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Mr. August "Literature lover" RSS Feed (Highland Park, IL)
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Not My Father's Son: A Memoir
Not My Father's Son: A Memoir
by Alan Cumming
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88

5.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual and Provocative Memoir, July 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I didn't know what to expect before reading a chronicle of this famous Scottish actor. He is a talented professional with kudos from the stage, screen and television. Now, he can add his writing skill to his credits.

From page one, I was impressed with his writing style and the emotional impact broadcasted throughout the book. He is a demonstrative man who moves the reader back and forth from his childhood to a 2010 reality show. It is a clever technique allowing him to unveil his abusive life as a young boy in Scotland to a super talented performer. He is not a braggadocio; we don't hear tales of how wonderful he is. When we learn of his brutish father, it would be a natural assumption that he went into acting to validate and lose himself. Not so. He just loves to act and he can champion many diverse roles.

Alan's "father" is impossible to accept as a decent man. Cruel to both his sons, he freely gives out physical and emotional punishment. Alan's fear of the next paternal onslaught is palpable. The man should have been in jail. We do not find out why his mother allowed it to happen most of the time. I don't accept the reasoning but Alan puts his mother, Mary Darling, on a pedestal. She was a sharp observer to her sons' agonies.

In the throes of the TV show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" Alan is committed to uncovering his family's past, specifically his maternal grandfather. There are mysteries to disclose and Alan is affected with overwhelming emotions. Moreover, Alex tells his brother, Tom a startling revelation, divulging a life-changing paternity admission. This information catapults Alan into a tailspin and believes he has the answer to his father's cruelty. But yet, the man was an equally opportunity abuser, handing out his mistreatment to both sons. We live in the world of DNA now, which can provide many answers and some solutions.

Alan Cumming does not seem to possess the egos of many actors. He is self-effacing and is devoted to his family and friends. His range of acting is remarkable. If you want to read a highly emotionally charged memoir, this will book will be the one for the year. The Scottish landscape and Alan's childhood home is a bonus.


All Fall Down: A Novel
All Fall Down: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plunging Into Hell, July 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Jennifer Weiner is my wisecracking girlfriend who really is smart. She may seem superficial at times but she knows the score and is a big cheerleader for women. She does not take their problems lightly and, at the same time, she can punish them for their lack of confidence or ability to discern the problem.

Here we have Allison Weiss, a Jewish girl, from the East, who wrangles with herself over almost every little thing. She is an only child who has an only child, Eloise, aka Ellie, who is annoying. This 5 year old screams out certain words as Allison insists on placating her. Why? Guilt that she is not a good enough mother or making up for what she lacked by her own mother?

The gist of the story, centering on addiction, is her overwhelming responsibility for raising her daughter, acting as cheerleader for women, and serving as the breadwinner. Her husband, Dave, is not moving up the corporate and/or publishing ladder and becomes a poor provider. Instead of helping his wife, his silence and disapproval seems to rain on Allison's sensibilities. She becomes a controversial blog writer and her talent helps maintain their lifestyle. As an only child, she is responsible for her wonderful father who is plummeting into dementia and her mother who, she believes, has led a charmed life as she kept her distance from Allison.

Weiner's vivid description of the ascent into pill addiction peppered with alcohol is fascinating. She gets into her soul and the reader can feel the craving and the deadly inability to stop. The addict will do anything for the next pill or the next fix, just to feel somewhat normal. Forgot about the highs, Weiner brings Allison to "rock" bottom.

Weiner helped me understand addiction and the description of the treacherous withdrawal is the best I have read. The author takes us to a rehab clinic that houses a heterogeneous group of patients, who have terrible lives and deadly demons. Her husband drives her to this mediocre place, with an air of coldness and loathing.

Allison moves through the stages of addiction, denial and withdrawal with clarity and intelligence despite her horrific dependence. There are a few twists in the characterizations, which made sense. Some parts of the novel were tedious and became encumbered and repetitive. Addicts repeat their transgressions and Weiner, at times, reprises the same scenes too many times. Her levels of blame and agonies were introduced in replicated venues and scenes.

Weiner drew me into the characters; I did not have to like them, but she made sure I understood Allison Weiss. I wish I had a better grasp on her husband's thoughts and wonder if he had any guilt. I did learn enough about drugs for a lifetime.


Guerlain Abeille Royale Intense Restoring Lift Nourishing Day Cream for Women, 1.6 Ounce
Guerlain Abeille Royale Intense Restoring Lift Nourishing Day Cream for Women, 1.6 Ounce
Price: $111.03
16 used & new from $109.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Equal in Quality to Many Nourishing Creams, July 2, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am a big fan and user of Guerlain. This is an expensive cream and it does not make my skin feel greasy or overly hydrated. However, I don't believe it is any better than more inexpensive moisturizers that promise restorative results. I haven't noticed a visible difference in my skin since using it. However, I am pleased with the quality and although, it is rather high-priced, it is not in the $300 or $400 per jar category!


