Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

After Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate.  His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem.  As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new.  But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external.  Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws.

In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.

my thoughts:

Losing Touch is a quiet novel about the Kulkani family.  Originally from India, the family has emigrated to London and have settled into their new surroundings without much fuss.  Well, except for the children's wishes to sever ties with India - they want to fit in and embrace British culture.  Oh, and Arjun's wife, Sunila, who doesn't understand why women have to adhere to the husband's rules regarding money, housework, parenting, etc. - times are changing, women can manage their own monies and should be able to spend it on themselves (instead of giving all of their earnings to their husbands and getting in trouble if one pound is missing).  As for Arjun, he just wants his family to remember where they came from and to mind him when he tells them what to do.  Of course, life has other plans for Arjun and his family.

Told in two parts, each one focusing on a different time period (first part consists of the 1960s- 1970s and second part picks up in the 2000s), this story shows us the evolution of the Kulkani family as they grow up and apart in their new home country.   It is also the story of a man's battle with a disease that robs him of his body and speech.  Arjun's family has lost a few members to a degenerative neuro-muscular disease over the years and so he is aware that his recent symptoms are not a good omen.  As we learn more about the Kulkanis, we see Arjun's body slowly lose control, function, and mobility.  With each fall he takes, he is one step closer to being bedridden, but he ignores it.  Arjun does not want to deal with his medical issues immediately, because he is scared to.  So, instead he focuses on his family and what he considers to be their shortcomings.  Arjun's relationship with his wife and children never really shines with love or compassion, which makes for a rather sad read.  This family is disconnected from one another through misunderstandings, resentments, and past hurts.  Nothing really manages to bring them together, except for the fact that they are related to one another.  Frankly, I don't blame Arjun's family for keeping their distance.  He is a lousy father and husband who appears to be befuddled by his kin, instead of in love with them.  I have sympathy for his wife and children who seem to want their husband/father to just listen to them, to be there for them, to accept them, and to simply love them.  Losing Touch was a frustrating read at times and I did find myself skimming pages, but overall it was a good book.  I considered it to be an observational novel, instead of a (story)telling one - which is probably why I liked it more than I expected to. 

I would recommend Losing Touch to fans of novels about families, culture clashes, and the immigrant experience.   To find out what other bloggers have to say about this book, check out the  TLC Book Tours schedule for: Losing Touch
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage, and Poetry by Susan Levin

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

ART FROM DREAMS: MY JUNGIAN JOURNEY in COLLAGE, ASSEMBLAGE, and POETRY celebrates artistic expression as an exploration for self-awareness. Art-making and poetry reveal to ourselves and to others the images and feelings that arise within us in dreams. The very process of creation taps into the source of our inner wisdom.  The mediums of collage and assemblage illustrate that readers do not need to have any experience or expertise in art to use their images for personal insight.  Poetry itself can be accessible as a collage of named images put together in various forms to communicate to and from our innermost selves.

my thoughts:

I love poetry and art and anything creative that reflects someone's internal thoughts, emotions, opinions.  So, when I was offered the chance to review Susan Levin's book, Art from Dreams, I jumped at the chance.  How could I not?  A book filled with poems and images of the artwork that resulted from Levin's experience with a professional Jungian dream analyst and her dreams.  I found myself utterly captivated by it all.  The idea of how much our dreams can influence and inspire our creativity is fascinating.  And just from looking through Levin's book, I can see that she was deeply compelled to explore and examine her dreams.  She was able to reflect her subconscious through images and words in such an artistically authentic manner.  The items she chose to put in her assemblages do not merely represent themselves, but they also become a part of her narrative and take on a new identity.  I loved this idea of re-purposing in her art. 

I love the images we get from Levin and can see them running through her mind during her nighttime slumbers - they are so clearly reflected in these beautiful, thought-provoking pieces.  From one piece to the next, you are able to get a peek into Levin's personal world (past, present, and future).  As for the poetry that accompanies the artwork in the first part of the book, they were written after each piece had been created.  I'm in love with these two poems:


Instincts can malfunction
Become defective, deficient, half-baked
There should be a recipe for Motherhood
Exact measurements
The precise amount of ingredient
Or else sweets for no one

Picasso Dream       

Dreamt Picasso said:
keep trying different things
Life itself is art

Art from Dreams by Susan Levin is definitely a book that I will happily peruse time and time again.  I love the idea that each time I open the book, I will be discovering something new inside - the meanings will change over time for me and I love that about art and poetry.  This is one book that I would happily recommend to fans of poetry, art, and books about dreams.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Films for Paris in July...

