family dynamics

This Is Us (DVD)

By Dan Fogelman
4
Rated by Edward R.
Sep 27, 2017

This Is Us is a dangerously addictive show about a family over multiple generations and the extreme challenges they face. The pilot episode hooks you into a compelling drama by intertwining the lives of all the characters in a unique way. The story continues with complexities that match real life and yet what we see seems more surreal than reality.


This show is emotional. Not the setup/payoff kind of emotion but rather suffocating you with emotions until they find the right string to pull that will choke you up. This approach works in two ways: it pulled me in and then pushed me out. The

I Will Send Rain

By Rae Meadows
5
Rated by Kari E.
Feb 25, 2017

I Will Send Rain is both bleak and hopeful. You will feel a lot of things while reading this perfectly crafted, emotional story of an Oklahoma farm family living through the Dust Bowl.


Samuel and Annie Bell move from Kansas to Oklahoma, set up a home, and have two children Birdie and Fred. The Bell family clings to their land and hope rain will save their crops. The pacing brings the reader into the Dust Bowl slowly and the way Meadow’s develops each character pulls you into a world where each day is a struggle to survive. Samuel, Annie, and Birdie plod along, secretly hoping to escape

Aug 2, 2016

This is the story of a complicated woman entangled in the lives of a powerful family. Sarah survived World War II in Europe and she’s working her way home to Australia as a nurse onboard an ocean liner. One of her patients is Mrs. Bligh, the commanding matriarch of a wealthy Australian family.  Sarah charms her patient’s son and grandchildren, but when she stumbles on a buried family secret Mrs. Bligh is determined to get rid of her.  Instead of quietly getting out of the way, Sarah just gets on with her life, accepting a position as a nurse in a small town near the Bligh family estate. Mrs

My Name Is Lucy Barton

By Elizabeth Strout
4
Rated by Cheryl M.
Feb 25, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is a novel to be read slowly and savored for its richness of story. At less than 200 pages, it is a novel with a simple plot: a woman, Lucy, is in the hospital for a prolonged stay, and her mother is visiting her. Lucy has been estranged from her mother since her marriage. She is grateful for her mother's presence, while at the same time she wants more than her mother is capable of giving her. In other words, the novel is rich in family dynamics and the complexities of the human heart.


What we as readers learn over the course

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

By Carol Rifka Brunt
4
Rated by Helen H.
Aug 26, 2015

On the surface, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, is about June Elbus, a young girl whose favorite uncle dies of AIDS in 1987. It’s the early days, when misinformation, fear, and hate rule the day. With a 2012 publication date (and a 2015 reading) I read of June’s experience with a perspective that time, distance and education afford. For me, the book isn’t so much about AIDS and how that terrifying diagnosis affects the Elbus family but about what happens when you allow fear, and disappointment, and blame to dictate your behavior and parenting decisions.
No doubt, June is a special person. Her

Taken

By Dee Henderson
4
Rated by Lisa J.
Aug 10, 2015

Matthew Dane was a police officer until his daughter was kidnapped and missing for years.  He then left the force and started a private detective service so he could continue the search for his daughter.  Once his daughter was found, he was able to help her adjust to life outside of captivity and then help other families in the same situation.  


Shannon Bliss went missing at the age of 16.  Now, almost 12 years later, Matthew finds a woman waiting for him outside his hotel room claiming to be Shannon Bliss.  She is seeking his assistance in reuniting with her family and bringing down the

Dad is Fat

By Jim Gaffigan
5
Rated by Marty J.
Jun 17, 2015

Dad is Fat is a collection of essays on parenting written by stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan. Gaffigan writes about the trials and tribulations of raising five children in New York City in a 2-bedroom fifth floor walk-up apartment. His observations are spot on – and hilarious. 


