all-this-talk

A strong, moving family drama set around an Italian-American family who has issues dealing with the outside world and with each other.

Spanning generations, the Grasso family has a lot going on amongst their own family, not to mention trying to get back to Italy for one last visit. The personalities of all of the family members are well-defined and strong in their own way and the way the characters interact with each other is timeless and is reminiscent of typical family relations. Each of the fully developed characters are realistic and engaging. Some family secrets that are hidden for years emerge and there is nothing phony or fake about the repercussions.

Not the best family drama story ever written, but a deeply-engaging story nonetheless.

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library!

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A fire races though a London private school and a mother rushes to save her daughter’s life. How the fire started provides the backdrop for this suspenseful thriller with paranormal aspects and graced with lyrical writing.

This novel with its realistic portrayal of contemporary families is heartbreaking in its tragic elements but appealing in its devotion to the protective instincts that are the core of the love between mothers and children. The twists and turns in the thriller are so well done that the culprit is revealed deftly in the final pages.

Readers of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Broken Harbor by Tana French will devour Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton.

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A true tearjerker, Night Road, is a perceptive novel on motherhood, friendship, family relationships and the devastation of loss. Jude Farraday is a super overbearing mother of twins, Mia and Zach. On the first day of high school Lexie Baill, newly adopted by her grand aunt, befriends Mia who is shy and insecure in contrast to her popular and athletic twin Zach. Jude grateful that Mia has found a friend opens her home to Lexie. The friendship flourishes.

As the action fast forwards to senior year, Jude beset by college applications and drinking parties becomes obsessive in her control of the twins’ lives. The timing for this novel is just right for Mother’s Day since the characterization of Jude relates so well to every mother who feels the pressure and concern for the happiness of her children. Adding to the tenderness of the novel Lexie and Zach fall in love.
On one tragic night on Night Road Jude’s fears are realized. In the explosion of Jude’s grief, guilt and rage lives are broken and dreams destroyed.
Setting and strong insightful characterization contribute to a realistic heartbreaking story.

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It isn’t easy being the new kid in the school, or in the house. Sophomore Lucy Norton is left in her new home with her stepmother and her evil twin stepsisters by Lucy’s bi-coastal working father. Feeling ostracized in the house and isolated in her new high school, she takes refuge in her art class. Inspired by an older classmate Sam’s painting, she thinks he’s a jerk in person, but her opinion changes after he invites her to a show at an art gallery. Lucy finds herself struggling to find her identity and place in the world when she has an assignment to create a self portrait. But when a basketball game comment in the cafeteria attracts the attention of Connor, the star of the varsity team, Lucy suddenly rises in social status. She gets a date and some new girlfriends who are plugged into the school’s gossip feed. Will she remain the art aficionado or become part of the “in” basketball crowd? Is Connor really her prince?

Melissa Kantor’s If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? provides her independent narrator heroine with the wit and sarcasm to have the reader identify with her. She allows Lucy to show us the humor in her uncomfortable home and school life – “It’s so Brothers Grimm.” As she tries to maintain her bond with her dad, she feels that her stepmother is changing everything.

This is a good account of a created family trying to adjust to their new life together. It is a charming story of a contemporary teen dealing with the change and uncertainty that being in a new environment can bring. This book shows that having different and creative talents can be a beneficial and positive experience. Kantor does a great job at updating the Cinderella fairy tale. A fine frothy read for young adults and a fun read for adults too.

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The overused word DYSFUNCTIONAL could have been coined about the Gregson family. The matriarch of this mess is Tara, who has several diverse and loony multiple personalities, including a teenage-like wild girl, a June Cleaver-esque housewife, and a MALE Vietnam Vet who smokes and drinks way too much. Her kids and husband are all very aware that this personality disorder is something their mother is afflicted with. Often, the personalities come out at the most inopportune times, causing havoc in the kids’ lives. Like I said, dysfunctional with a capital D! And, most times, I stay clear from families-in-crisis shows (like Married With Children, etc.) but this time, Tara and her antics make the show so appeal and fun. I also felt myself drawn to the kids’ plights and what their lives must be like with a mother like Tara . Their frequent frustration is believable and not overdone in anyway. But, I would have to say that Tara and her “alters” as she calls them is the reason to watch this one. Toni Collette has won raves and awards for her portrayal of Tara and I think she is key to the show’s appeal and quality. If Tara were not as believable as she is, the show would not hold together and the audience would lose interest fast. Collette’s strong acting and huge range allow this show to be a hit rather than a miss.

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This tome is one of the best character studies in fiction I’ve read. All stemming from the elderly matriarch of a family of three children, Pilcher weaves a saga that is vivid, lush and wildly fascinating. The matriarch, Penelope, has just gotten out of the hospital at the beginning of the novel, for what she continually denies was a heart attack. Her children, all busy with their own lives, have trouble dealing with their headstrong mother. From this start, the novel traces the early periods of Penelope’s life…followed by the lives of her children and loved ones. All of the characters’ stories connect with Penelope in some way…she remains the focus of the story at all times. But, even with the vast amount of pages, I never once tired or grew bored of her or any of the other stories. This one takes a while to get through, but it is worth it!

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A tough film to sit through, Brothers is a powerful drama that stays with you long after it ends. My appreciation for this film only increased as I thought more and more about its messages and meaning. Based on a Danish film from 2004, Brødre, this intense story revolves around two brothers. At the beginning of the film, one son, Tommy, just is released from prison. He, naturally, is the black sheep of the family. The “favorite” son, Sam, is soon to be heading off to Afghanistan for another tour of duty. While in the Middle East, Sam is presumed dead in a helicopter accident. This family, naturally, makes do the best they can to pick up the pieces and Tommy really steps up and helps out Sam’s wife and daughters. The daughters, in particular, become very attached to Tommy. Sam’s wife, Grace, borders precariously on some romantic feelings for her brother-in-law, though nothing is ever shared between them but a kiss. So, director Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) melds these images of sadness and sorrow with Sam in Afghanistan, alive and taken prisoner. Then, Sam comes home. He comes home a different man entirely. He simply cannot “kick” the images and bloodshed from his head…he can not get past what he had to do to survive. His daughters are now afraid of the “new” Sam and want their Uncle Tommy. Even his wife sees her resurrected husband as a stranger. The climatic ending still causes a chill down my spine just thinking about it. Brothers is not only an underrated film that is a must see, but it also is filled with dynamite performances by all of the major players. An excellent, yet disturbing film.

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The Black Balloon is a touching, engaging Australian drama about a family with two teenage sons, one of whom is autistic. At the start of the film, the mother is pregnant again, trying her best to manage the two boys she already has, plus a husband and a household. The autistic son, Charlie, naturally takes up a great deal of both parents’ time as well as the time and attention of the other son, Thomas. When Thomas brings a girlfriend home for dinner, things do not go exactly as planned, as with most things when the ever-unpredictable but sweet Charlie is around. All of the performances in this film are stellar, especially the two boys. I even had to watch the DVD special features to find out if the actor who pays Charlie was autistic or not (he is not). Sometimes, acting performances of characters with special needs go too over the top or are too unrealistic. Here, Charlie is a non-verbal, highly inquisitive young man who likes structure and regiment, but is not seen as a victim or a character in need of sympathy from the audience. He is just a teenage boy. He is happy in his own world with his own games. And the relationship between the two brothers is also not sugarcoated at all. There even is a very emotional scene when the brothers fight; it’s tough to watch since they are so close. The strong performances and convincing script are what make us so attached to these characters. No cardboard characters here!

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