Is ‘There There’ by Tommy Orange Worth the Hype? (Book Review)

There There by Tommy Orange

“This is a book that should not go unread. It holds the weight of generations that never had the chance to scream, and now, Mr. Orange is screaming for them.”

There There is, quite simply, a book that every American should read, if for nothing else, to remind us that our country’s success came at a great price – the genocide of a people who today wander their lives as “insignificant remainders.”

Angry, despondent, yet resilient and defiant, There There is a debut novel about the modern-day Native American, written by modern-day (Oakland-born) Native American Tommy Orange. His story read with the same vast and sweeping motion as Christopher Nolan’s film, Dunkirk—told from multiple perspectives (12, to be exact) that began to intertwine as the story wound closer and closer to the final climax.

What Spoke to Me

Mr. Orange’s writing is rich and lyrical, yet tinged with an edge I’m sure he acquired from his upbringing in Oakland, Calif.

Certain moments of There There will punch your conscience, when (for example) Mr. Orange writes about, “If you were fortunate enough to be born into a family whose ancestors directly benefited from genocide and/or slavery, maybe you think the more you don’t know, the more innocent you can stay … Look no further than your last name.”

Others brought out the beauty of his culture and will make you fall in love, such as, “Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere, or nowhere.”

What Could Have Been Better

While I genuinely enjoyed much of his book, certain parts slowed for me, perhaps because he was writing from various perspectives. I sometimes felt as though I were reading a series of short stories that wound together, thus preventing me from falling into his characters the way I’d hoped.

I can’t say I loved the ending. There There does finish with a sad hopefulness, yet the main question I’d wanted answered was left unfinished. A little too ambiguous for my taste.

So, is There There Worth the Hype?

Yes. Overall, this is a book that should not go unread. It holds the weight of generations that never had the chance to scream, and now, Mr. Orange is screaming for them. I felt their cries reading his book, held their hearts in my soft palms, and wished so desperately that I could fix the wrongs for them.

But then, Mr. Orange wouldn’t want that. No, I believe he’s telling us that his people don’t need fixing, or pity, or help. They might have been broken, but they are strong. They are still here. And dammit, they’re proud.

Stars: 4/5

Book: There There

Author: Tommy Orange

Publisher: Knopf

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/There-novel-Tommy-Orange/dp/0525520376

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New! ‘Shari’s Pick’ Will Highlight Top Recommended Books

Sharis Pick image
Hmmm, which amazing book will I pick to recommend next?

 

“Shari’s Pick will be the cream of the crop, the stuff that sticks in my brain like flypaper, the books that if you have time for nothing else, you’ll want to read THIS.”

 

I’ve decided to launch a new, bookish thang here on my blog and for my Readers Club email list. I’m calling it, “Shari’s Pick.”

This week, I signed up for NetGalley to start receiving Advanced Reviewer Copies (ARCs) from publishers before they hit the bookshelves. And … (deep breath) … I bought a Kindle (yes, to this day, I’d refused to buy an e-reader). Not to mention, I began reviewing already-published books in several places:

Out of everything I review (both published and ARCs), I’ll pick a top recommendation once every few months. I’d love to do this monthly, but with my schedule, I only have time to read one book per month, on average.

Shari’s Pick will be the cream of the crop, the stuff that sticks in my brain like flypaper, the books that if you have time for nothing else, you’ll want to read this.

Why would you listen to little, old me?

Let’s just say I’m picky. OK, maybe that’s an understatement. Critical. Meticulous. Fastidious.

But I’m fair, too. I don’t believe in cruelty, but honesty, on the other hand, you will find.

I also write for a living. I’m a former newspaper reporter. I’ve written for national magazines. I’m a current corporate communications professional. I’ve edited three novels, corporate jargon, e-newsletters, and oh yeah – I’m also a published indie author.

So … my tastes are discriminatory—not by genre or author—but by quality. If you’re looking for quality, you’ll find it from Shari’s Pick.

