Book Review: Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell

Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie ActorHail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: August 15, 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

One of my dad’s favorite jokes about getting older was: “I went out for coffee when I was twenty-one and when I got back I was fifty-eight!”

I get what he meant now. Time flies. My first book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a “B” Movie Actor, was published back in 2001 and it chronicles the adventures of a “mid-grade, kind of hammy actor” (my words), cutting his teeth on exploitation movies far removed from mainstream Hollywood.

This next book, an “Act II” if you will, could be considered my “maturing years” in show business, when I began to say “no” more often and gravitated toward self-generated material. Taking stock in the overall quality of my life, I fled Los Angeles and moved to a remote part of Oregon to renew, regroup and reload.

If that sounds tame, the journey from Evil Dead to Spider-Man to Burn Notice was long, with plenty of adventures/mishaps along the way. I never pictured myself hovering above Baghdad in a Blackhawk helicopter, facing a pack of wild dogs in Bulgaria, or playing an aging Elvis Presley with cancer on his penis – how can you predict this stuff? The sheer lunacy of show business is part of the fun for me and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

– Bruce “Don’t Call Me Ash” Campbell

I don’t want to hurt Bruce Campbell’s feelings, but let’s just say that the Evil Dead movies are not my cup of tea. However, they are my husband’s cup of tea. They are his whole tea pot. I chose this book mainly so that my husband could read it after I did. However, I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Hail to the Chin is Campbell’s follow-up to his first memoir, If Chins Could Kill. In Hail to the Chin, he writes about the projects he’s worked on since If Chins Could Kill. I appreciated the detail he went into about the more technical aspects of making a movie or TV show. That kind of thing interests me almost as much as reading behind the scenes dirt on actors. Because of that, I liked this book even though I haven’t actually seen many of Campbell’s projects.

For instance, he shot the movie The Main with the Screaming Brain in Bulgaria to save money versus shooting in the United States. The lengths the team had to go through to make the locations feasible were pretty amazing. The movie is set in the United States so they had to figure out how to make that work with the fact that all of the signs were not in English and the streets were filled with obviously foreign cars that are not found on the streets in America. I want to see the movie now just to see how they pulled it off.

There are many more stories along these lines. Campbell and Sam Raimi, director of Evil Dead and the Spiderman movies are childhood friends. Campbell always manages to talk Raimi into giving him parts in his blockbuster movies. It’s funny how he never expects a big role – he knows his limitations as an actor. He mainly wants to be in them to be a part of the action.

I enjoyed this book even though I’m not a die-hard fan of Bruce Campbell and I think others would as well. I recommend this book for fans of course, but also for anyone who likes Hollywood memoirs or has an interest in how movies and television shows are made.

2017 Year in Review

helpbook-25156_1280Can you believe 2017 is over?! It’s time for my yearly wrap-up post! Let’s begin…

How many books read in 2017?
I read 50 books, which was my goal for the year.

How many fiction and non-fiction?
I read 17 non-fiction and 33 fiction books in 2017. That’s 34% of my total book read. However, most of them were memoirs. I’d like to read a few more regular non-fiction books in 2018.

Male/Female author ratio?
I read 24 female authors compared to 26 male authors. That’s pretty even Stephen!

Favorite book of 2017?
I read a lot of really good books this year but if I had to choose one favorite it would be A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Least favorite?
I only had one two-star review and that was  Apocalypse Scenario #683 The Box by Mira Grant.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?
I didn’t finish We Are Not Such Things: The Murder of a Young American, a South African Township and the Search for Truth and Reconciliation by Justine Van der Luen. Basically because it was disjointed and boring.

Oldest book read?
The oldest book I read was a re-read of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which was published in 1985. I still need to work on reading more classics!

Newest?
I read a lot of books that were published in 2017. I’m not sure which one was the absolute latest.

Longest and shortest book titles?
The longest title is the one I didn’t finish – see above. The shortest was Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

 Any translated books?

The Vegetarian by Han Kang.

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?
I read two  by Carrie Fisher (Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist) and two by  John Green (Looking for Alaska and Turtles All the Way Down.)

