After I Do: A Novel Book Review

When we say ‘I do”, the hope is that this will be the one and only time we walk down the aisle. But that is not always the case.

After I Do: A Novel, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, was published in 2014. Lauren met her husband, Ryan, in college. After 11 years together and six years of marriage, their relationship is falling apart. The only solution is to separate for a year. Nothing is off limits, except for contacting one another.

Though her friends and family are being supportive, this is a path that Lauren has to walk by herself. Along the way, she starts to question her ideas about marital life and if it is worth it to try again with Ryan.

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This book is amazing. I felt everything that Lauren was going through. Despite everything, she still loved her husband. It was just a matter of working through the kinks and hoping that there would be some sort of reconciliation between them.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

After I Do: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.


Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Movie Review

Puberty is one of the many aspects of the natural life cycle of a human being. Without it, we cannot grow from child to young adult and then to full adult. That does not mean, however, that the process is not challenging.

The new movie, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. is based on the classic and forever universal book of the same name by Judy Blume. In the early 1970’s Margaret Simon (a fantastic Abby Ryder Fortson) has just ended another season of summer camp. When she gets home, she gets news that no kid wants to hear: her family is moving from New York City to suburban New Jersey.

Though she makes friends easily, Margaret misses her grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). As the school year progresses, puberty sets in, creating a set of questions that do not have black-and-white answers. What Margaret wants most of all is to start menstruating. Raised without religion by her Jewish father Herb (Benny Safdie) and Christian mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams), she starts talking to the almighty and exploring faith in its various incarnations.

Her mother is also going through a learning phase of her own. After giving up her job, Barbara fills her days with trying to put their new house together and joining the local PTA. But the artist in her is not content to put aside her painting for good.

This film is amazing. It was the perfect reminder of that time in life. The narrative is gentle, organic, and respectful of Margaret’s journey. Instead of being pigeonholed into a certain type of character, our protagonist is human and full of the contradictions that come with the pre-teen years.

I can’t end this review without remarking on the fact that this novel has been a target of the book-banning crowd for decades. What makes this book “ban-worthy” is that its lead character is given room to grow beyond what is still sadly expected for girls. It’s not just about boys and future romantic relationships. It’s about figuring out who you are as a person.

What I think also riles them up is that Margaret is not just the child of an interreligious marriage. It’s that religious faith of any kind is not part of how she is being raised. While praying to a specific creator for many is important, this decision by Blume is a reminder that not everyone believes the same way.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is currently in theaters. In fact, I would not be surprised if it is included in any top ten lists at the end of the year.

Peter Pan & Wendy Review

Peter Pan is one of those stories that are forever part of our collective childhoods. The story of the boy who never grew up forever lives in our hearts as a fantasy and perhaps for some, wishful thinking.

The newest adaptation of J.M. Barrie‘s classic tale was released on April 28th on DisneyPlus. Entitled Peter Pan & Wendy, the narrative is much more inclusive than previous adaptations.

Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson) is growing up. Come tomorrow morning, she will be leaving for boarding school. Wendy would prefer to stay at home. That all changes when Peter Pan and Tinkerbell (Alexander Molony and Yara Shahidi) fly through the bedroom window. Following their new friends to Neverland, Wendy and her brothers experience what was only available via bedtime stories.

Along the way, they meet Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatâhk), the Lost Boys (who are not all boys), and of Captain Hook (Jude Law). Hook will do anything to kill Peter once and for all.

There are both good and bad in this film. I appreciated and enjoyed the effort that the creative team made to move to expand this world and its characters. I liked that there was a backstory between Peter and Hook that explained their long-standing rivalry. I also liked that Wendy and Tinkerbell did not fight over Peter (as they had in previous iterations) and the gender and color expansion of the Lost Boys.

What fell short was the explanation as to why Peter and Hook were constantly fighting with one another. It could have been a bit deeper and came off as a little too shallow for me.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Peter Pan & Wendy is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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My Last Innocent Year: A Novel Book Review

The last year of college is developmentally speaking, an important one. It is the emotional and psychological bridge between young adulthood and full adulthood.

My Last Innocent Year: A Novel, by Daisy Alpert Florin, was published in February. In 1998, Isabel Rosen is months away from college graduation. Attending a formerly WASP-only university in New Hampshire, she is one of a handful of Jewish students on campus. The daughter of an appetizing store owner from New York City‘s Lower East Side, she feels like an outsider.