The Arsonist: A novel
The Arsonist: A novel
by Sue Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.20
69 used & new from $11.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Candid View of Family Crisis In a Meandering Plot, June 26, 2014
This review is from: The Arsonist: A novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Frankie (Francesca) Rowley returns to the United States after 15 years establishing sites in Africa as an aid worker. She is semi-heartbroken and burned out and retreats to her family's summer home in Pomeroy, New Hampshire. Her parents, retired academics, have converted their summer home to a year round residence as they become one of the town people rather than the summer people.

Sue Miller's primary cast is the immediate family with Frankie, her mother, Sylvia and her father, Alfie. As the three of them are grappling with their reunion, the town explodes with at least six fires, which are not accidental, but arson. Frankie, now her in her 40's, meets Bud Jacobs, the new owner of Pomeroy's newspaper and former dynamic D.C. political journalist, twice-divorced and setting down new roots in this small town. He is a wonderful secondary character, he is smart, thoughtful and cares about people. The sexual scenes are filled with passion and nuance. There seems to be instant and realistic attraction, but Frankie has not decided what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Ho-hum.

The mystery of the fires initiates a lack-luster investigation and one of the least exciting detective stories. However, the gist of the story is Sylvia and Alfie's marriage. Sylvia is inwardly dissatisfied with her marriage; she no longer loves Alfie, even as he is plummeting into Alzheimer's. When we meet him, he is in the early stages and his lucid moments apparently bring him recognition of his doomed failings. Alfie's deterioration provides the crux of the story as any spouse or caretaker can identify with Sylvia's, anger, solicitousness, solitude and the ultimate worry about money. Sylvia's myriad of emotions provides a solid basis of the novel. Her guilt and anger are front and center.

So this non-idyllic retirement evolves into helplessness and bird's eye view of Alfie vanishing into dementia. Ms. Miller's writing is excellent; I am a fan of her talent to tell us about family imbalance and foreboding.

Despite Miller's excellent grasp of identity issues, the plot does not provide the same depth of fascination. Frankie's floundering about her future endeavors, despite the ultra-sexual and exciting relationship with Bud, becomes unsettling. The denouement regarding the arson is anti-climatic. Read this novel for Miller's insight into midlife crises, she is at the top of her form. When I wrote my review of The Senator's Wife a few years ago, I encouraged the reader to stay with it, keep reading. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for this book. The mystery fails to "ignite," but Miller captures the complications of another family in a disaster.


VINCENT LONGO La Riviera Sun Bronzer for Face and Body, Copper Kiss
VINCENT LONGO La Riviera Sun Bronzer for Face and Body, Copper Kiss
Price: $32.00
3 used & new from $32.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Instant Bronzing, June 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was instantly surprised by the immediate addition of bronze coloring on my fair skin. I mixed the colors together and it went on a bit too heavy. An applicator could be included with directions for mixing. I will use it again but I will use less. This product has an added benefit as it can be used on the body also, which is probably why it is so concentrated for better coverage.

The compact is rather cheap. For this price point, the bronzer should be in a better quality case.
I was pleasantly surprised this was made in Italy (not China) and that it is hypoallergenic and cruelty free.


DII Womens Microfiber Shower Wrap, Ruby
DII Womens Microfiber Shower Wrap, Ruby
Price: $18.25

3.0 out of 5 stars Basic Shower Wrap, June 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I washed this separately before wearing it. I didn't want to take the chance that the red could run on other clothes. It washed well, did not shrink and the velcro held up during the wash and dry cycle.

The fabric is lightweight and it fit me well enough. I would have liked a more plush fabric that could also dry while I'm blow-drying my hair or walking around. I am familiar with these wraps and would keep this for one for visiting guests. The velcro is a bit harsh on my skin, this is certainly not a spa-qualiity wrap, but it is quite sufficient for an inexpensive wrap.

I'm not sure I understand "Design Imports India." The wrap is made in China.


Coffee Blenders Escape Single Serve Cups for Keurig K-Cup Brewers,15 Count
Coffee Blenders Escape Single Serve Cups for Keurig K-Cup Brewers,15 Count
Price: $19.59
2 used & new from $12.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars NO Taste or Flavor, June 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I expected a robust flavor from a dark roast. No sugar or creamer was added in order to provide a pure evaluation of the taste.. I don't know if it's the additive but the coffee tasted similar to hot water. I've been using Keurig for years and I mean years. We bought one when the first brewer was available for retail users. Adding my experience with trying hundreds of coffees through the years, I was anxious to try a different brew. It was disappointing. I can say positively it was fresh but I attribute that to the Keurig vacuum process. It is probably the weakest coffee I have tasted in a single serve cup made for Keurig. And I prefer medium roasts, but this brew did not come close to a light roast.

