REVIEW: QUEEN MERYL, BY ERIN CARLSON

 

Meryl Streep is the most celebrated actress of our time. She’s a chameleon who disappears fully into each character she plays. She never tackles the same role twice. Instead, she leverages her rarified platform to channel a range of dynamic, complicated women–Joanna Kramer, Karen Silkwood, Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher, Katharine Graham–rather than limit herself to marginal roles for which other actresses must settle: Supportive Wife. Supportive Mother. Supportive Yet Utterly Disposable Love Interest. Streep will have none of that.

The once-awkward, frizzy-haired suburban teen blossomed into a rising ingénue on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama. She came of age during the women’s movement of the ’60s and ’70s, and has worn her activism on her sleeve even when it was unfashionable. When she reached 40, the age when many leading ladies fade away, Streep plunged forward, taking her pick of parts that interested her and winning a pile of awards along the way. Mean-while, she remained an unlikely box-office draw, her clout even managing to grow with age: The Devil Wears Prada, starring Streep as the Anna Wintour avatar Miranda Priestly, scored $326 million worldwide.

Journalist and author Erin Carlson documents all of Streep’s Oscars, accents, causes, memes, friendships, and feuds; also exploring the “off-brand” forays into action-adventure (The River Wild) and musicals (Mamma Mia!), and how Streep managed to sneak her feminism into each character. In the spirit of nontraditional bestsellers like Notorious RBG and The Tao of Bill Murray, Queen Meryl is illustrated by artist Justin Teodoro and filled with fascinating lists and side-bars, delivering joy in homage to its unique and brilliant subject.

My Thoughts: To describe Queen Meryl as an ode to an amazing actor and person would be an understatement. While there were some details of occasional movies or experiences that I might call slightly tedious, the overall experience of reading about Meryl Streep was something to truly enjoy.

To add to my delight were the drawings that accompanied each chapter.

My enjoyment of her movies, most of which I’ve seen, was enhanced by some personal touches, like how she starred with her toddler daughter Mamie in Heartburn, then her daughter as an adult in Evening, and finally in Ricki and the Flash. I may have missed a few appearances. Personal favorites also included the movie Silkwood and The Devil Wears Prada. Who can deny how Meryl immerses herself fully into her roles?

If you are a fan of the actor, or even some of her personal beliefs about the industry or life in general, you will probably enjoy this book which I give 5 stars.

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CURLING UP ON A HUMP DAY…

Today I’m participating in WWW Wednesdays, at Taking on a World of Words Here’s how it works:

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

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CURRENTLY READING:  Queen Meryl, by Erin Carlson

 

BOOKS FINISHED SINCE MY LAST POST:  OCTOBER 8, 2019

The Grammarians, by Cathleen Schine

 

The Nanny, by Gilly Macmillan

Inside Out, by Demi Moore

The Lying Room, by Nicci French

Lifelines, by Heidi Diehl (Amazon Vine Review)

Good Girl, Bad Girl, by Michael Robotham

 

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EAGERLY ANTICIPATING: (I just ordered this book, which should arrive tomorrow!)

Touched by the Sun:  My Friendship with Jackie, by Carly Simon

Synopsis:  A chance encounter at a summer party on Martha’s Vineyard blossomed into an improbable but enduring friendship. Carly Simon and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis made an unlikely pair―Carly, a free and artistic spirit still reeling from her recent divorce, searching for meaning, new love, and an anchor; and Jackie, one of the most celebrated, meticulous, unknowable women in American history. Nonetheless, over the next decade their lives merged in inextricable and complex ways, and they forged a connection deeper than either could ever have foreseen. The time they spent together―lingering lunches and creative collaborations, nights out on the town and movie dates―brought a welcome lightness and comfort to their days, but their conversations often veered into more profound territory as they helped each other navigate the shifting waters of life lived, publicly, in the wake of great love and great loss.

An intimate, vulnerable, and insightful portrait of the bond that grew between two iconic and starkly different American women, Carly Simon’s Touched by the Sun is a chronicle, in loving detail, of the late friendship she and Jackie shared. It is a meditation on the ways someone can unexpectedly enter our lives and change its course, as well as a celebration of kinship in all its many forms.

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That was my reading since my last post on October 8.  What has your reading been like?

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REVIEW: INSIDE OUT, BY DEMI MOORE

 

For decades, Demi Moore has been synonymous with celebrity. From iconic film roles to high-profile relationships, Moore has never been far from the spotlight―or the headlines.

