Monthly Archives: June 2021

Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope Book Review

Motherhood is one of the most profound and challenging experiences of a woman’s life. Wartime and the sheer will to survive forces a mother to make decisions that would otherwise not even be considered.

In 2015, Wendy Holden published Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope. The book tells the story of three Jewish women incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II. Not knowing the fate of their husbands or their families, Rachel, Anka, and Priska know that being pregnant is a death sentence. They do everything they can to survive, not knowing if they or their babies will not just live, but one day see the light of freedom.

I loved this book. In telling the story of these three women, Holden brings the cold and dangerous reality of this era of history. It is a reminder, in the most in your face way possible, how quickly hate and prejudice can descend into destruction and murder. I felt as if I was in these camps with these women, instead of reading about them generations after the Holocaust happened.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Alias Grace Review

The accusation of insanity can be vague. Depending on the circumstances, it can be used correctly or an easy excuse when a viable reason cannot be found.

The 2017 Netflix miniseries, Alias Grace is based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name. Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) is a young woman in 19th century Canada who has been found guilty of killing her employer, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin). After languishing in prison for fifteen years, she is being analyzed by Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) to determine if the verdict can be removed due to insanity.

First of all, I have a problem with the all too common use of the word “insanity”. We live in a world in which mental health is both real and diminished in importance compared to physical health. By doing so, it lessens the experiences of those who live with it every day.

That being said, I really enjoyed this series. It is never quite clear if Grace had a hand in Nancy’s murder. But like that ambiguousness, it kept me engaged and wanting to know if the truth would ever be revealed. It also spoke to the idea of class and who has certain rights and who doesn’t.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Alias Grace is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Mental Health, Netflix, TV Review

Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Movies We Love: Cult Classics, Underrated Gems, and Films So Bad They’re Good Book Review

Going to the movies is always an experiences. Regardless of whether we loved them, hated them, or somewhere in between, there is something fascinating about the conversation that comes from the sitting in a dark room and watching the flickering lights of the screen with strangers.

Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Movies We Love: Cult Classics, Underrated Gems, and Films So Bad They’re Good, was published back in 2019. Written by the editors of Rotten Tomatoes, the book delves in 101 films that according to the website are rotten. But what the critics said, the audience didn’t always agree with. Neither do the writers of this book, who also point out why some movies don’t initially do well at the box office, but somehow become cult classics.

This book is the perfect read for the film buff. It reminded me why fans and critics sometimes disagree. I loved that there is a down to earth feel to the writing, talking to reader instead of talking down to us.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Clueless Character Review: Cher Horowitz

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. If you watch enough high school movies, you might get the idea that the popular girls are all versions of Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The surprise comes when we realize that what we see on film does not always match reality.

In the movie, Clueless, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is a modern teenage version of Emma Woodhouse, the heroine of the Jane Austen novel Emma. Living in Beverly Hills with her widower father, Mel (Dan Hedaya), Cher has a good heart, but her head is not always in the right place. She buts heads with her stepbrother Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd) and spends most of her time with her best friend Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash). When new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) arrives at Cher’s school, she sees an opportunity to do some good in the world via a makeover and a potential match with Elton (Jeremy Sisto).

She will soon learn that what she sees, the rest of the world does not see. Elton would prefer to be with her than Tai. Tai is crushing on Travis (Breckin Meyer), who is equally into her. Christian, her new boyfriend (Justin Walker) is gay. The only relationship that works is out between her teacher Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Ms. Geist (Twink Caplan). Her pest of stepbrother is not only right about a few things, he is also the right boy for her.

To sum it up: Cher is an interesting character because unlike other similar characters, she is not a b*tch. She is may say and do things to hurt other people, but she does not do that on purpose. She just thinks she knows everything, when she clearly doesn’t. This makes her likable, even if she is completely frustrating to the audience and the people around her.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emma, Jane Austen

Flashback Friday: American Pie 2 (2001)

The difference between high school and college is night and day. Though we may not feel it right away, it is a transformation that will soon become obvious.

The 2001 film, American Pie 2, is the sequel to the 1999 film, American Pie. Jim (Jason Biggs) and crew have just finished their first year of college. Renting a beach house for the summer, they plan a end of summer party that will last forever in their memories. Along the way, shenanigans will ensue and a few lessons will be learned.

First of all, the fact that this film is twenty years old is mind-blowing. I feels like yesterday when I saw in the theater. This is The Empire Strikes Back of the franchise. It is raunchiest and funniest of the three original movies. It is also a love letter to that time in our lives when we are growing, but it is not felt until we can see it in hindsight.

