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review 2019-02-22 08:20
A decade after a friend’s suicide, memories and the past are dissected to get to the truth behind ‘The Lost Night’
The Lost Night - Andrea Bartz

When Lindsay lost her best friend Edie to suicide in 2009, she was amidst a haze of partying, hanging out in a hipster community in Brooklyn, living it up with drugs, alcohol, and forgotten nights. A decade later brings a reunion with an old friend from that whiskey-and-Molly-soaked era, Sarah, and memories and questions about their friend’s death surface.

Lindsay begins a fully-fledged investigation into her own past as well as of many friends who shared those wild days and wilder nights. Delving into the past by muddling through barriers to obsolete technology, getting access to police case files, and often awkwardly questioning people she’d soon forget, Lindsay becomes completely obsessed with Edie’s death and the night she can’t remember. Her memories play tricks on her and some have vanished; a testament to how many years were wasted in what seemed like the ‘best of times’ when they were happening. Her research become all-absorbing, intense and obsessive.

 

This novel explores more than just a death that left countless questions behind and friends and family grieving. It explores the complexities of memory, the psyche, the fragile frivolous relationships that are borne out of a life fueled by chemicals. The excellent writing by Andrea Bartz pulls you along Lindsay’s painful trail through the past, unraveling a mystery that proves to be as compulsive and gripping as it is disturbing and twisted. Bartz writes every word with absolute intent, creating a different atmosphere and tonality with each situation that arises and with other key players’ perspectives.

 

It even brought up emotions in me that were often difficult to juggle while reading, as I recalled questions I still have surrounding a sudden death of someone close to me, as well as the discomfort of my own fair share of stupid drunken nights in my twenties.

It highlights the recklessness and stupidity of the kinds of choices made when you’re young and you feel like you have the whole world at your feet. And this blast from the past, the window into New York at that time, even though it’s just a microcosm, comes across as both vivid and surreal at the same time.

 

This is the perfect read for anyone who loves a good psychological thriller or mystery that pokes around in the recesses of the mind, while questioning the past. The past behaviors and self-absorbed nature of the characters may be jarring to some people, but I found it to be eye-opening and thus made for riveting reading. Getting to the truth and having Lindsay get some closure to her friend’s death had me hooked entirely.

One of my fastest reads in weeks, this was an all-absorbing and exciting read; thank you to Crown Publishing for sending me this advance reader’s copy.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/35955191-the-lost-night
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review 2019-02-16 19:56
Great pictures, some amusing and some dark stories
Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex Scandals. (Images of the Past) - Nigel Blundell

Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read and reviewed a book in the same series ‘Images of the Past’, called The British Seaside, and I enjoyed the combination of the wonderful images and the informative and humorous text, fairly light on reading but high on entertainment value. In this case, the same is true, even with the serious subject and the unavoidable reflections on how times don’t seem to have changed so much, although know we get to hear about many of the details that in the past would have remained hidden from the general public.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of cinema, and Hollywood, from its beginnings to now, although times have changed somewhat, and tinsel town is not what used to be (if it ever was). I have watched documentaries and read magazines about the industry, particularly about the era of the big studios, when everything seemed more glamourous and shiny than our everyday lives.

This book looks, mostly at past scandals, from the early history of Hollywood to some more recent ones, but does not include the XXI century, and although some of us, who grew up watching reruns of classics, will remember many of these stars (and some have become icons, like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe), to the youngest generation most of them will sound like ancient history. Only Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and the TV preachers are still alive, and although their controversy remains alive, it seems to have been dwarfed by most recent scandals.

This is not an in-depth study of any of the cases, but rather a quick survey with a few details of the biographies and circumstances of some of the stars, whose lives became as well-known and exposed to the public attention as that of their characters. Despite that, although I thought I was familiar with the majority of the actors and actresses the book talks about, I discovered I didn’t know many of the details, perhaps because they were not discussed at the time or have been revealed later, and many of the pictures where totally new to me (and I thoroughly enjoyed them, especially those showing the stars when they were young). I am sure, though, that experts or true fans of these actors and actresses will not learn anything new, but I enjoyed the combination of text and pictures (and I particularly relished the introduction, which offers interesting insights into the effects of some of these scandals, like the Hays Code, that went beyond the content of the movies and affected the personal lives of the stars as well), that makes it ideal as a present for people of a certain age who enjoy celebrity magazines of the time, and also for the younger generation who might not have been exposed to these stories and the old-fashioned notion of celebrity and stardom.

It is impossible to read this book without comparing many of these scandals to some of the recent ones. The big studios spent a lot of money on lawyers, on keeping the press at bay, and of course, power has always talked. Thankfully, some of the things that were considered normal practice at the time have now become unacceptable and are the subject of legal procedures. 

To give you a better idea of the content, there are fourteen chapters, each focused on one of these stars: Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Jean Harlow, Errol Flynn, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Elvis Presley, Roman Polanski, Joan Crawford, Rock Hudson, Jim Bakker & Jimmy Swaggart, and Woody Allen.