Even as Demi was becoming the highest paid actress in Hollywood, however, she was always outrunning her past, just one step ahead of the doubts and insecurities that defined her childhood. Throughout her rise to fame and during some of the most pivotal moments of her life, Demi battled addiction, body image issues, and childhood trauma that would follow her for years―all while juggling a skyrocketing career and at times negative public perception. As her success grew, Demi found herself questioning if she belonged in Hollywood, if she was a good mother, a good actress―and, always, if she was simply good enough.

As much as her story is about adversity, it is also about tremendous resilience. In this deeply candid and reflective memoir, Demi pulls back the curtain and opens up about her career and personal life―laying bare her tumultuous relationship with her mother, her marriages, her struggles balancing stardom with raising a family, and her journey toward open heartedness. Inside Out is a story of survival, success, and surrender―a wrenchingly honest portrayal of one woman’s at once ordinary and iconic life.

My Thoughts: Demi’s tumultuous journey is one I’ve read about in occasional magazine pieces, so I enjoyed the opportunity to follow her story told in her own voice in this memoir, Inside Out.

I had already been aware that her childhood was fraught with abuse, abandonment, addictions, and the low self-esteem that explains a lot about some of her actions and her choices. Her in-depth exploration that led to her current feelings of peace and self-acceptance was insightful and truly rewarding.

Some believe that celebrity status offers its own rewards, but the glaring exposure that accompanies these so-called gifts can chip away at any feelings of bliss and comfort.

I enjoyed learning more about Demi’s family life and how she and Bruce Willis co-parent from small-town Hailey, Idaho, where their family compound offers a place to retreat. Her story spotlights her life with all its flaws and vulnerabilities, bringing everything out into the open, from the “inside out.” 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE NANNY, BY GILLY MACMILLAN

 

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

My Thoughts: Alternating narrators and flip-flops between the past and present take us on our journey in The Nanny. Just when we think we’ve figured out who to believe, or who is the most reliable narrator, one of them adds a twist to the stories they tell, offering another dimension. Soon we don’t know who, if anyone, to trust.

As we follow the paths exposed by each character, we learn more and more of their secrets. In the end, will the darkest secrets tell us who we can trust and who to avoid?

I enjoyed traipsing along with the characters, guessing about what we will learn next. By the time we turn the final pages, we will be stunned by how the tale concludes. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE TESTAMENTS, BY MARGARET ATWOOD

 

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

My Thoughts: As I began reading The Testaments, I was captivated immediately by the alternating voices: witnesses and a person who would soon become known to us as someone plotting the downfall of Gilead. A feat that would require great strength, wisdom, and cunning. I was rooting loudly as I read.

The young witnesses would soon make us aware of their connections to others we met in Gilead, back when we saw how a Handmaiden would help the Gilead destruction begin.

Would our double agent surprise us with her actions? Would we fear for what might happen to her if discovered? Or would we, like others, realize the extent of her involvement only when historic symposiums revealed much of what she had accomplished, many years later? A brilliant futuristic exploration that had me rapidly turning pages. 5 stars.

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GOODBYE TO SEPTEMBER…

 

September brought many hours of great reading, and although I didn’t read that many books, I loved them all.

Here are two favorites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Genres:

     Mystery/Suspense:  3

     Contemporary Fiction:  4

     Memoir:  2

 

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Here are the books I read.  Click the titles for my reviews.

 

SEPTEMBER 2019:

1.California Girls (e-book), by Susan Mallery – (464 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 9/4/19

2.Favorite Daughter, The (e-book), by Patti Callahan Henry – (354 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 9/14/19

3.Lady in the Lake (e-book), by Laura Lippman – (352 pages) – (murder mystery, noir) – 9/12/19

4.Last Widow, The (e-book), by Karin Slaughter – (434 pages) – (suspense thriller) – 9/8/19

5My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding (e-book),  by Wendy Wax – (367 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 9/2/19-

6.Nanaville, by Anna Quindlen – (162 pages) – (memoir) – 9/13/19

7.Seven Letters (e-book), by J. P. Monninger – (352 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 9/18/19 – (NG-10/8)

8.Stranger Inside, The (e-book), by Lisa Unger – (384 pages) – (mystery/suspense) – 9/28/19

9.Without a Doubt (e-book), by Marcia Clark – (512 pages) – (memoir) – 9/22/19

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN SEPTEMBER 2019:    9

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN SEPTEMBER: 3,381

BOOKS READ YTD:  88

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How did your month unfold?

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CURLING UP IN NOSTALGIC MOMENTS…

On a Sunday morning, I love visiting blogs, and sometimes I revisit my own.  After changing the look and even the themes of mine this week, I found myself searching through the archives.

Here’s something I found from almost ten years ago:  October 22, 2009.  I was feeling nostalgic, especially since I had recently moved from the place I was describing in the long-ago post.

