Category Archives: Books

#AnneFrank-Parallel Stories Review

To some, the Holocaust is ancient history. In 2020, we have more pressing problems to occupy our time with. But the Holocaust was only 80 years ago, and the issues from that era are as prevalent now as they were then.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Stories is one of the newest releases on Netflix. With a voice-over by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells the story of Anne Frank while telling the stories of other women who are among the few to have survived. While Mirren reads from Anne’s diary, the audience follows a young woman as she travels across Europe, asking questions that frankly, need to be asked.

I’ve seen many Holocaust films over the years. What makes it different is that it hard-hitting, emotional, and squarely aimed at the younger viewers. If I have walked away from this movie with one message, it is that we have a chance to ensure that the Holocaust in any variation never happens again. That requires asking difficult questions and learning from the mistakes of our predecessors.

I recommend it.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Lives is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, History, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix

The Baby-Sitters Club Review

One of the things I have noticed that as I get older, certain childhood memories come back as if it was yesterday.

The Baby-Sitters Club premiered on Netflix last night. Based on the beloved books by Ann M. Martin, the series is updated to 2020 while remaining true it’s literary predecessor.

Bringing the main characters to the screen are Sophie Grace (Kristy Thomas), Momona Tamada (Claudia Kishi), Malia Baker (Mary Anne Spier), Shay Rudolph (Stacey McGill), Xochitl Gomez (Dawn Schafer), Vivian Watson (Mallory Pike), and Anais Lee (Jessi Ramsey).

I started watching initially for the nostalgia factor and was immediately sucked in. Though I was watching with adult eyes and adult experiences, my former thirteen year old self was watching it with me. It was still the BSC I knew and loved, but with a modern sensibility. I think what makes it feel like BSC with a 2020 twist was the casting. Choosing non-white actors for the roles of Mary Anne and Dawn was a brilliant decision. It was also a brilliant decision to cast Alicia Silverstone as Liz Thomas-Brewer, which made me feel very old.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Baby-Sitters Club is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Throwback Thursday-Harry Potter Film Series (2001-2011)

There is something about the magic of a favorite childhood book. No matter how old one gets or how complicated adulting becomes, these books will always stay with us.

The Harry Potter film series (2001-2011) is one of the few book to movie transitions that is both true to the source material and has the ability to stay with the audience.

The films follow the title character, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), an orphaned boy who discovers that he is a wizard. Over the course of ten years and eight films, Harry and his friends, Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), grow up, fall in love and fight against the dark forces of their world.

If there is one thing that stands out to me, it is that the narrative and characters feel human and normal against an extraordinary backdrop. Harry is an everyman type of character, giving readers and viewers an emotional hook to grab onto and stay with until the very end.

Do I recommend them? Yes.

P.S. I would love to just talk about the films, but I must address J.K. Rowling‘s morally disgusting remarks about Trans men and women. They are a stain on the legacy of the books/movies that inspired a generation of readers.

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Anne Frank, George Floyd and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells: Killed by Hate

I think it is pretty safe to say that in the nearly three weeks since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the world has changed. Across the globe, millions are making their voices heard. George Floyd was one man, but he has come to stand for those who have been killed by hate.

Yesterday would have been Anne Frank‘s 91st birthday. Her diary has been ready by millions of readers over the last 70ish years. Like George Floyd, she has become a symbol of a life cute short by hate.

Among the issues that have been brought to the forefront is that Americans of color who also identify as transgender are being killed at an alarming rate. On June 9th, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was murdered in Philadelphia. If this was not enough to make one’s blood boil, you know who has decided to roll back health protections for transgender Americans. Considering that it both Pride month and yesterday was also the 4th anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, this rollback feels particularly painful.

I keep thinking that if the world had collectively protested in the 1930’s as they do now, would the Holocaust have happened? How many might have survived? Unfortunately, this question can never be answered.

I wish that we lived in a world in which our rights were immediately given to us at birth. I wish that we were not categorized and then based on that category, denied or approved for where we may end up in life. But that is the world we live in. But until that day in which that happens, we must continue to stand up and fight for those rights.

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Filed under Books, History, National News, Politics

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl Book Review

If one were to ask readers who their favorite character is, I would suspect that Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice would rank near the top of the list.

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, edited by Christina Boyd, was released earlier this year. The fourth book in a series of five Jane Austen inspired anthologies, this edition contains a series of short stories inspired by Austen’s most famous heroine.

Like it’s predecessors, I loved this book. I could feel the presence of Austen’s voice and point of view as a writer, which in the world of fanfiction, is not always present. Balancing Austen’s original narrative and their vision of Elizabeth Bennet, the stories reminded me of why I continue to adore the novels of Jane Austen.

I absolutely recommend it.

P.S. The royalties from these anthologies go directly to Chawton House. I can’t think of a better way to give thanks to Jane Austen and to those who are keeping her legacy going.

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

Books That Speak to the African-American Experience

It has been said that we can never know how another person sees the world until we walk a mile in their shoes. But books have a way to providing that perspective.

As our country and our culture once more grapples with racial tension and the troubled history of our mutual past, books may be one of the keys to bringing us together.