I thought I’d share a couple of the quotes I’ve highlighted, so you get some idea of what to expect. Here, referring to James Dean:

“The star of East of Eden and Rebel without a Cause was bisexual and had affairs with actresses Pier Angeli and Ursula Andrews but when asked if he was gay his reply was: “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back!” (Blundell, 2018, p. 8).

In the chapter about the TV preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart (a fascinating phenomenon that seems pretty unique to the USA), it explains that Swaggart confessed and apologised to his congregation and the viewers of his TV channel the first time he was caught with a prostitute. But the second time, he truly spoke his mind:

“This time, rather confessing to his congregation, Swaggart brazened it out with the rebuff: ‘The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business’ (Blundell, 2018, 143).

In sum, this is a fun book for people who love anecdotes and to peep into the lives of the Hollywood famous, especially those from the era of the Hollywood big studios. If you want a brazen and amusing book, with its dark moments and plenty of pictures to get the conversation going, or are looking for a present for somebody who loves movie memorabilia, I recommend it.

Blundell, N. (2018). Images of the Past. Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex Scandals. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword.

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review 2019-02-15 17:37
About A Boy and A Girl And How Thin The Plot Is...
All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven

We have read this before in the newspapers. We heard it from other people. Its a subject of taboo that we do not want to talk about... suicide. There are many reasons that leads to such a choice and its commonly known and read how suicides among teens do happened, of their own private reasons. I had read one such book before reading All the Bright Places, which to me... I wonder then when I first bought it few years back many readers gave good ratings. Of course, not every one gave it that high... and I am one of them.

 

I had issues with this book from the beginning. I had a few more some where in the middle. It was not until I am reading towards the end, I realize this is a story not about Theodore Finch - its about Violet Markey and how they met that one change another's life forever. How Violet copes with lost, and how Finch manage to help her with it. Still, there is some thing I did not like from the beginning. It was superficial, it wasn't realistic and it tries hard to make a realization of the main theme. I had mixed feelings as I read and towards the middle, I never care about the characters any more. I just do not know what I should really care about as I go along. It was until the 3rd act that I had guessed where its headed and how this heading feels... too thin. Every thing is just surface. There's nothing deeper to it and that gave me a reason to push forward to end my reading quick.

 

I can't say its horrible at all, as its not really that bad too. On the one hand, its pretty much straight path. Although trying to keep me guessing (even for other readers), the closure for this was bittersweet. What spoils it was the beginning and middle. I do understand what Jennifer Niven is pointing out and on her notes, its through her experience. Still, it suffers a lot in some ways I just felt what's holding my reading was if I bother to finish it and I did.

 

Overall - I felt a 3.5 out of 5 is a given. It would have been better if the characters are explored and the reasons are properly executed or laid out. What suffers it is what I said from above.

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review 2018-12-21 00:50
Sass with a side of sober contemplation
Calypso - David Sedaris

Quick note from me: Eagle-eyed readers of the blog will notice that I said I would be covering The Bear and the Nightingale today but actually I'm going to be reviewing Calypso by David Sedaris. I was working off of my memory instead of my notes and that's how that little boo-boo occurred. At any rate, today's book is a real treat! Calypso is an example of dark humor at its best. It's organized into short stories that cover the complete gamut of familial drama coupled with the woes of middle age. Sedaris divides his time between his home in England and a beach-side getaway he purchased for his family to use in Emerald Isle (among other properties briefly mentioned). I loved the parts where he talked about his relationship with his partner Hugh (who I fell in love with immediately) and his fears that he'll poop in his pants and Hugh will leave him for someone else. It also turns out that he's obsessive about tracking his steps and cleaning up every single piece of litter in the English countryside. He's a quirky guy and I strongly identified with him. He also touches on the tragic death of his sister Tiffany and the contentious relationship he has with his father who is in his nineties and stubbornly refusing to accept help at home. It's sharp, witty, shocking, tender, and hilarious. I laughed out loud at quite a few of the anecdotal stories (wait til you read about their visit to Japan). This would make a great gift especially for friends or family who do a lot of travel as this would be excellent to read on a trip. 10/10

 

I also urge you to read this article from Variety which talks not only about the beach-side getaway that Sedaris talks about in Calypso but also about Sedaris in general. It's hilarious! (Read the footnotes.)

 

What's Up Next: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-11-15 21:09
PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD by Michelle Falkoff
Playlist for the Dead - Michelle Falkoff
Not a book to be read quickly.  This must be savored.  A 16-year old commits suicide and leaves his friend a playlist to discover why he committed suicide.  Listen to the song at the beginning of each chapter and see how it fits.  Listen more than once.  Make sure you know what is being sung.  I only knew one of the songs but found a lot of them I enjoyed.  Listening caused me to read slower but I wanted to be able to put the clues together to figure it out as Sam (the friend) was figuring it out.
 
I liked Sam.  Started out hating some of the characters while loving others I met throughout the story.  The ending changed my feelings towards some of the characters but not all.  Some are just jerks and you can't change that.  Some seemed cool but had feet of clay.  Others were hurt just as much by the popular kids but managed not to lose their integrity. 
 
Read this book for the experience. 
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