Any re-reads?
I re-read China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan in preparation for Rich People Problems, the final book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I also re-read The Handmaid’s Tale before starting the television series. (I haven’t finished the series yet so no spoilers!)

Favorite character of the year?
My favorite real-life person was Trevor Noah. I highly recommend listening to his memoir Born a Crime. My favorite fictional character was the Count in A Gentleman in Moscow.

Which countries, other than the United States, did you go to through the page in your year of reading?
I went to South Africa, Russia, Mongolia, China, Singapore, South Korea, India and Poland.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by  Heather O’Neill which was recommended to me by my friend Kelly. She always has great recommendations for me.

Which author was new to you in 2017 that you now want to read the entire works of?
I’d like to read more of Colson Whitehead. The Underground Railroad was really good and he’s supposed to be pretty much a genius so I’m sure his other books are good to.

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read?
Once again, I am annoyed that I didn’t read any older classics. I’m also annoyed that I haven’t finished listening to the first Game of Thrones book on audio because it’s being taken off TuneIn on January 15th and I’m only about halfway through. It’s 30 hours total!

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

I wouldn’t say that I’ve always wanted to read it but I have wanted to read Looking for Alaska for a while. I figure if I profess to John Green’s biggest fan, I’d better read all of his books. I’m almost done with An Abundance of Katherines.

That sums up my year in a nutshell. How was your year?

Book Review: The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

The Magic Misfits (Magic Misfits, #1)The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 21, 2017
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.

The Magic Misfits is Neal Patrick Harris’s (Barney from How I Met Your Mother) middle-grade debut. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy. Carter’s parents are dead and now he travels the country with his uncle, who is a pick-pocket and scam artist. Carter is a good boy and desperately wants to get away from him. But where would he go? He’s just a kid.

One day, Carter and his uncle stop at B.B. Bosso’s circus. There he meets a girl his age who introduces him to her group of friends. Carter is excited – he’s never had friends before. And these friends use magic for good, unlike his uncle.

My eleven year-old son and I both read this book. He’s really into magic and loved that in-between chapters there were instructions on how to do magic tricks. The tricks were simple enough that a kid can perform them and still amaze adults. I thought they were pretty cool too.

I thought The Magic Misfits was a cute story with a good message. I liked that it had a diverse cast of characters, including a girl in a wheelchair and a same-sex couple. One thing I didn’t care for was how NPH interrupted the story to give the definitions of words or phrases he thought kids wouldn’t know. I felt like kids would either already know the definitions or could figure it out from the context in which they were used.

I’m a huge fan of NPH and most everything he does but although I enjoyed this book, I didn’t like it enough to continue with the series. However, my son wants to continue with it and that’s more important since he’s the intended audience. When I asked him if he wanted to read the next book when it comes out, he shouted, “Yes, yes, yes!” That’s a pretty hearty recommendation indeed.

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

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: August 2, 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

The Underground Railroad imagines a world in which the Underground Railroad, the system used to smuggle slaves from the Southern slave states to the Northern free states, is an actual railroad. It follows a slave named Cora on her journey out of Georgia on the Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead has made each stop a real-life location with fictional attributes. For instance, South Carolina appears to be a virtual utopia for former slaves integrating into white society. However, something sinister lurks behind the scenes. Even though some things about the stops are fictional, they are still realistic and based in fact. Whitehead does not shy away from writing about the horrors of slavery and how slaves were treated. All of the primary characters in this book are richly developed and multi-faceted. There are no white savior or happy house-slave stereotypes.

The Underground Railroad was my book club’s November selection. We found much to discuss, including whether or not we would have had the courage to escape slavery. There’s a lot of symbolism in this book and we talked about what our interpretations of it are. Since symbolism can go over my head at times, (it’s my accountant brain!), I appreciated being able to hear what others thought of it.

Colson Whitehead and this book have won many awards. It also made President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List. Ah, to have a president who reads…But I digress…Whitehead has written several other books and they are each supposed to be quite different from one another. I plan on reading them at some point – I’m sure they’re wonderful too. At any rate, I highly recommend The Underground Railroad for everyone.