Paris in July is in high gear and I've really been enjoying reading everyone's posts about French cuisine, Bastille Day, Paris in summer, French perfume, and literature set in France.  So many wonderful photos and subjects to get lost in - I am absolutely loving it.  As for me, I've been so busy reading non-Paris books that I haven't really had a chance to participate as much as I had planned.  All I've really done lately is listen to my French music CDs whilst I drive, write, and cook.  Realizing that I needed to kick it up a notch, I decided to watch some movies and get lost in Paris visually.  What films did I choose? 2 Days in New York, Sabrina, and Midnight in Paris.  Yes, I've seen them all before, but honestly its been so long, that I'd forgotten so many things that happen in each one, that I felt like I was watching it for the first time again.  Anyhow, I just wanted to share a few quick thoughts about each film.  Here goes:

I know the title has you wondering why I watched this film in reference to Paris in July, but I do have my reasons.  Firstly, it is a film by Julie Delpy - the French actress, writer, director (see, that counts)Secondly, it is the sequel to her 2007 film, 2 Days in Paris (which I absolutely love!), which meant that it would be chock full of French actors from the first film (and it was).  And, thirdly, I just wanted to watch it.  Okay, so what is it about?  Well, its about a French woman named Marion (Julie Delpy) and her boyfriend, Mingus (played by Chris Rock).  They live a cozy life in NYC with their children (she has a son and he has a daughter) and everything is moving along swimmingly, until Marion's family decides to come visit.  Her father, sister, and sister's boyfriend (which happens to be Marion's ex, Manu) take over the apartment and overwhelm Mingus with their fire rapid French, overt sexuality, drug deals, and cultural miscommunications.  Its truly a treat to watch. The dialogue is smart and funny, the acting is spot on, and the story itself is relatable, because who doesn't have family members that drive you crazy at times?

According to Sabrina Fairchild, "Paris is always a good idea.", and I think she is right.  After watching this movie and seeing how much she grew and changed in Paris - who wouldn't want to travel to the City of Light?  Sabrina is about a young woman who is madly in love with a man named David Larrabee.  She grew up watching David from afar (well, perched on a tree actually).  Her father is the Larrabee family's chauffeur, so Sabrina has known David all his life.  However, David is a playboy and has never taken notice of Sabrina.  All of that changes after she returns from an internship in Paris.  Sabrina comes back more grown up and self-assured, thereby finally catching David's attention.  He is smitten, but nothing manages to work out right between the two, thanks to Linus (David's older brother).   Suffice it to say, love does blossom for Sabrina in the end.  And Paris is there waiting for her.  I love this film.  I love watching Sabrina grow into herself  in Paris. I love looking at Paris through her eyes.  And, I especially love how sentimentally attached she has become to a city that awakened her - a city that really seemed to affect her in so many positive ways. 

A movie about a writer obsessed with 1920s Paris is one thing,  but throw in time travel and I'm hooked.  Gil Pender and his fiancee are in Paris with her her parents.  He's trying to work on his novel about a nostalgia shop, while she is seeing the sights with friends.  By chance, Gil discovers that at the stroke of midnight he is able to hop in a taxi and visit with his literary heroes (Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald) in the 1920s.  He is flush with excitement at the prospect of talking to the men and women who have created some of the world's greatest literature and art.  Plus, he winds up meeting a woman and becoming rather besotted with her.  Gil is living his dream during these nightly jaunts, however during the day, he's starting to realize what a nightmare his fiancee really is.  The more time he spends in the 1920s, the more Gil begins to realize he wants to live in Paris, without a fiancee.  Through Gil's eyes we get to see a beautiful, rainy Paris that is filled with love, adventure, and dreams.  Midnight in Paris is a wonderful film filled with witty dialogue, terrific acting, and amazing cinematography.  I absolutely fell in love with this film all over again.  
And there you have it, my three films for Paris in July.  I actually plan on watching Le Divorce again, too.  I just find that movie to be funny and a little ridiculous, which is why I love it.  Plus, it has Birkin bags, a crime of passion, and Paris.  Anyhow, I'm off to do some reading.  Bonjour!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just finished reading...