I read the book AND listened to the audiobook which is read by the author – a real treat. By the end of the book, the reader/listener has developed a real sense of how difficult it would be to do what Gaffigan and his wife do and, at the same time, how much he adores his wife and revels in the chaos and joy of being

The Hundred-foot Journey

By Mirren, Helen
5
Rated by Melody M.K.
May 16, 2015

The movie The Hundred-foot Journey begins in India where an Indian family that loves cooking has a family restaurant. Touched by tragedy during a fire in their restaurant, the head of the family decides they should move to a new country. After some trial and error in finding just the right spot, they come to a lovely village in the south of France and happen upon an empty restaurant for sale. The sale is made and they begin restoration, moving in with not one thought of the 3-star French restaurant across the road from them. Then begins the lovely story of the Indian young man and the French

The Book of Unknown Americans

By Cristina Henriquez
4
Rated by Colleen O.
Oct 22, 2014

Arturo and Alma Rivera lived a happy life in Mexico until their beautiful teenage daughter, Maribel, sustains a serious injury in an accident. Unsure if she'll ever be the same again, they migrate to Delaware, where Maribel will be able to attend a special school and hopefully begin her road to recovery. But America is not what the family thought it would be—Arturo’s job is brutal, Maribel doesn't seem to be making much progress in school, and Alma struggles with her new life and learning a new language.


The one bright spot is that the Riveras meet the Toro family, who came to the U.S

That Night

By Chevy Stevens
4
Rated by Lisa J.
Sep 29, 2014

High school seniors Tony and Ryan had a plan for after graduation.  They were going to get jobs and an apartment and live together—Toni to get away from her mom who favored her younger sister, and Ryan to leave behind his alcoholic and abusive father.  It all seemed so simple.  But that's not what happened.  Senior year the "mean girls" clique started harassing Toni, just to be mean.  Then, unbelievably, Toni's little sister, Nicole, starts hanging out with the clique and harassing Toni too.  Nicole has also changed a lot since starting high school; she's gotten secretive, and sullen, although

The Time Between

By Karen White
4
Rated by Lisa J.
Apr 28, 2014

Growing up on one of the South Carolina outerbanks islands, Eleanor was a wild child who knew no fear and who loved to play the piano.  Her sister was the beauty queen.  Now in her 30's, Eleanor lives with her sister, brother-in-law and mother in a small house on the mainland.  Eleanor works in an office and moonlights as a piano player in a bar to help make ends meet.  When Eleanor is offered extra work by her boss to be a companion to his elderly aunt that lives on the island she grew up on Eleanor snaps up the opportunity not only to make more money but to get out of the house and away from

Jul 23, 2013

“Suspense” and “thriller” are among the tags for this book. I wasn’t sure at first if those descriptions fit. The book is about a woman, Christine, who wakes up every morning with no memory.  She has no idea who she is, where she is, or even how old she is. I figured this would be more of a drama than a thriller. But the suspense builds as Christine, and the reader, begin to question what she is told. What is real, what is imagined, and what is an outright lie?

This isn’t the kind of thriller where terrorists have planted a bomb and intelligence agents are racing to find it. This is a

May 2, 2013

Whenever I’m asked for a “gentle read” my go-to author is Maeve Binchy. Her novels are standalone, not a series; so the order in which they are read doesn’t matter. There is no sex, language or violence in Binchy’s books. They are about the dramas of daily life: relationships with parents, children or spouses; your place in a community; identity and what you want to do with your life.

The characters in Binchy’s stories are very likeable. They are real people with flaws, who make mistakes and are easy to root for. The problems and issues they grapple with are believable, with a twist. Binchy

Jul 6, 2012

Forget what you think you know about mermaids. Ariel and Disney have no place in this horrific tale of tragedy and death, love and desire, by Anne Greenwood-Brown. Lies Beneath begins with Calder White stating that he hates the cold almost as much as the draw he feels to join his family on the yearly migration. Ever since Calder was taken in by the woman he refers to as his mother and her three daughters, Calder has felt trapped. And while this may seem like a normal everyday problem, it is not. Calder and his sisters are mermaids, and not the sing-song type. They kill for survival as they

