Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Reviews - Soap Operas, Scary Stuff, and Social Connection

I've been traveling for the past few weeks, so my reading has been less of on a theme, and more of what mood strikes me and/or I have along! So, here's what that's been. . .

In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby was an emotionally honest and overall wonderful read. What really drew me in and made me love this one was the connections to soap operas in the book. As someone who grew up watching my mom's shows (or stories as my grandma says) and will even catch those that are left (#missyouloveyou Passions, As the World Turns and Guiding Light), this was something that hit my specific feels in a certain kind of way. This is the story of Brie. Brie aspires to be an actress and to attend a performing arts school. One evening while looking at pictures of her favorite actress online, Brie's mom enters her room. Worried about what her mom has seen, Brie proclaims she has the honor crowning Mary at the May ceremony. That'd be awesome, except it's not true. From there, Brie commits to doing whatever she can to earn this honor for real. In the meantime, Brie is navigating her own attractions and identities. The incredible piece of this part of the story is she's doing this through soap operas. She begins to find stories that help her better understand how she feels, and these stories help her to find her voice. As a character, Brie was an absolute and authentic delight via her realness. She also is working through a great deal of "tough stuff" with her family around finances and employment, and she additionally works through all those struggles that middle school seems to bring. I will tell y'all again what a joy this book was for me. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2020. Oh, and one last thing - The scene Brie chooses for her audition at the performing arts school was just so darn great. It makes me want to go down a soap opera YouTube rabbit hole rn. . . 

Red Letter Days by Sarah-Jane Stratford takes place during the Red Scare. Specifically, it looks at how this impacted the entertainment industry. Phoebe is an American TV writer who unexpectedly loses a role due to an accusation of her loyalties. She decides to head to London as others impacted have, and she connects with Hannah. Hannah is an American woman who puts those who have been unfairly impacted by the scare to work secretly. Prior to reading this, I knew of McCarthyism, but knew nothing of the impact on the entertainment industry, so this was a new exploration of history for me in that regard. With this advanced copy from Berkley, I'm supposed to give you my honest thoughts, and I always do, so I do have to share that there was something missing in this one for me. Because there was so much zoning in on the two women and the development and experiences of their characters, there wasn't as much history. For me, having more of that context around their story would have been helpful. I liked what was shared, but ultimately needed more. However, given this took place in London, I can also see how extensive coverage of what was happening in the United States didn't make sense. Overall, this read took me to a part of history through well-developed characters I haven't read through much, and I appreciated that opportunity.

Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally is a book I featured in a blog tour stop last week. Check that out HERE!

Witches: The Transformative Power of Women Working Together by Sam George-Allen  is a collection of ways women find connection and power. What was great was the variance in these stories and the way they showcased certain communities in a different and important way. There were two chapters I especially enjoyed. The first was on beauty bloggers. I loved how she reframed this community on the empowerment it provides by women for women and what make-up can (and should) really mean. The other chapter I really dug was about nuns. It was interesting to see the reframe in this chapter on the power in choosing to live this way as well. Oh, and I also loved how the story began with talking about teen girls. So often this stage of life is known for its angst and awkwardness. This book again reframes the power of this time of a woman's life. For me, this was such an interesting exploration of women. Each chapter was such a fascinating deep dive into a place women have found connection with one another. 

Onto the next ones. . .

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