I am not less stressed but that is not my determining factor in rating this Coffee Blenders Single Serve. The price is quite high, also. The more popular Keurig k-cups have demanded exorbitant pricing, but $1.28 per cup seems really off the charts.


The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing: A Novel
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing: A Novel
by Mira Jacob
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
62 used & new from $12.91

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Stunning Debut, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Family gatherings are strong memories for all of us whose childhoods impacted on our view of our place in life. Mira Jacobs provides us with poignant family get-togethers of a middle class Indian immigrant household. While moving the reader between the early 1980's and late 1990's, we are immersed in the family of Amina Eapen. Amina is the only American-born member of her immediate family. Thomas, her father is a surgeon, Kamala, her mother, believes life would be better back in India and her older brother, Akhil, is a gifted intellectual with debilitating sorrows.

As the story opens, Amina is 30 years old, living in Seattle as a wedding photographer working for an exacting boss. She is trained as a photojournalist but escapes into celebratory photography as the result of one famous, controversial photo. Keep in mind that Amina is creative with a camera, she produces candid snapshots exhibiting soul and individuality.

Amina's parents live in Albuquerque and she returns home for a short visit after her mother tells her something is wrong with her father. The short trip becomes a long one when Amina discovers that he is acting strangely. Kamala, a Born Again, is often in denial and finds comfort in the preacher du jour that provides her with consolation for short periods of time. Her skill at cooking represents comfort and is a link to the past, when the family was whole. Her mother's unsubtle reminders and match-making attempts provide a humorous look at the importance of tradition in this family.

Amina cannot escape memories of tragedies. There was the Salem India 1979 explosive family visit prompting Thomas to relocate his family to America permanently. Memories of her brainy brother, Akhil, haunt her and she battles with the past as she faces her father's diagnosis and begins to rekindle her own past. Her brother's leather jacket is symbolic of multiple layers, including an immigrant teen-ager, smooth, dark tragedy and the need to belong. It is a brilliant representation of the family's movement into the American way of life and the horror it can bring. Jacob outdid herself with that technique.

Families are often messy and Jacob fulfills the reader with the joys, anger, hindrance and grief of Amina's dysfunctional Indian family in America. The book is an excellent debut but comparing her to Jhumpa Lahiri is stretching Jacob's talent. Lahiri knows when to stop, this is an overlong novel and Jacobs does not capture the profound tragedies with nuance. However, she is an honest writer with enormous skill and can make the reader both uneasy, sad and provide us with some comedy. 4.5 stars


Toms Women's Correa Sandals Chambray Casual Shoe 8 Women US
Toms Women's Correa Sandals Chambray Casual Shoe 8 Women US
Offered by Shoemerica
Price: $50.73
9 used & new from $41.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Styling With Comfort, June 2, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have worn TOMS for years. This particular sandal appears new in styling. I thought that it may be too flat but there is some padding in the sole. I walked in these shoes for hours. I have a narrow foot so the ankle strap is great - it holds my heel and stops my foot from sliding forward. It is a roomy sandal and I have plenty of comfort in the size 8, sometimes I wear a 8.5, but not in this style. Also, TOMS distinguishes themselves from the other companies by donating shoes to needy children.


Eden in Winter
Eden in Winter
by Richard North Patterson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Scrutiny of a Damaged Family, May 28, 2014
This review is from: Eden in Winter (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I first started reading this book, I thought this wasn’t a new book, I read this before. However, after a chapter or so, I caught on this was a duplication (a real déjà vu). Patterson included the almost exact replication to allow readers, not familiar with the other books in the trilogy. to follow the chronology.

I liked Patterson’s other books more than this type of elongated story of a dysfunctional family but this was a smart story with interesting characters. Adam is the main character, who is determined to shield his family from total emotional and financial destruction. He is clever and knows how to deceive everyone. He is also a CIA special operator.

The death of Benjamin Blaine is the focus of the main story. There is Clarice, Benjamin’s wife, Teddy, his son, and Jack, Ben’s brother. The originality in the story is the other woman, Carla Pacelli, who is pregnant with Ben’s baby and inherits his estate. Patterson did not stereotype her. The reader must wait until the denouement to learn the secrets. Adam has the talent and perseverance to fly under the radar and remain composed as he takes us through the machinations of the plot. Patterson is ingenious to introduce a local therapist for Adam. This technique set the stage for a strange love story appearing possible in the milieu of betrayals, bitterness and ambition. This also made for a hackneyed saga.

Martha’s Vineyard is a superb backdrop. Most of us think of the Vineyard in the summer, filled with tourists and the rich who rent old homes at inflated prices. Winter in the Vineyard is a twist. Patterson juxtaposes the cold and barren winter with his story. Just under 4 stars.


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