May 15, 2012

 The premise of this non-fiction book is that sibling relations are among the most important relations in our life. Kluger tried to prove that what we are is  governed not only by our parents (who unavoidably play favorites, causing their children to struggle from birth to establish their own identity to catch parents’ attention), but most particularly by our siblings.  However, the book discusses much more than the mere birth order effect. Our siblings teach us about all aspects of relationships: they teach us about getting along and fighting, letting go, favoritism, competitiveness and

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

0
Rated by Katerina J.
Mar 16, 2012

Wither is Lauren DeStefano’s promising debut novel and is the first book in The Chemical Gardner Trilogy.  In this compelling dystopian novel, DeStefano portrays our world as one that got seriously altered by human genetic engineering. After the first sturdy and super healthy generation, all subsequent generations die at a young age because of an untreatable virus. All women only live to the age of twenty and men to the age of twenty-five. DeStefano creates a quite realistic world, where women are abducted and the “lucky” ones are forced into polygamous marriages to prevent the human race from

Feb 29, 2012

Ruth, Bethanne, and Annie, of the “Blossom Street” knitting group set off on a cross country road trip to Florida where Ruth will be attending her 50th high school class reunion and hopefully reconnecting with her high school beau Royce.  Bethanne, Ruth’s former daughter-in-law, has agreed to join her as she needs to get away so that she can consider the fact that her ex-husband (Ruth’s son and Annie’s father) would like to reconcile.  Annie decides to tag along as she is depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend who she thought was going to be proposing. 

As they travel from Seattle to

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

0
Rated by Katerina J.
Feb 3, 2012

“Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others. At least that’s what I told myself whenever I stood in a crowd of normal-looking people and felt like I was the only one.” Lucy has been living with a shameful secret. Her mother, who on the outside is a respected, caring and gifted oncology nurse, is on the inside a stubborn, irritated person who is incapable of caring for her children and house. And worse, her mother suffers from compulsive hoarding and she has turned their house into a maze full of massive piles of filth, clutter and junk. So far Lucy has been quite

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

0
Rated by Katerina J.
Nov 23, 2011

Ellen Hopkins is one of the most frequently challenged young adult authors of the 21 century. She is known for not being afraid to tackle controversial issues and taking on topics such as drug addiction, sexual abuse or teen prostitution. Her novels have been very popular among teens and adults alike. Ellen Hopkins recently visited the Johnson County Library to talk about her books. It was at her event, where I learnt about Triangles, Hopkins’ first novel for adults. As soon as I started reading the novel, I was captivated and blown away.

In Triangles, Hopkins offers a powerful realistic

Le Grand Voyage DVD

0
Rated by Magda B.
Oct 19, 2011

This movie tells a story of a contemporary French-Moroccan family.  In order for the aging illiterate father to fulfill his religious obligation of a pilgrimage to Mecca (while the oldest son is not available), the youngest son is summoned to accompany his father. They drive in a borrowed old car 3000 miles across beautiful landscapes from the south of France to Saudi Arabia.

The son resents this duty and must put his university entrance exams on hold.  During the journey, they argue over their complicated relationship, cultural differences and generational gap.  To positively pass the time

Jun 23, 2011

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon and Garden Spells, takes us this time to Walls of Water, North Carolina, which is famous for its waterfalls and the fog that they bring to the town.  Walls of Water is a small town that caters to the tourists that come to hike the trails and see the waterfalls.  Many of the families have lived in Walls for several generations.  Willa Jackson is a decendent of one of these families.  The Jackson family once the "leading" family of Walls met with financial ruin when the logging industry had dried up.  Willa and her

Jun 7, 2011

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Two sisters, a baby and a five year old, are left by their mother at their Grandmother’s house. The house they lived in had a very special garden in back and grandma taught the eldest how to cook with the herbs and flowers that grew there. When combined correctly in recipes the flowers and herbs made people who consumed them think

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

0
Rated by Katerina J.
Jun 2, 2011

Along for the Ride is an enjoyable read by a renowned YA author Sarah Dessen. Dessen has gained wide spread popularity by writing genuine stories about coming of age, friendship and love. Her characters are typically well developed and true to life. People can relate to her characters and their predicaments and that is what makes Dessen’s books so popular and loved. You will not find any paranormal creatures in her books.