My favorite scene, though it wouldn’t fly today if it was released, is the scene with the “lesbians“.

Warning: this clip has language and imagery that might be be a turnoff to some people.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Daughter of the Reich: A Novel Book Review

Our teenage years are the most confusing and exciting times of our lives. We are torn between the expectations of our families and the excitement of the newness of everything that occurs during that period.

Daughter of the Reich: A Novel, by Louise Fein, was published last year. In World War II era Germany, Hetty Heinrich, whose father is moving up in the ranks of the Nazi party, is everything a daughter was supposed to be. She is respectful of her parents and goes along with the new society that the regime has created. That all changes when she reunites with an old friend, Walter Keller. Walter is Jewish. Despite the risks to both of their lives (and their families by extension), they start to fall for one another. When it becomes clear that the danger is ramping up tenfold, Walter and Hetty have to make a decision about their future.

OMG. This is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It was such a visceral experience to see this world and this time in history through Hetty’s eyes. If nothing else, it was a reminder of how equally powerful love and hate can be. As I got further into the novel, it was not hard to see the parallels between the 1930’s and today.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Throwback Thursday: Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist (2016-Present)

The news does not stop when the traditional work week ends.

Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist premiered back in 2016 and has since become a regular part of the NBC schedule. A weekend offshoot of the long running talk show The Today Show, host Willie Geist walks the viewer through headlines of the day.

It is a pleasure to wake up to this show on Sunday morning. Geist has an every person quality to him, making it seem as if he is having a one on one conversation with the audience instead talking into a camera beaming into millions of televisions across the country.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Soulmate Equation Book Review

In theory, dating should be easy. You go out with a number of people until you find someone you are compatible with and let fate take it from there. But in practice, it is not as simple.

Christina Lauren‘s new book, The Soulmate Equation, was published last month. Jessica Davis has been through a lot in her nearly 30 years. Her father is a mystery and her mother abandoned her when she was a child. Raised by her grandparents, Jessica has a seven year old daughter whose father is absent from their lives. Earning her bread as a freelance statistician, she is doing everything she can to stay afloat. To say that dating is the last thing on her to do list an understatement.

When she hears about a dating service that uses DNA to match up their members, Jessica is intrigued. The tests determine that the man who is right for her is Dr. River Pena, the company’s founder. The problem is that River is a first rate asshole. When the company gives her a financial offer she can’t refuse, Jessica agrees to spend some time with him. When the fake relationship begins to turn into a real relationship, she has to re-consider how she sees herself and the people around her.

I loved this book. There is a Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy like dynamic to Jessica and River’s relationship. It could have been stale and predictable. While there are certain narrative beats that are expected, the story is dynamic and exciting. The chemistry between the lead characters is first rate. I don’t read romance novels too often, but this one is pretty good.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Rotten Tomatoes is Wrong (A Podcast from Rotten Tomatoes) Podcast Review

The good thing about the movies (or any art form), is that it is subjective. What one person likes, the other may not like. Which can lead to some very interesting discussions.

In the fall of 2020, the website Rotten Tomatoes released a new podcast. Entitled Rotten Tomatoes is Wrong (A Podcast from Rotten Tomatoes), hosts Mark Ellis, Jacqueline Coley, and guests take a deep dive into our favorite movies and television shows. Some are hated, some are loved, and others are somewhere in between.

I discovered this podcast recently and I am thrilled that it exists. I can hear the fun that the hosts and the guests are having. Its akin to getting together with friends and having a lively discussion about our favorite (and not so favorite) films and television shows.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Fatherhood Movie Review

When our children are born, we see nothing but possibilities and a bright future. But nothing, as we all know, is promised. Life gets in the way and forces us to face reality.

In the new Netflix movie, Fatherhood, Matt Logelin (Kevin Hart) has just become a father for the first time. He has also lost his wife the day after their daughter is born. Though his friends and his family are trying to be supportive of Matt, there is some concern that he will be able to parent his daughter alone. As time passes, he proves them wrong. Like any parent, he is juggling raising his child and working. There is also the potential of a new romance, making his complicated life that much more complicated.

Comedy wise, there is nothing special about this film. However, it feels emotionally authentic. Though I have not had the experience myself, I imagine that anyone who is raising or has raised children will connect with Matt and the challenges he goes through.

Do I recommend it?

I am leaning toward yes. It is also appropriate that it was released on Father’s Day weekend.

Fatherhood is available for streaming on Netflix.

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