Ann Patchett has made me fall in love with her words, her writing, and her storytelling all over again.  This woman is a writer to be reckoned with.  She has the ability to captivate, inspire, and motivate her reader.  I'm serious.  Her books are that fucking good.  They not only entertain you, but they evoke so many questions that you can't stop thinking about what you've just read.  I absolutely love the experience of reading an Ann Patchett book, because I know that means that I will be embarking on a damn good story filled with excellent writing that will knock my socks off.  Which is why I was eager to gobble up her memoir, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

In this book, Patchett details the twenty year friendship she shared with the poet/author, Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face).  We get the nitty gritty inside look at a highly dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship that was mired in manipulation, love, devotion, and neediness.  Patchett does not hold back.  She's brutally honest about the roles each woman played within the friendship - Ann was the ant, whilst Lucy was the grasshopper (you know the story, where the ant worked all summer storing up food for the winter, whilst the grasshopper didn't and wound up asking the ant for help when the weather turned cold.)  Of course, its never quite clear why Ann took the role of ant so dutifully - perhaps, she felt someone had to in Lucy's life?  I don't know, but I certainly couldn't understand why Ann and Lucy were ever friends to begin with. 

Throughout the book, we learn more and more about this very one-sided friendship that is filled with too many ups and downs to even count.  Over and over, you see Ann playing second fiddle to the Lucy Grealy show.  I couldn't help but get exasperated and annoyed by both Ann and Lucy.  Of course, this book is from Ann's perspective, so I do wonder how skewed the story truly is.  Although, Ann does pepper the writing with letters written to her from Lucy, that show a woman who was filled with deeply emotional issues and who was beyond needy (which goes to show that Ann's portrayal of Lucy appears to be accurate).  The letters also show us an intelligent woman who loved the written word, but whose life was consumed by surgery and pain (as a child she was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw and had to endure nearly forty surgeries in her short lifetime - she died at the age of 39).  Lucy Grealy was definitely one of a kind.

Ann's love for Lucy never faltered, though her feelings about their friendship may have at times.  How could it not, when Ann's role seemed to consist of the following: encouraging her to write; telling her she was beautiful and that she loved her best (Lucy would curl up on her lap in front of other friends and ask Ann point-blank if she loved her best); listening to her ramble on and on and on about sex and whether or not she would ever have it again (even if she had just finished having sex); giving her money;bathing her and taking care of her after surgery; and just doing everything and anything to make Lucy happy.  Ann was the epitome of the devoted friend, but what about Lucy?  What did she do for Ann?  What did her friendship provide?  In what ways was she there for Ann?   I'm struggling to figure that out.  Friendships are about being there for one another through thick and thin (which Ann most definitely was for Lucy).  I didn't see Lucy being there for Ann at all.  Of course every friendship is different and subjective to what the friends make it out to be - so maybe Ann got what she wanted from Lucy ( a friend who tested/challenged her in so many different ways ).   I did look up what people thought of this book though and its rather interesting.  Many people  think of Truth & Beauty as a terrifically well written memoir about two writers and their tragic friendship (Lucy died of a drug overdose).  Others think that Ann painted Lucy in a poor light and only used their friendship as a means for writing material.  And then there are those who found this book to be a testament to Lucy Grealy.  The more I think about it, I'm not sure what to make of the story.  I know that Ann loved Lucy dearly.  And, I'm positive that Lucy did love Ann in her own way. I feel like this story was Ann's way of dealing with the loss of her best friend and sharing with the world the Lucy she knew (the good and bad).