Auden Penelope West is the central protagonist of Along for the Ride. She is an accomplished, highly intelligent girl who quite does not fit among her peers. Her adolescence

May 25, 2011

Shanghai Girls tells the story of two sisters, Pearl and May. They were known as "beautiful girls", meaning that they posed for artists who used the paintings for "beautiful girl" posters, calendars and various advertisements. The girls lived what was, to them, an enchanted life. Until one day their world was turned upside down by their father informing them that he had arranged marriages for them both. They were to marry brothers who were Chinese but lived in America, specifically, Los Angelos. This was definitely not the future the two forward looking sisters had envisioned for themselves

May 24, 2011

Forget Princess Mia of Genovia. Forget Harry Potter. The Radleys are about to be outed. And by their own daughter no less.

Devotees of The Abstainer’s Handbook, Peter and Helen are living a lie in order to raise their children as “normal people”. Their suffering is exacerbated by each of their mid-life crises. Pale and gangly Rowan is a bullied outcast in their small English town. And Clara’s recent conversion to veganism only magnifies her anemia.

But everything changes when Clara accidentally discovers a dark family secret. One night at a party she savagely kills a classmate in a way that

May 6, 2011

The Radleys is a story of an all American disfunctional family with 2 parents 1 daughter and 1 son. The parents want to deny who they truly are, and so do not tell the children who they really are.
Trying to be something they are not causes the children a lot of physical sickness and mental stress. The daughter is attacked by a classmate and she reacts in a way she never dreamed of. She killed the boy and drank his blood. Yes, they are a family of vampires.
I found The Radleys a fun read but a little bloody. Just the way I like it.

May 6, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a memoir by Amy Chua, professor at Yale Law School. The memoir concentrates on her family life, especially on raising her two daughters. As a second generation Chinese, Chua is determined to raise her daughters the Chinese way. Some of her parenting methods might be perceived as too strict by some readers. Chua is definitely a firm parent and she often tells her girls that her goal as a parent is to prepare them for the future – not to make them like her. Even though, her daughters are not allowed to choose their own extracurricular activities or have a play

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

0
Rated by Sandra S.
May 4, 2011

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Ree Dolly is only 16, yet is responsible for her 2 younger brothers and her “crazy” mother. Her father, has left, eluding the law because of charges of running a crystal meth lab. Ree sets out to find him in order to save the family home, which will be lost if he does not show in court. Ree’s perseverance is inspiring. Family loyalties are stronger than strong. Set in the Missouri Ozarks, Winter’s Bone is beautifully descriptive, while the subject matter is depressing.

I appreciated the author’s style of writing, although I found the story to be a downer

Apr 9, 2011

In this first book of what author Adriana Trigiani intends to be a trilogy (book two is already published), the reader is introduced to Valentine Roncalli and her large, boisterous Italian-American family.  Valentine is pass the age where she should have been married with children, according to most of her family, but she has decided to devote her energy to preserving the handmade custom shoe shop in New York's Greenwich Village that was established by her mother's grandfather when he immigrated from Italy.  This isn't easy, as the declining economy has taken its toll on the custom shoe

Apr 7, 2011

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton begins in 1913 London where 4 year old Nell is hiding on a ship deck waiting for the "Authoress" to return and start their journey to Australia.  However, the "Authoress" fails to return and Nell travels to Australia alone with only a small suitcase containing clothes and a book of fairy tales.  Nell is  adopted by the dockmaster and his wife when the ship arrives in Australia and is raised as one of their own. 

Nell doesn't learn of her unconventional adoption into the family until she is an adult and it changes the way she sees herself, her family and her