The Yellow House by Sarah Broom

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Proud: My Fight For an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane

It may be simplistic to say that reading the books listed above or any book will help to solve our issues. However, I believe that by at least beginning to understand another’s perspective, the doors to communication, understanding, and diversity may truly start to open.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Jane Austen, National News, New York City, Politics, Pride and Prejudice

Same Hypocrite, Different Day: The Photo Op That Was Just That

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a Jane Austen super fan. If someone were to ask me to describe a character or a scene, I could do so with a reasonable amount of detail. The same could be said for anyone who has regularly the Bible, or any book that is the foundation of a religion.

While on the campaign trail back in 2016, you know was asked to refer to his favorite passage in the Christian Bible. As he often does when asked a direct question, he found a way to not answer the question.

Yesterday, in response the protests in front of the White House and around the country, he did not address the nation as any other President would. Sending police to clear the crowd, he took a walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church. The church has been a site of Presidential worship for over 200 years.

Instead of speaking of the multiple crises that the United States is experiencing in a meaningful manner, he picked up a Bible and used it as a prop. There was only one reason for this, a photo op and a message to his base.

He is not the first, nor will he be the last to invoke the name and image of G-d (in whatever form G-d takes) for questionable purposes. But given what this nation is going through, the last thing we need is a hypocritical President who says one thing, does another, and only prefers those who blindly support him.

America is at the moment of reckoning. This nation has two choices. We can vote for Joe Biden and move forward. Or, we can vote him in for another term and go down a rabbit hole that I don’t want to think about.

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Filed under Books, Jane Austen, National News, Politics

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Review

As much as we wish we could control where life takes us, we know that we can’t.

In the 2018 Netflix movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (based on the book of the same name), Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is an author in post World War II England. Intrigued by a letter she receives from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) a farmer on the island of Guernsey, Juliet visits the island with the intention of writing a book.

She discovers that Dawsey is part of a book club entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Included in this club is Amelia Maugery (Penelope Wilton) and Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay). Intrigued as to why and how Elizabeth disappeared, Juliet starts to investigate what happened during the German occupation of the island during the war. Along the way, Juliet discovers a new family and a new love that forces her to re-consider where she wants to go in life.

Award worthy, this film is not. That being said, it’s the type of movie one watches after a long week to relax. Though it helps that several of the main cast are Downton Abbey alum, it is does not do enough to overcome the film’s flaws.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, History, Movies, Netflix

Mrs. America Review

In theory, feminism is an easy concept to understand and an even easier cause to get involved in. But for any number of reasons, some women see feminism as the enemy.

The new series, Mrs. America premiered last month on Hulu. Set in the 1970’s, it follows the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It seems that ratification is on the horizon. Writer/activist Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Representatives Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and journalist Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) are four of the women who are the faces of the feminist movement. Their goal is to see the ERA enshrined as constitutional law. Standing in their way is Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), a conservative activist and lawyer who will move political h*ll and high water to prevent the ERA from being ratified.

I’ve seen eight of the nine released episodes and I am hooked. The main thing that strikes me is that the issues that these women were fighting for fifty years ago are the same issues we are fighting for now. If nothing else, this series reminds me how far we have come and how far we need to go before American women are truly equal.

It also humanizes the characters, especially the ones that are based on real women. We see them as giants and icons, not as human beings who were as fallible as anyone walking down the street. That humanization also stretches to the women who were against the ERA.

From the liberal perspective, it would be easy to label them as right wing nut jobs who are siding with the patriarchy. But in this series, they are portrayed as women who are scared. From the time they were born, they were told that the ideal life is to marry, have children and maintain a home. When the second wave of feminism began to affect the culture in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it felt like the rug was pulled out from beneath their feet. I absolutely do not agree with their political or cultural perspective. However, I understand the feeling of not knowing what to do when you are told that everything you know and love is wrong.

I absolutely recommend it. I would also not be surprised if this series did very well come award season.

The final episode of Mrs. America premieres Wednesday on Hulu.

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Thoughts On The Baby-Sitter Club Trailer

There is something about a favorite book from your childhood. No matter how old one gets or what adult circumstances you find yourself in, reading that book immediately takes you back.

For decades, The Baby-Sitters Club has been a beloved series of novels for multiple generations of women. Written by Ann M. Martin, the books told the stories of an enterprising group of young women who start a babysitting business.

In July, a reboot of the beloved series will make its debut on Netflix.

My former thirteen-year-old self is doing a happy dance. To this day, I can’t help but smile when I think about what these books meant to me at that stage. There was a character that was relatable to everyone. The stories were both universal for the age of the characters and for general life experiences that we all can understand to one degree or another.

Looking back, I can see how the books inspired its former readers. The stories were not just about boys and romance (as much as one can be at that age). They were about young women who were independent and determined to succeed while doing a service to their community.

To say that I am looking forward is an understatement.

P.S. Ask anyone who grew up in the ’90s and they will tell you that the phone in Claudia’s room was the epitome of cool. Kids today with their own cell phones know nothing of what it was like to wish for a phone like that.

P.P.S Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) is playing Kristy’s mother. If that does not make us ’90’s kids feel old, I don’t know what does.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, Netflix, Television, Thoughts On....