I'm still mulling over this book, days later after I've put it down.  I can't help it.  Ann's writing has floored me once again.  Plus, this crazy/love friendship of hers' has me thinking about some of my own relationships.  Especially the ones from college and grad school, because they seem to mirror so many aspects of Lucy and Ann's complicated and tumultuous relationship (freaky!).  I'm starting to wonder when I became the ant and didn't know it.  Of course, none of my friendships were as heartrending as Ann and Lucy's, but they had their moments.  I'm thinking of how we seemed to live in each others' pockets at that time and thrived in that closeness.  We shared secrets, desires, loves, fears, ideas, opinions, goals with one another as easily as we shared our food, couches, beds, cars, books, cds, and clothes.  Our lives were inseparable. We were in deep and that meant betrayals were forgiven, but not easily forgotten.  Like Ann and Lucy, we had our silly moments of dancing around in our apartments on a weeknight when we should be studying, talking about boys over cigarettes and tequila, and planning our futures of living in Paris/NYC/London.  And then there are the times when we argued on Giant's Causeway over a miscommunication, dated an ex we shouldn't have, spilled food on THE shirt, got tired of being in charge of everything in Italy, and had a huge blow up fight in the middle of Walmart.  Friends argue, get jealous, hurt one another - it happens.  Too much quality time can become problematic, especially as we get older.  And sometimes, friends outgrow one another.  So, while I can see how some of my past friendships were a bit dysfunctional, I am happy that none were as unhealthy as Ann and Lucy's.   My friends would not monopolize my night at my own celebratory dinner by grabbing me every other minute to ask me if I love them best.  Nor would they tell me that I'm only their friend because I relish the role of dutiful caretaker.  Its just seems crazy to me how much of Lucy's bullshit Ann put up with.  But then I think about how much we let someone we love hurt us and can sort of understand why Ann made so many allowances for Lucy.  We've all had our fair share of dysfunctional relationships.

Anyhow, I think I've rambled on long enough about this fantastic piece of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty.  Its certainly a must-read for fans of Ann Patchett and anyone interested in books about friendship.  Let me know what you think of it - I'm curious to see how you view Ann and Lucy's friendship.  And now, I'm off to read Landline by Rainbow Rowell.  Happy reading!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Don't Try To Find Me: A Novel by Holly Brown

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Don’t try to find me.
Though the message on the kitchen whiteboard is in fourteen-year-old Marley’s handwriting, her mother, Rachel, knows there has to be some other explanation. Marley would never run away.

I’ll be okay.
Marley’s quiet. Innocent. Sheltered. Growing up in Northern California with all the privilege Rachel never had, what does Marley know about taking care of herself? About being okay?
Rachel might not know her daughter at all. But she does know that she needs to find Marley before someone else does. Someone dangerous.

I’ll be better.
The police have limited resources devoted to runaways. If Rachel and her husband, Paul, want their daughter back, they’ll have to find her themselves. Paul turns to Facebook and Twitter and launches FindMarley.com.  But Marley isn’t the only one with something to hide. Paul’s social media campaign generates national attention, and the public scrutiny could expose Rachel’s darkest secrets. When she blows a television interview, the dirty speculation begins.

I love you.
The blogosphere is convinced Rachel is hiding something. It’s not what they think; Rachel would never hurt Marley. Not intentionally, anyway. But when it’s discovered that Rachel lied to the police, the devoted mother becomes the prime suspect in Marley’s disappearance.
Is Marley out there, somewhere, watching it all happen . . . or is the truth something far worse?

my thoughts:

A chilling thriller that makes for an intense and entertaining read.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, it wasn't.  Or, at least I didn't think so.  Don't Try To Find Me by Holly Brown was just not what I expected.  I thought I would start reading this book and never stop - I imagined an unputdownable read that would have me biting my nails in suspense.  Instead I got a story that just disappointed.  I found the characters to be unlikeable to the point that I honestly didn't care what happened to them or what secrets they were hiding.  I just could not get into the writing of the book (and it has nothing to do with the alternating chapters - I love that in books) and found myself skimming pages early on, which is a sign that I am not going to finish the book.  And, I didn't finish it.  I just found myself mystified by the characters' behaviors and actions within the story and couldn't engage with them at all.  This book was just not for me.

Of course, I've read plenty of positively glowing reviews about this story - heck, they even compare it to Gone Girl (of course, I hated that book, so that should have been a sign that this story wasn't for me).  So, who knows, maybe this book will be your favorite summer read.  Check out what other bloggers thought about Holly Brown's, Don't Try To Find Me.  Here's the TLC Book Tours schedule for: Don't Try To Find Me
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!