair game for criticism, not just conservatives. In fact, President Obama receives some of his harshest.

I’m always looking for more articulate ways to explain systematic and institutional racism to people and this book gave me some great ideas of how to do so. I thought this line was particularly good:

“Somehow people absurdly believe – and they have done so for most of our history – that black social   misery  is the result of hundreds of thousands of unrelated bad individual decisions by black people all across this country.”

 The major thing I didn’t agree with was him calling for black people to participate in an “electoral black-out” in 2016. I’m not sure black people voting none of the above would accomplish what he wants it to and for the 2016 election, it’s a really bad idea for obvious reasons.

Even though I read a lot about race, I felt like this book expanded my knowledge even more and will help me have better conversations with people about race in the future.

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

Book Review: The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

The Light of ParisThe Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: July 12, 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Madeleine is trapped—by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.

In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.

Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

I liked Margie’s story, which was told through her journal that her granddaughter Madeleine found. However, it was hard for me to muster up much sympathy for a Madeleine, a woman who had grown up rich and married a rich husband and was living the life of a rich socialite. No one forced her to get married and stay in that lifestyle. Her parents wouldn’t have disowned her if she didn’t get married. It was 1999 – she could have done anything really. Her lack of backbone made me angry with her. The reader was supposed to empathize with her but I just couldn’t.

I could empathize with Margie because she was growing up in the early 1900s, a time when women really didn’t have any other choice but to get married in order to have a decent life. And yet Margie is able to rebel for a summer and have a romantic, adventurous summer in Paris. I enjoyed reading about her life and adventures there.

I may have had my expectations too high for this book and that’s why I was so disappointed with it. I loved Eleanor Brown’s first book, The Weird Sisters, and I was hoping to love The Light of Paris just as much. It seems that Brown has fallen victim to the curse of the sophomore slump.

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

First Comes LoveFirst Comes Love by Emily Giffin
Publisher: Ballentine Books
June 28, 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious, relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing, Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes, their delicate bond splinters.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter is assigned to her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms, and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover that they need each other more than they knew—and that in the search for true happiness, love always comes first.

First Comes Love is the story of Josie and Meredith, two sisters who are still struggling to deal with their brother Daniel’s death that happened fifteen years ago. It’s told in first person by both Josie and Meredith, alternating by chapter. Josie thinks Meredith is a cranky bitch and frankly so did I. Even knowing Meredith’s inner thoughts from her part of the narrative did little to change my mind on her. Meredith thinks that Josie is selfish and immature. She definitely comes across that way but I had much more sympathy for Josie. She seemed well-intentioned and honestly clueless to her tendency to make things all about her.

Josie’s main struggle is whether or not to have a child as a single mother. She hears her biological clock ticking and is getting nervous that time has run out for her to find a husband to be the father of her child. Meredith has a husband and child but now she isn’t sure that’s what she ever wanted. Both of them had such a hard time dealing with their problems that I had trouble imagining how either of them could have a happy ending.

Speaking of the ending, that’s the one part of this book that I didn’t like. It seemed rushed and one character’s fate didn’t feel authentic to me. You’ll know why when you read it. If you do read this book, let me know and we can chat about it! I won’t write any spoilers here.

I think First Come Love is a great offering from Emily Giffin and recommend it to fans of women’s fiction.

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

Other books by Emily Giffin and reviewed by me:
Heart of the Matter
Where We Belong

 

Audio Book Review: If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Green

If I Forget YouIf I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: June 14, 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Twenty-one years after they were driven apart by circumstances beyond their control, two former lovers have a chance encounter on a Manhattan street. What follows is a tense, suspenseful exploration of the many facets of enduring love. Told from altering points of view through time, If I Forget You tells the story of Henry Gold, a poet whose rise from poverty embodies the American dream, and Margot Fuller, the daughter of a prominent, wealthy family, and their unlikely, star-crossed love affair, complete with the secrets they carry when they find each other for the second time.

Written in lyrical prose, If I Forget You is at once a great love story, a novel of marriage, manners, and family, a meditation on the nature of art, a moving elegy to what it means to love and to lose, and how the choices we make can change our lives forever.

If I Forget You is the story of Henry and Margo. They were star-crossed lovers in college but broke up for reasons that would be a spoiler. Henry was from a working class family while Margo was born into a life of privilege. The book alternates between their college days in 1999 and the present. Henry is now a college professor and Margo is a wealthy wife and mother. One day in the present, Henry and Margo see each other from afar and eventually reconnect. We learn the reasons they have been apart all these years. Also, Margo has been harboring a secret that she is scared to tell Henry.

I enjoyed Henry and Margo’s story. Both characters were well developed and interesting. Their romance was sweet and I was sad when they broke up. Henry was particularly sympathetic- I felt sorry for him a lot of the time. There was a surprise twist at the end that I did not see coming but did not seem contrived.

I listened to the audio version of this book and thought the narrator did a nice job. If I Forget You is a great summer read.

(I received a complementary copy of this audio book for review.)

Book Review: I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

I Almost Forgot About YouI Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: June 7, 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, including quitting her job as an optometrist and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love. Georgia’s bravery reminds us that it’s never too late to become the person you want to be, and that taking chances, with your life and your heart, are always worthwhile.
 
Big-hearted, genuine, and universal, I Almost Forgot About You shows what can happen when you face your fears, take a chance, and open yourself up to life, love, and the possibility of a new direction. It’s everything you’ve always loved about Terry McMillan.

When Dr. Georgia Young learns that a former love has passed away, she regrets that they did not keep in touch over the years and that she never told him about the impact he had on her life. She decides to make a list of all her past boyfriends and contact them to let them know what they have meant to her.

This is the first book I’ve read from Terry McMillan and I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed. However, from what I’ve read in other reviews, this book isn’t as good as her most popular books How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale. I Almost Forgot About You reads like a typical chic lit novel. There isn’t a lot in the way of character development and the writing is straightforward without much description. It is refreshing to read a book where the main character is in her fifties and still has the capability of feeling both love and lust – as real life fifty year olds do. And Georgia is an average looking woman too, not a gorgeous and thin model type. In these ways, she is very relatable.

Georgia has two best friends, Violet and Wanda. They are both quite different from Georgia. Wanda has been happily married for years and Violet is a single mother who is a helicopter parent to her adult daughter. I liked these characters but their relationship with Georgia seemed superficial for being best friends. The snappy dialogue between the three didn’t seem authentic to me.

I liked this book well enough that I’d like to go back and read her more popular books – I’m not giving up on her. I think I just chose the wrong book to start with. I think die-hard fans will probably like this book more than I did. If you’re new to Terry McMillan, you should start with one of her other books.

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

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