Be the first to know Shari’s Pick!

Whenever I announce a new Shari’s Pick, my Readers Club subscribers will hear it first! Therefore, if you don’t want to miss the first Shari’s Pick (which I have yet to announce), sign up for my Readers Club now! 😉

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Why ‘The Most Beautiful’ by Mayte Garcia Will Make You Love and Hate Prince

The Most Beautiful cover

The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince, is a story about music, artistry, pain, infatuation, control, religion, and deep, soulful love. Put frankly, it is a story that will stick in your mind after you’ve placed the book down.

Whether you were a fan of Prince or not, I recommend reading The Most Beautiful, because much more is buried in this rock star romance than a world filled with purple foo foo.

I once read a great piece of writing advice that said a memoir should be your story, but it shouldn’t be about you. Rather, the memoir is about everyone else reading your book. Mayte Garcia accomplished this with grace and love.

She wrote with endearment and forgiveness. She wrote truthfully, sometimes with the perspective of a wiser woman, sometimes with raw emotion. What I loved most about her book is how I felt myself getting pulled into the eccentric, strange, and lovely world of Prince with her.

For those who don’t know, Ms. Garcia is the first ex-wife of Prince. She was also the only woman with whom he had a child, and that child died one week after birth. Their marriage ended soon after.

Before meeting Prince, Ms. Garcia was becoming a world-renowned belly dancer by the age of 16, when she met Prince backstage. He was 13 years her senior, but in typical Prince style, he saw her artistic potential before she could, and he began contacting her offstage.

Ms. Garcia went on to become a creative collaborator of Prince’s, then a backup dancer and employee, and finally his wife. The Most Beautiful is Ms. Garcia’s story, told her way. She wrote it soon after his death.

Sadly, her memoir made me think of Prince in a different light.

No doubt he was a creative genius, but did he also suffer from unknown mental illness? Perhaps a form of narcissistic disorder? Ms. Garcia does not hide the emotional roller coaster she lived with him, everything from the extraordinary highs of dopamine-filled passion, to the anger and rage she felt at the lows.

Through it all, one thing is apparent: Ms. Garcia never stopped loving Prince. She loved him wholly, completely, without prejudice. Her love is permeating, because even after you learn of Prince’s most sinister side, you will still appreciate and accept him. Maybe you will even still love him.

My favorite part of the book was the end. No spoilers here, but I’ll say this: it was the light amongst much darkness. Want to know why I adored it so much? Well, I guess you’ll have to read the book.

STARS: 4/5

BOOK: The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince

AUTHOR: Mayte Garcia

AMAZON LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Most-Beautiful-My-Life-Prince/dp/0316468975

PUBLISHER: Hachette Books

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Should You Read Carrie Fisher’s ‘The Princess Diarist’? (Book Review)

 

The Princess Diarist_book cover

Simple answer:

If you love Star Wars—maybe.

If you don’t—probably not.

I bought The Princess Diarist within the month after Ms. Fisher passed away. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid, when my dad introduced my sister and me to the original trilogy, and I almost fell off my parents’ king-sized waterbed when Darth Vader revealed, “Luke, I am your father.”

HOW COULD THAT BE?

As a forever fan of the original trilogy, and especially of Princess Leia, then saddened over the death of Ms. Fisher, I was expecting much more from The Princess Diarist.

Perhaps the sudden death of such a Hollywood icon made the book into more than it was via exaggerated hype. Or perhaps everyone was foaming at the mouth for juicy tidbits on the ever-so-naughty love affair between Ms. Fisher and Harrison Ford that was exposed in the book.

But, I don’t know, much of the book just felt … hollow. The whipped cream on top of a flavorful scoop of ice-cream. I wanted more analysis (maybe self-analysis?), more emotion. I wanted to feel something reading her story.

Not to say I didn’t enjoy aspects of it.