Audiobook Review: White Trash Zombie Unchained by Diana Rowland

White Trash Zombie Unchained (White Trash Zombie, #6)White Trash Zombie Unchained by Diana Rowland
Narrator: Allison McLemore
Publisher: Audible Studies
Release Date: September 4, 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Angel Crawford has finally pulled herself together (literally!) after her disastrous dismemberment on Mardi Gras. She’s putting the pieces of her life back in order and is ready to tackle whatever the future holds.

Too bad the future is a nasty bitch. There’s a new kind of zombie in town: mindless shamblers, infectious and ravenous.

With the threat of a full-blown shambler pandemic looming, and a loved one stricken, Angel and the “real” zombies scramble to find a cure. Yet when Angel uncovers the true reason the plague is spreading so quickly, she adds “no-holds-barred revenge” to her to-do list.

Angel is busting her ass dealing with shambling hordes, zombie gators, government jerks, and way too many mosquitos, but this white trash chick ain’t giving up.

Good thing, since the fate of the world is resting on her undead shoulders.

*****This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the White Trash Zombie series*****

Just because Zombie Week and Halloween have past, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to settle in with a good zombie book. Zombies are fun all year-round!

White Trash Zombie Unchained is the sixth book in the White Trash Zombie series. I haven’t read books 2-5 but I didn’t have too much trouble following along. I would recommend reading the first book, My Life As a White Trash Zombie, before jumping in, just to get familiar with Rowland’s zombie mythology. She does write this book expecting that you know at least that much. Her zombies are different than most. They are sentient beings, like you and I, the main difference being that they eat brains. Even though it’s been several years since I read the first book, I remembered enough of the mythology that I was fine.

Angel Crawford is a zombie who just happens to work in a morgue, which has a convenient supply of fresh brains. One day, a supposedly dead body gets up off her table and starts shambling around. This “shambler,” as Anger calls him, is what comes to mind when one pictures a typical zombie – mindless and undead. This is the beginning of a shambler epidemic. It’s up to the Tribe, a group of zombies including Dr. Nikas, who is both a zombie and an expert zombie researcher, to figure out the cause and how to stop it.

I would characterize White Trash Zombie Unchained as a cozy urban fantasy – is there such a thing? If not, you heard it here first! * It’s got quite a bit of humor in it that kept it from getting too dark. I like that this series has a unique take on zombie mythology – that they are secretly among us and most of them have no desire to cause an apocalypse. (Of course, I do like a good zombie apocalypse as well.) I had some trouble understanding the science behind how the shamblers were created. Also, Angel has a mutated zombie parasite inside her and how and why that came about was not clear. I think that was the only thing from previous books that was not explained.

I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator did a great job with making Angel and her father’s “white trash” Southern accents sound authentic. There are a number of male voices that she does really well too.

I am notorious for starting series and then getting distracted with other books and forgetting about them. Fict Fact is a great site for keeping track of series and helps somewhat – when I remember to check it! I’m glad I was reminded of this series. I enjoyed this book and hope to go back and read books two through five. I’ll keep you posted!

*copyright 2017 chaosisafriendofmine

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

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Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: September 12, 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Little Fires Everywhere is a lot like Celeste Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You, in that it begins at the end and then fills in what happened to get us to that point with veering even further back into various characters’ pasts at times. It opens with Mrs. Richardson standing on her front lawn, watching her house burn down. Then we go back to when Mia and her daughter Pearl first move into the Richardson’s rental property. Mia is an artist, a free spirit, which is unnerving to Mrs. Richardson’s black and white, by the book outlook on the world from the get go. When Mia takes her friend’s side over Mrs. Richardson’s friend’s side in a custody battle over the attempted adoption of a Chinese-American baby, Mrs. Richardson finds that it is the perfect excuse to dig into Mia’s mysterious past. But unbeknownst to her, those in her own family are harboring secrets as well.