 

This is the place where I hang out most of the time.  In this room, my computer reigns.

And nearby, a comfy sofa that even makes into a bed has pride of place.  I could LIVE in this room!

Of course, I do move around to other rooms, but in this one, you can expect the most from me.  This is where I will document my progress in this journey—a journey that I prefer to call a “creative” one.

“Curl up and Read” is my mantra.  It is the only way that I will make it through the huge stacks that dominate my bedroom, this room, and even my living room.

It is a delightful journey and my anticipation level is high.  Whenever I decide to do something, I’m learning that I have a higher success rate if I talk about it and/or blog about it.

Hence the creation of still another blog.

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At that time in my life, I had recently begun the blogging experiment.  April 2008 was my first blog, on the Blogger platform.  By 2009, I had discovered WordPress and launched into that adventure.

What has your blogging experience brought you over the years?

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REVIEW: THE STRANGER INSIDE, BY LISA UNGER

 

Even good people are drawn to do evil things … Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped an abduction while walking to a friend’s house. Her two best friends, Tess and Hank, were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape. Their abductor was sent to prison but years later was released. Then someone delivered real justice–and killed him in cold blood.

Now Rain is living the perfect suburban life, her dark childhood buried deep. She spends her days as a stay-at-home mom, having put aside her career as a hard-hitting journalist to care for her infant daughter. But when another brutal murderer who escaped justice is found dead, Rain is unexpectedly drawn into the case. Eerie similarities to the murder of her friends’ abductor force Rain to revisit memories she’s worked hard to leave behind. Is there a vigilante at work? Who is the next target? Why can’t Rain just let it go?

My Thoughts: Alternating narrators tell the story of The Stranger Inside. We follow Hank, Lara (Rain), and Tess, from their childhood moments and beyond the tragedy of their young lives.

Hank’s perspective is interesting, in that he seemingly speaks to “Lara” as he tells his story, a chronicle of his adult life as a therapist in conflict with the dark part he hides inside. We watch as Rain combines marriage and motherhood while reclaiming a part of her story and her trauma as she resumes her career as a journalist.

What is the connection between their horrific past and the sudden murders of perpetrators around them? Are they involved somehow? As the story draws to a conclusion, there are still unanswered questions, and we wonder if the darkness ever subsides. A page turner that earned 5 stars.

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REVAMPING MY PAGES…

 

Sometimes a blog needs a complete makeover.  Today I only planned to change the theme, the header, and make other superficial tweaks here.  When I saw the completed effect, I realized that this blog had sooo many pages that the whole look was top heavy.

I had pages of books from 2014 on (books purchased, read, reviewed), so I started chopping things up.  Yes, ruthlessly.

Now I am somewhat pleased.  I hope I didn’t delete anything important…but I do know that many reviews, etc., from the old years are on Goodreads.  

Check out the pages above my header…and tell me what you think.  Would you take steps so drastic?  Have you ever done so?

Here’s a quick peek at my new look here.

 

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What did your day look like?

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REVIEW: WITHOUT A DOUBT, BY MARCIA CLARK

 

Marcia Clark takes us inside her head and her heart. Her voice is raw, incisive, disarming, unmistakable. Her story is both sweeping and deeply personal. It is the story of a woman who, when caught up in an event that galvanized an entire country, rose to that occasion with singular integrity, drive, honesty and grace.

In a case that tore America apart, and that continues to haunt us as few events of history have, Marcia Clark emerged as the only true heroine, because she stood for justice, fought the good fight, and fought it well.

 

 

My Thoughts: I eagerly approached Without a Doubt, having seen portions of the trial and the miniseries based on the trial; I have also read Marcia Clark’s mystery fiction, so I already knew that I could connect to her voice.

Her account of the trial and its preparation was presented intelligently and with a touch of personal drama, which gave her story a special appeal to me. Even as I knew how it all turned out, I was eager to watch it unfold through her revelations of the long months leading up to the verdict.

I could feel how personally affected Clark was as the defense Dream Team twisted events, focused on their conspiracy theories, and played the race card over and over. The inability of Judge Lance Ito to take control of the defense attorneys added to the frustration I felt on behalf of the prosecution attorneys. Marcia Clark wrote: “We lost because American justice is distorted by race. We lost because American justice is corrupted by celebrity. Any lawyer willing to exploit those weaknesses can convince a jury predisposed to acquittal of just about anything.” In the OJ case, “a handful of expensive attorneys were allowed to manipulate the system by invoking the wholly irrelevant, yet provocative issue of racism.”

Time has revealed the error of those touting Simpson’s innocence in that his numerous poor choices afterwards have lent credence to the guilt many believed in. A compelling book that earned 5 stars for me.

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