For example, in the beginning, Ms. Fisher talked about how she never wanted to get into show business because of the way her grandmother treated her mom. I loved this peek into her upbringing and the possible narcissism that surrounded and affected her later in life (I would have loved more of this).

I also enjoyed reading snippets of Ms. Fisher’s diary entries from when she was 19 years old and filming the first Star Wars. Today, we know Ms. Fisher was bipolar, and I could detect the increasing manias, followed by the devastating depressive states, in her words. I found that fascinating.

I did enjoy learning about her affair with Harrison Ford. The affair was not what you’d expect, and it made me a little sad, in fact.

As a Star Wars fan, the tidbits on the making of the film were fun to read, and her insights into fans’ interactions with her (and how that affected her) were eye-opening. I cracked a smile sometimes.

Otherwise, I was ready to finish the book about halfway through.

I kept hoping for more, a climactic epiphany or ah ha! moment from Ms. Fisher, but I felt like that peak never arrived. Instead, I felt like much of the book was jibbery jabbery filler.

Even so, I can’t say I hated the book. I enjoyed it, but it probably won’t stick around in my memory for long.

STARS: 3/5

BOOK: The Princess Diarist

AUTHOR: Carrie Fisher

PUBLISHER: Blue Rider Press

AMAZON LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Diarist-Carrie-Fisher/dp/0399173595/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1531785644&sr=8-1

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BOOK REVIEW! ‘Call Me Zelda’ by Erika Robuck

Every so often, you’ll actually find me reviewing a hot, new book on this blog for your reading delight. Like today.

Call Me Zelda,” by Erika Robuck, published on May 7 this year. And I actually won an advanced copy through a Goodreads giveaway. I was so stoked, I might as well have just met Jesus.

OK, kidding, kidding.

But in all reality, I was excited to read Call Me Zelda, because it’s about Zelda Fitzgerald. And I have a serious fascination with the Fitzgeralds (who else is dying to see “Gatsby?”).

Just a heads up, though: Call Me Zelda is historical fiction … and this was my first experience reading the genre.

Here’s what I thought of Call Me Zelda. 

STARS: 3 out of 5

Call Me ZeldaErika is a great writer. I genuinely enjoyed her very human portrayal of the famous writer and his muse. Her prose was fluent, sometimes poetic, and encompassing of the time period for which she wrote: the 1930s.

However, I felt like the plot line and character interactions fell flat. And thus, the story tended to drag.

Here’s the scoop: rather than concentrating on the famous party days of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Call Me Zelda focuses on their later years, when Zelda was committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932. The narrator is a fictional character, a psychiatric nurse named Anna Howard, who tended to Zelda while also fighting her own demons from the past.

The result is that we get a much more human, emotional look into the complicated and sometimes chaotic nature of the Fitzgeralds’ relationship. We see their tenderness, and we understand how they destroyed each other. This was the part I enjoyed most about Call Me Zelda.

Unfortunately, I was not a huge fan of the nurse, Anna. And since she was the narrator, this took away from the story for me.

I think Erika could have done much more with Anna to add spice and conflict to the plot. I appreciated Anna’s good, caring nature, but I felt like she was a bit too perfect. And thus—even for a Goody two-shoes like me—she wasn’t real enough. The drama of the story wasn’t intense enough.  And it sometimes bored me.

Would I recommend Call Me Zelda? It depends.

If you love literature and have a fascination with past figures such as Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds … then yes! I think you will either enjoy or genuinely appreciate Call Me Zelda. Even if I sometimes found the story slow, I still appreciated the new life that Erika breathed into these two literary icons. And I wanted to know what happened at the end.

But if you prefer more contemporary work, action, or drama, then I’d recommend passing on this one. Instead, save it for a friend like Gil, the nostalgic screenwriter played by Owen Wilson in Woody Allen’s movie, “Midnight in Paris.”

Find Call Me Zelda on Amazon.