Just like in Ng’s first book, the characters in Little Fires Everywhere are well-developed. She delves into their pasts, giving a clear picture for their motivations and letting the readers in on the secrets they hide from one another. Just like in Everything I Never Told You, I wanted to shout at them to just open up and tell the truth – most of their problems could have been dealt with so much easier. But this is not an easy book. Nothing is black and white and I never really quite knew whose side I was on. One of the great things about Ng’s style is that she presents the story in such a balanced way that readers have room to think and feel. She doesn’t manipulate your emotions. For that reason, this would be an excellent book club selection. I could see a discussion about it becoming quite heated!

I looked back to my review of Everything I Never Told You and in it I note that Ng’s prose is beautiful but that she is a little overzealous in her use of metaphor. I didn’t find this to be a problem in Little Fires Everywhere. I loved both books but I think I love this one a little more. There is no sophomore slump going on here! This book is on just about every best of 2017 list there is and rightly so. It’s definitely on mine.

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

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 10, 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
   
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 
 
In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Turtles All the Way Down is John Green’s first book in six years. I know that John was worried that he couldn’t write a book that would be as good as The Fault in Our Stars but he needn’t have. I think Turtles All the Way Down is actually better than The Fault in Our Stars. I was never fully on board with the almost zaniness of the subplot with Hazel’s favorite author in TFIOS. Turtles All the Way Downs subplot of the missing billionaire (see further down) was more realistic.

Turtles All the Way Down is the story of Aza, a high school girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or ODC. Her OCD manifests itself in the form of obsessive thought spirals. Once she starts thinking about certain things, she goes into a thought spiral that can be nearly impossible to come back out of. They mostly center on imagining that harmful bacteria has somehow gotten into her body and will lead to her getting clostridium difficile (C. diff) and eventually dying.

When Russell Pickett, a billionaire who lives in the same town as Aza, goes missing, Aza and her best friend Daisy set out to search for clues regarding his disappearance, hoping that they will be able to collect the $100,000 reward being offered for information leading to his whereabouts. Along the way, Aza renews her childhood friendship with Russell’s son Davis.

Russell’s disappearance in the book is secondary to how the book explores how Aza’s OCD affects her relationship with herself and with her friends. Each one is a struggle in its own way. I’ve read things from several people with OCD who say that John writes the internal dialogue of someone with OCD in the most accurate way they’ve every read. Even though I don’t personally suffer from it, I can see why they would say that. I felt like I had a much better understanding of the mental illness after reading this book. John has OCD himself so I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why he could be so descriptive with Aza’s thoughts.

I highly recommend this book, as well as pretty much anything by John Green. Read his books, watch his vlogbrothers videos, and listen to the Dear Hank and John podcast. Become obsessed like me!

P.S. I was lucky enough to get on of the signed copies – look!

IMG_3325-001

Other  John Green books I’ve reviewed:

Looking for Alaska
The Fault in Our Stars

Audiobook Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Claire Danes
First published in print in 1985
Audiobook Release Date: July 20, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Margaret Atwood’s popular dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale explores a broad range of issues relating to power, gender and religious politics. Multiple Golden Globe award-winner Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet, The Hours) gives a stirring performance of this classic in speculative fiction, one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time.

After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending this oppression.

I’m assuming since there is now a very popular TV series based on The Handmaid’s Tale that most people have at least heard of it and have a general idea of what it’s about. I haven’t had a chance to watch the show yet but it’s next on my list now that I am caught up on House of Cards.

The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a future where fertile women are forced to become handmaids whose sole purpose is to bear children for the upper class families because for some mysterious reason the upper class women are infertile. This book is told from the point of view of Offred, one of the handmaids. Offred means literally, “of Fred” because handmaids are property of the head of the household they serve and have no reason to use their birth names. If Offred moves from Fred’s house to another household, she will take the name of that new master.

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors but the last time I read The Handmaid’s Tale was several years ago so I wanted to refresh my memory before watching the TV show. This time I listened to the audiobook. Claire Danes reads it and does a fantastic job. She makes Atwood’s lyrical prose come alive.