In the shadow of the affair between Monica Lewinsky and then President Bill Clinton, she starts sleeping with her writing Professor. He is older, married, and makes her feel seen and attractive. As the school year wears on, their “relationship” forces Isabel to start answering difficult questions. As his secrets come to light and the older generation reveals their flaws, she discovers that life is far from black and white.

I loved this book. This coming-of-age tale is full of complications, narrative twists and turns, and a protagonist I immediately connected with. Isabel is intelligent, hopeful, slightly insecure, and unaware of the potholes that life will be shortly sending her way.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also argue that it is one of my favorite books that I have read so far this year.

My Last Innocent Year: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s Book Review

One of the hardest things any of us can do is watch a loved one slowly die from an illness that cannot be stopped.

My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s, by Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, was published earlier this month. This memoir is his story of losing his father to Alzheimer’s and the experience of a son whose relationship with his parent is turned upside down by the illness. Making it worse is that his profession does not prevent or prepare him for the difficult years and decisions that have to be made.

I can relate to what Dr. Jauhar went through. Unlike other diseases, there isn’t a pill, a shot, or a procedure to return the patient’s brain to what it was before the diagnosis. The only thing we as family members can do is be patient and try to remember that this person we love is being affected by a malady beyond our control.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s is available wherever books are sold.

Thoughts On the Firing of Tucker Carlson & Don Lemon

It sucks to be fired. I know the experience all too well. The stress, the uncertainty, and the emotional turmoil create havoc that is destructive on multiple levels.

Earlier today, two major faces names in the news media lost their jobs: Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon.

Though the reason for Carlson losing his job has not been announced, connecting the dots to the Dominion settlement last week is a straightforward matter.

Lemon is on the unemployment line due to remarks he made about female subjects and colleagues.

Lemon should have known better. An errant comment here or there is bound to occur. It’s still wrong, but mistakes can and do occur. But the fact that he continually acted in this manner was justification for the firing.

As for Carlson, I know I shouldn’t rejoice that he is out of a job, but I am. This man knew what he was doing. Like his colleagues, he prioritized ratings and profit over the continuation of everything this country holds dear.

Losing your job is horrible. But it happens. Such is life.

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Tiny Beautiful Things Mini-Series Review

There are times in life when everything spirals out of control. As much as we try to control or stop the spiral, the only thing we can do is wait for it to stop.

The new Hulu mini-series, Tiny Beautiful Things, is based on the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Clare Pierce’s (Kathryn Hahn) life is nothing short of a dumpster fire. Her relationship with her husband, Danny (Quentin Plair) has fallen apart. Her teenage daughter Rae (Tanzyn Crawford) hates her. As she tries and fails to put the pieces back together, Clare starts writing an advice column. She is also dealing with the still lingering loss of her mother Frankie (Merritt Wever) to cancer decades ago.

I loved the series. Hahn blew me away. Her emotional chaos was a whirlwind in the best way possible. I was drawn in immediately and taken on a journey that proves that we can heal, even when the darkness seems to swallow us whole.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Tiny Beautiful Things is currently streaming on Hulu.

Flashback Friday: Get a Job (2016)

One of the great challenges of life (at least from my experience) was getting that first job after graduating college. The second greatest challenge is finding a new job after getting fired and having to start over in a new position.

In the 2016 film, Get a Job, Will (Miles Teller) and Jillian (Anna Kendrick) are brand-new college graduates. While trying to maintain their relationship, they are navigating the working world for the first time and dealing with its pitfalls. While this is happening, Will’s middle-aged father Roger (Bryan Cranston) has recently lost his own job. Due to his age and years of experience, his search for new employment is just as difficult.

Though the reviewers disliked the film, I did. It speaks to (at least in my mind), the drive that it requires to get a job in an environment that is not kind to those who are not employed and are seeking a new position.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday: Ladies in Black (2018)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only way to grow is to step out of the box that is your comfort zone.

The 2018 film, Ladies in Black (based on the book The Women in Black by the late Madeleine St. John) is set in Sydney in 1959. It follows four women who are employed by a department store. Among them is the cultured Magda (Julia Ormond) an immigrant from Slovenia and Lisa (Angourie Rice), a teenage girl who wants to spread her wings.

I really liked the four female leads. Instead of being limited to the standard narrative of love, marriage, and motherhood, they are fully drawn as full human beings. I also liked the immigrant narrative and the fear of immigration. Though it is set decades ago, the themes and narratives are true today as they were then.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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