Review: Not My Father’s Son

Not My Father's Son
Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not your usual celebrity memoir. Not only is it better edited than most (only a little bit of repetition and spiral chronology) but it also tells a story other than the subject’s rise to fame.

Alan Cumming uses his appearance on tv’s genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are as a launching point for telling the story of his troubled young family life, his violent father, and how he, his brother, and their mother worked to move on towards healthier relationships and happier lives. Chapters alternate between incidents in his childhood and young adult years and the days of filming the program in which historians and researchers reveal to him the mysterious details of his maternal grandfather’s last days.

This is an interesting read if you’re a fan of Cumming’s (Spy Kids!), if you enjoy family history journeys, or if you’d like to witness the unfolding of forgiveness.

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Review: Zac and Mia

Zac and Mia
Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story of two Australian teens who meet on the oncology ward was not what I was expecting. Forgive me – I was anticipating the swoop and joy and feels of a down-under Fault in Our Stars. I know that’s wrong and unfair.

Standing on its own, this is a good and, perhaps, more realistic depiction of two kids and their reactions to being diagnosed, going through treatment, and finding a way to imagine what their future lives might be. No fantasies, no grand romantic gestures.

Although the blurbs say the story is told via alternating the title characters’ points of view, many more chapters are headed up by Zac than Mia. As a result, we get to know him better. He is far more likable, even after Mia starts talking and we get a chance to understand her a little.

This might be a theraputic read for parents or friends of someone living with cancer. It’s pretty harsh for younger YAs. The kid says it was hard to get into but she was glad she finished it.

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Review: The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gyllenhaal’s voice is compelling and captivating. Plath’s depiction of life for young and smart middle class girls in the 50s is as vital today as it was when first published. It’s astounding they didn’t all lose their ever-lovin’ minds: Get straight As, master physics, write essays publishable in national magazines, and prepare to be utterly subsumed by the first self-satisfied lout who beneficently offers you the honor of becoming ‘Mrs. Buddy Willard.’ I’ll admit to being more attentive in the first half, when Esther is rebelling, than the second part, in which she has succumbed. Fine reading for these times in which people are questioning whether ‘feminist’ is a bad word.

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