2.5 stars The first third of this book was so engrossing. A woman is accused of murdering her two children--but Ruth is not your typical mother, and s2.5 stars The first third of this book was so engrossing. A woman is accused of murdering her two children--but Ruth is not your typical mother, and she will not garner the usual sympathy, because she's always perfectly made up and she drinks in excess and she takes a lot of lovers and she's--gasp--a cocktail waitress. I was interested in this portrait of a woman who is judged so harshly by her outward appearance, particularly during the 40s; for some women, careful clothes and makeup are armor used to mask what's going on inside, even during the most stressful times.
But that is pretty much the only thought-provoking idea to come out of this. I have no idea what happened, except that the last two thirds of this character study got derailed by an ineffectual, not-very-bright, off-putting journalist and a terribly inept mystery that is littered with uninteresting people with half-hearted motivations and very little conviction. (Not to mention a couple of pretty spectacular info-dump interviews shoe-horned in late in the game.) There are a few brief moments when you catch a glimpse of what this book could have been through Ruth's private grief, but they come early on and are quickly forgotten. The kids' brutal (though non-explicit) murders barely register, because they're merely props like everything else.
In the end, what's clearly meant to be an examination of slut-shaming and a challenge of feminine ideals still misses the mark; it doesn't really go anywhere, and both the characters and the reader leave the book unchanged. A huge miss as a suspense novel and a missed opportunity as both character study and as feminist commentary. ...more
I don't read many celebrity memoirs, for two reasons: 1. It's hard for most people, famous or not, to examine their lives with an appropriate degree oI don't read many celebrity memoirs, for two reasons: 1. It's hard for most people, famous or not, to examine their lives with an appropriate degree of self-awareness and context and 2. many celebrities don't have that much to say.
I don't mean #2 as a slam at all; many fictional books, from very successful authors, suffer from the same failing. A series of connected events can move you from Point A to Point B and that can be the end of it. But a plot becomes a story, and a biography becomes a memoir, when it has something more to express about the author's view of his or her place in the world. Tippi, written by the iconic Hitchcock star of The Birds and Marnie, is probably the most satisfying celebrity memoir I've ever read, in no small part because Tippi Hedren expresses passion and purpose in every aspect of her life.
Whether she's writing about her childhood or early beginnings as a model (I love books and films set in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and this book provides wonderful detail about what it was like to be a young woman embarking upon a career in that era) or luminaries of the screen or passing acquaintances, she writes about the people in her life with extraordinary warmth and generosity. Of particular note are the way she describes her relationship with her parents and her daughter and granddaughter (actresses Melanie Griffith and Dakota Johnson), and the pride she feels in how their extended families have retained relationships. She writes about her marriages with clear-eyed candor and appreciation, examining how each of her four major relationships led to other great loves in her life.
One of the most important was her second marriage, which led to a project that sparked her dedication to animal activism. I've been longing to go to her Shambala Preserve in southern California for ages (safari tours? overnight tent stays? yes, please!) and after reading this, I want to go even more. The lengthy chapters describing Tippi and her then-husband's efforts to make a film about the big cats slows down the book pacing-wise quite a bit--this is probably the book's biggest misstep--but they do effectively make you understand her passion and determination to educate and provide sanctuary for endangered exotic felines.
It's also fascinating to read about a young Jan de Bont's dedication to getting the perfect shot--so much so that this future cinematographer/director/producer of DIE HARD, SPEED, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, MINORITY REPORT was literally scalped by a lion but was back to work within days; Tippi and her husband's initially cordial but eventually fraught involvement in THE EXORCIST; and of course, of particular interest to a lifelong lover of Hitchcock films, the day-to-day details of the actress' work on THE BIRDS and MARNIE. (I could go on and on about that last part obsessively, but I'll spare you.)
After many years of being circumspect in her interviews, the author finally talks about the way she was essentially groomed, sexually assaulted, and then blackballed in the industry by Alfred Hitchcock. These are all allegations I've heard before, but not with this detail; I cannot feel anything other than enormous sympathy for anyone enduring this, particularly as she is publicly questioned for the veracity of her statements. It's so easy to doubt victims, especially when it involves people you revere.
I come away with this with a great deal of admiration for the way she handled herself then and now; this is a self-portrait of a woman is sure of herself, aware of her own worth, and gracious and appreciative under all circumstances. Throughout the book, she repeatedly expresses gratitude for friends and employees who have been with her for decades, particularly through exceedingly difficult circumstances at Shambala; what she doesn't say, but what should be noted, is that it also speaks volumes that people have chosen to stay with her.
I got more than I expected with this celebrity memoir, and anyone who is interested in Hitchcock history should definitely pick this up. Tippi Hedren has things to say--and she says them exceedingly well.
