Sunday, December 11, 2016

Still Alice

Image result for Still alice bookStill Alice - one of the very best books I have ever read.
 This is a review I'm going to enjoy, so much more than Girl With a Pearl Earring. 
Still Alice was fantastic. Here's the synopsis real quick:

From New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes the definitive—and illuminating—novel about Alzheimer’s disease. Now a major motion picture starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore! Look for Lisa Genova's latest novel Inside the O’Briens.

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever. As she struggles to cope with Alzheimer’s, she learns that her worth is comprised of far more than her ability to remember.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.
So basically, this extremely intelligent psychology professor, Alice Howland, begins to forget things. At first it's just minor things, like where her phone charger is and how she apparently left her Blackberry at a restaurant table when she didn't even remember taking it out. Understandable, right? She's under a lot of stress, teaching lectures and family dynamics and all.
  But when she's out running, she forgets where she is. Completely. She has no idea which road she needs to take to get home, and it takes her awhile to remember. So naturally, after this she goes to the doctor and is pronounced fit and fine after the tests they give her. So nothing's wrong....right?
    But then it's even bigger things. She completely forgets what the lecture she's teaching is about - which is appalling since she was literally practicing it for the last hour before going to teach it. She has to ask her students which one it is.
 Her memory continues to fail her like this, and finally the doctors realize what's wrong.
   Alice Howland has early onset Alzheimer's disease.
 This was just so sad and scary to me. Despite being a fictional novel, this book reminds you that things like this really do happen, and it takes you through Alice's life as her Alzheimer's symptoms increase. Her memory begins to get worse. For instance, while at a party, she is introduced to the wife of one of her colleagues - and promptly forgets and introduces herself all over again a few minutes later to the poor woman.
It begins to get very difficult to do simple things like hold a conversation with someone, especially on the phone. It's like Alice's brain needs a lot more time to process things. She can understand words, but her brain has to take the time to process them, and by the time it has, the person is already saying something else. It's also very hard for her to remember simple things like when each of her classes are, and what they're about.
 One of the saddest parts is when Alice is watching her youngest daughter, Lydia, performing in a Shakespeare play. She completely forgets that this character in the show is her daughter, and at the end when Lydia comes up to them, Alice talks to her as though she were a complete stranger and just one of the actresses, unwittingly hurting her daughter.
You get to see what Alzheimer's does to Alice, what happens to her and how difficult it becomes for her to do simple tasks like read, run, and teach, because of her memory. She must quit her job as a psychology professor, and she can no longer go anywhere by herself without her husband John, whom I admired in this book because of his dedication to her and his determination to help her.
  Truly one of the best books I have ever read. I expected it to start off slow and be kind of boring, but NO. This book was never boring. Right away she is having memory problems, and not long into the book, she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I literally read this in a few hours. I would definitely recommend it. There were no inappropriate parts, nothing like that, so I think it would be fine for a teen to read. The writing was excellent and captivating.
 And - BONUS - there's also a movie!!! Starring Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin. Kristen Stewart plays Lydia. I haven't seen the movie yet but I can't wait.

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Image result for girl with a pearl earring book Recently I read Girl With a Pearl Earring. I saw it at Goodwill and grabbed it, thinking it looked interesting because it was set in 1660s Holland (I love travel and culture). So I read it.
This book is about sixteen-year-old Griet, whose family is so poor that she has to go and work as a maid for the painter Vermeer and his family, just to support them. Understandable, right? Things don't start off very well. Everybody seems to have it in for her from the start. There are the children, who mostly keep out of her way except for Cornelia - who is the DEVIL. Seriously.
   Did I like this book?
This book may be a classic and based on Vermeer's famous painting, and I may not know much about him as a person, but this book did not do him any favors. When the book starts off, he's this mysterious person that we rarely see. He's supposed to be kind of captivating and secretive. But let's realize something: this guy is married to the woman who hired Griet (the woman of the house, Catharina) and she's heavily pregnant. Yet this guy practically NEVER HELPS HER. He hardly seems like a husband at all. The only time he actually interacts with her is eating dinner with the family, which happens only a couple of times in the book. He's never even present during the actual BIRTH of his son, because he's off painting or getting supplies for his artwork.
And there was also a romantic theme going on between Vermeer and Griet. Another thing I didn't like at all. This guy is married, has several kids and his wife is pregnant with another. THIS IS NOT  A SETTING FOR A ROMANCE, PEOPLE. And also, Griet is sixteen (later eighteen, since this book spans about two years), and Vermeer has to be in his late thirties, at least. Not a good match.
   Towards the end of the book, Vermeer is also portrayed as a very selfish, uncaring person, if you ask me. You want to know why it's called Girl With a Pearl Earring? 
It's not for a good reason.
  Vermeer has to paint Griet because of a request from a rich client who took a fancy to her, and after awhile he decides that there's only one thing that will complete the painting of her: his wife's earrings.
Yes. HIS WIFE'S earrings. How do you think she'd react if she found out that the maid was wearing her priceless earrings for the painting? Wonderful Vermeer doesn't even spend much time with her at all, and has never painted her - yet he's willing to paint the maid, wearing her earrings? Bad move, Vermeer. Bad move.
I'll tell you how she reacts - in a minute. WAIT FOR IT.
    After Vermeer tells Griet that he wants her to wear one of the pearl earrings, she tells him that her ears aren't even pierced. He blinks and says, "Then take care of it."
  Seriously. And because everyone in the house pretty much hates her, Griet can't exactly go to anyone for help piercing her ear. So she does it herself. And faints. Her ear swells and is extremely painful, yet she poses for the painting anyway. Then he asks for the other ear to be pierced. Which is extremely stupid, because you can't even see her other ear in the painting. He simply wants her to wear it because it's "a farce to wear only one." ?? So she has to bear the pain yet a second time, for no reason. He even ignores her when she begins to cry silently after piercing her other ear.
Again, not a smart move, Vermeer.
His wife does find out that he's painting this lowly maid with her earring - and by the way, she finds out from Cornelia, who deliberately leads her to the painting (I told you she's a devil). Anyway, the wife Catharina flips out completely, crying and going into a rage which causes her to go into labor and lose the baby she's carrying. 
This is a very dark book with the characters doing disturbing things, and I did not like it. Plus there were several innappropriate parts, which I did not expect and did not appreciate. One of the men in this book continually gropes her and tries to catch her alone. So don't let your teen read this book. 
  That sums up precisely why I don't like this book. The writing quality was actually not bad, and for the most part I didn't mind the main character, Griet. It was the other characters - particularly Vermeer - that I didn't like.
   So. There it is, ladies and gentlemen. Girl With a Pearl Earring.