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2017 Adult Summer Reading Book Reviews

The Girls in the Picture

by Melanie Benjamin

Adult Book Review

The Review of The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin by Susan Sutton

Frances Marion was Hollywood’s leading – and highest paid – screenwriter. Mary Pickford was America’s sweetheart, “the girl with the curls,” star of silent film whose fame spread around the world. In her newest book, The Girls in the Picture, bestselling author Melanie Benjamin weaves the story of these two women, exploring the complexity of their profound and sometimes tumultuous friendship, the ups and downs of their careers, and the birth of the movie age.

The film industry is the fulcrum of the relationship between Frances and Mary, and it helps us understand the bond that they shared. Both women adored the movies – not only the end product, but every aspect of the filmmaking process. Their shared passion helped bring them together, particularly since Frances focused on writing and Mary did not see her as a direct competitor for roles or attention.

But the two friends also ran into many challenges, including societal norms that told them they should be at home raising children and cooking dinners for their husbands, and the necessity of navigating a condescending and oftentimes antagonistic male-dominated industry. The real strength of The Girls in the Picture lies in Benjamin’s skill for highlighting the similarities and differences between Frances and Mary, and showing how each supported, encouraged, and even misunderstood the other.

It’s not at all necessary to be a film historian or even a movie fan in order to appreciate this lovely book. I did enjoy learning some tidbits about the early industry, though. For example, I had no idea that the term “movie” was originally used to describe people who had moved to Los Angeles in order to work on “flickers” (what we now call movies). It’s also fascinating to consider how movie stars, who are idolized in our modern-day society, were considered sordid and disreputable in the early 20th century. In fact, it was Mary who first experienced the kind of star worship we see today. Though Mary ultimately became quite popular in her own right, her marriage to another screen legend, Douglas Fairbanks, propelled the couple to super-stardom. This level of fame upended Mary’s lifestyle completely, eventually causing a rift in her friendship with Frances.

At the beginning of the book, Frances is quoted as saying, “Perhaps the simplest formula for a plot is: invent some colorful personalities, involve them in an apparently hopeless complication or predicament, then extricate them in a logical and dramatic way that brings them happiness.” With The Girls in the Picture, Benjamin shows us that real life is much more beautiful and dramatic – and oftentimes tragic – than the movies.

Mad

by Chloe Esposito

Adult Book Review

Mad by Chloe Esposito reviewed by Kristi Earle

As soon as I read the description of this book I knew I had to read it - it sounded edgy and a bit crazy, I couldn't wait to delve into the madness. The book title said Mad, and it has madness in spades. This rollercoaster of a book was one that whirled me around in a daze. However, I was unable to suspend disbelief throughout the entire story. It was dreadfully unbelieveable. Every time I thought it couldn’t get any wackier, it took another crazy turn and left me gawping, slack-jawed at the page.

The story centers around one Alvina Knightly, who lives in a dreadful flat in London, working a dead-end job as she hunts for men to sleep with on Tinder. That all changes when her glamorous, successful sister Beth invites her to her home in Italy to spend time with her and her husband…the same man that Alvina fell in love with years before. Alvina accepts, makes it to Italy-and immediately, things start to take off. Loyalties are made and broken, people are killed, and there’s a lot of sex. A lot.

To put it bluntly, Alvie is a mess, a hot mess. There is nothing about her that screams, I am really a diamond in the rough and need some polishing. The premise sounds intriguing: sex, murder, twins, and exotic location. But, the scenarios Esposito puts Alvie and Beth in are truly inflated and absolutely unbelieveable. The writer expounds on minutia not pertinent to the story and the erotic detail rivals that of Fifty Shades of Grey.

It’s rather obvious by now this book is not my favorite read of the year. In my opinion if you dare to read this and the subsequent books in the trilogy you must be...mad.

The Curiosity

by Stephen P. Kiernan

Adult Summer Reading 2017

Review by Anne Coughlin of The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan

Kiernan is my new favorite fiction author. This debut novel tracks the finding and reanimation of a man frozen over a hundred years ago in the arctic ice. Kiernan uses contrast so well - yesterday and today; human rights and science; privacy and the public's insatiable need ofr drama. 2 thumbs up