Oh, PS! Tippi talks about how her daughter threw big parties for her 75th and 80th birthdays. I used to live 5 minutes from Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas' house, so I'm rather tickled to think that was happening literally a few blocks away. :)...more
2.5 stars Some nicely creepy moments, and along the lines of what I'd hoped for from Welcome to the Dark House--sort of a mad funhouse type of caper.2.5 stars Some nicely creepy moments, and along the lines of what I'd hoped for from Welcome to the Dark House--sort of a mad funhouse type of caper.
But the four kids' stories start running into each other and don't really go anywhere (I think it would have been better to cut down on the number of kids or to explore the stories more deeply), and the creep/tension aren't pushed far enough. The style of the black and white photographs and the set-up make it feel a bit like a very facile, slick middle grade version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Nearly downrated the star rating because it was also annoying that the book ends abruptly, and apparently there's a sequel. No need for either. With more development, this could have been a perfectly good horror book on its own....more
A story that's readable and sweet, but ultimately on the slight side for me.
Positives: I loved the narrative voice and the charming illustrations, wA story that's readable and sweet, but ultimately on the slight side for me.
Positives: I loved the narrative voice and the charming illustrations, which reminded me of TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING (and also illustrated several characters as POC, though they're not specifically referred to as such); realistic handling of difficult subjects, especially the mom who abandoned Gertie and Gertie's conflicted feeling about her dad's job on an oil rig; non-nuclear family unit (Gertie lives with her aunt, and her dad is away for his job for long stretches of time); and best of all, the familiar outrages and embarrassments of being in school, including unfair treatment, fixating on another kid who always seems to get her way, not being able to help yourself from doing something wrong, and feeling betrayed by a friend. And Gertie herself, who is not afraid of resuscitating frogs, is just delightful.
Less successful: I was willing to believe in Gertie's unlikely quest to win over her estranged mom, but somehow that never came together convincingly for me until near the end with the play. (Although again, I appreciated how that played out.) Like all kids, Gertie was also selfish at times, but unlike the competitive scenario with Jean, she also rarely listened to Junior, and I don't think that was followed through very well--that is, I don't think she really noticed it. (The Mary Sue lesson was, as expected, a solid one, however.) And although I liked the writing style and dialogue, I think the book and characters start strong but don't finish with as much humor or wisdom or heart as they had the potential to.
So, a quick and enjoyable read, but not something I'd be likely to read again. But I'd check out another book by this author down the road.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Audiobook PS: I listened to about 30 minutes of the audio version and the style of narration was a little too zany for me. But don't let me stop you--I do a lot of audiobook listening at night before bed and generally prefer things a little less exaggerated. I'd guess this is a probably a good audiobook to listen to on a road trip/ or with kids....more
2.5 stars Okay, let's get one thing out of the way: this isn't really a book about a plane crash and survival. I mean, it is, technically, but it's ac2.5 stars Okay, let's get one thing out of the way: this isn't really a book about a plane crash and survival. I mean, it is, technically, but it's actually more of a romance, with the accident as a major precipitating factor. (view spoiler)[Precipitating! Hah. (hide spoiler)] It's sort of in the vein of men-writing-hardback-books-about-feelings like Robert James Waller or Nicholas Sparks. Unfortunately, not only does the "plane crash survival" aspect not deliver, the romance doesn't really deliver either.
I was about this halfway through listening to the audiobook, when I realized
a. exactly where the story was going b. there wasn't much time left, so this was...it. There wasn't anything more to what I was listening to.
What I mean by "this was it" is that the whole endeavor is extremely limited in scope. From the simplistic plot to the rather one-note characters (all secondary ones are there solely to prop up the main ones; problematic anywhere, but especially in a downed-airplane story) to the thing you discover at the end that's supposed to be a surprise, it all felt underdeveloped and underwhelming.
I do think the basic structure was a good choice, you could tell there was a reasonable amount of research put into it, and the authors have a certain gift for writing internal dialogue that keeps you interested. (Until you realize the character doesn't have that much to say, to be sure, but still.) This is the first novel written by The Apprentice guy with another person, btw. Which is sort of odd, especially since they named one of the minor characters "Bill."
Anyway, I'm mostly disappointed because stories of survival, people foraging for food and such are like catnip to me, and this had very little that was viscerally appealing. The mechanics of survival were there, but I didn't feel the deprivation and elements and fear and suffering that I should have. Two books featuring plane crashes that do this better: HATCHET, and a romance by Linda Howard called UP CLOSE AND DANGEROUS. Neither of which get the fancy hardback treatment, it should be noted. I don't mind at all that the book turned out to be about a relationship and a single unanswered question, but it still wasn't nearly as emotionally resonant or as surprising as it was trying to be.
Audio notes: I liked the narration by Julia Whelan and the other actor, whose name escapes me at the moment but I'll add later. Their performances probably helped with my not noticing what was lacking for some time. The choice to have the unnamed male narrator mostly bookend the audiobook was also an effective one.
An audio copy was provided by the publisher for review....more