Atwood’s ability to imagine and predict the future is amazing. The method that the government uses to take over the country and institute the horrible religious hierarchy that exists in the book would not have been possible in the 1980s when this book was written but is entirely possible today. How could she have known? It’s eerie.

Like I said, Atwood’s prose is beautiful and poetic. It’s so detailed that I felt like I was inside Offred’s head. I could feel her pain and desperation. It’s been said that we are headed more and more towards a world like the one in The Handmaid’s Tale. While I think we have a way to go before we get there (not that I want us to!), the subjugation of women and the regulation of their bodies by men resonates. However, just because this book is primarily about women, it’s not just for women. The Handmaid’s Tale is a marvelous work of speculative fiction (if you call it science fiction, Margaret Atwood will be annoyed with you) and a cautionary tale that everyone should read.

All of the other books I’ve read by Margaret Atwood were pre-blog and I don’t have reviews for them. Except for The Heart Goes Last, which is another dystopian novel that I highly recommend.

Audiobook Review: This Time Together: Laughter and Refection by Carol Burnett

This Time Together: Laughter and ReflectionThis Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett
Publisher: Random House Audio
Narrator: Carol Burnett
Release Date: April 6, 2010
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved and revered actresses and performers in America. The Carol Burnett Show was seen each week by millions of adoring fans and won twenty-five Emmys in its remarkable eleven-year run. Now, in This Time Together, Carol really lets her hair down and tells one funny or touching or memorable story after another.
 
In engaging anecdotes, Carol discusses her remarkable friendships with stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews; the background behind famous scenes, like the moment she swept down the stairs in her curtain-rod dress in the legendary “Went With the Wind” skit; and things that would happen only to Carol–the prank with Julie Andrews that went wrong in front of the First Lady; the famous Tarzan Yell that saved her during a mugging; and the time she faked a wooden leg to get served in a famous ice cream emporium.

This poignant look back allows us to cry with the actress during her sorrows, rejoice in her successes, and finally, always, to laugh.

Yes, it’s another celebrity memoir! I just can’t get enough.

Carol Burnett’s memoir spans her entire life, without going into too much detail on any one part. She sticks mainly to recounting facts, without too much emotion. For instance, she tells us that she and her first husband got divorced but doesn’t go into much detail as to why. One part that does get emotional is when she talks about her daughter’s death. I could hear her voice breaking as she tried to hold back her tears.

Carol narrates the book herself, which makes her humorous anecdotes even funnier. My favorite stories were the ones from The Carol Burnett Show, since that’s primarily what I know her from. I didn’t realize how ground breaking that show was in so many ways.

I’m not a Carol Burnett super-fan but I still enjoyed This Time Together very much. Listening to it on audiobook was like having a conversation with her. (Albeit, one-sided!) I recommend it for anyone who enjoys memoirs, fans or not.

 

Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Publisher: Ballentine Books
February 28, 2017
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Lilac Girls is the story of three women: Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick and Herta, Oberheuser. It’s one of those books where the women are all living separate lives but you know they will intersect at some point. It’s historical fiction set in the World War II era. Some of the characters are real people and some are not. Ravensbrück, the concentration camp and the medical experiments and other horrible things that went on there are based in fact. History is not my strong suit so I had never heard of the camp or the horrific experiments that were performed on the prisoners there.

Caroline lives a privileged life in the United States, Kasia lives in relative poverty in Poland and Herta lives in Germany, where she is studying to become a doctor. The three women are all affected by the war in different ways. I thought the author did a good job of not only developing their characters but also showing how the passing of years changed them.

Lilac Girls was my book club’s August selection. There was much to discuss. Some of the members of the book club were alive either during or shortly after WWII and were able to give their perspective about what was happening at that time. We also talked about the three women and their motivations. This book was a good choice that led to a lively discussion.

I swore off Holocaust books a while ago because they are just so depressing. However, Lilac Girls also has some happy things in it, like a love story for Caroline, which kept it from being overly dark.

Lilac Girls is a good work of historical fiction for anyone who is interested in the WWII era.

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