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My Reviews

 
Insightful, Beautiful, Brilliant

Enjoyed this sooo much more than Steigner’s Pulitzer winning Angle of Repose. Crossing to Safety is the relatively straightforward story of the depth and richness of friendship between two couples, until death does them part.

 
Book Club Recommended
Serious Must-read

The basic premise is a man trying to get to the local orphanage in a city under siege, to bring his nephew safely home. Pasha is a single, middle aged wishy-washy eastern Ukrainian man, a high school Ukrainian teacher void of passion, opinion, depth, or drive. And the thing is, Pasha represents Everyman. And the dumbing down of Everyman everywhere by commercialism, consumerism, and technology, is ultimately going to be the death of us all: avoiding the news, not understanding the issues, chortling away at memes instead of contributing to saving democracy, the environment, humanity at large.

Serhiy Zhadan is being compared to James Joyce and Jack Kerouac and García Márquez and Vladimir Nabokov, but those are writers I struggled to get through in varying degrees and in comparison I just can not believe the sheer readability of Zhadan's writing. It's consuming, permeating, visceral. I felt like I'd experienced the journey myself, but then as well there's Ukraine and Russia dominating the news real time today. To think that this aggression and struggle has been going on for so many years is mind boggling - The Orphanage was first published in 2017, and this extraordinarily timely english translation in 2021.

I'm so glad I read this for book club, for the opportunity to discuss with others, to share my absolute respect for Zhadan and his translators (so brilliant having one be a poet) and hopefully get answers to my questions: who is Peter? was Sasha epileptic? is there any hope for civilization? why is the smell of doom described as "wet dog"?

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting
Not all that important in the overall scheme of things though

This is my first time reading Ruth Reichl; I'm not a Gourmet magazine reader, and though I cook daily it's out of necessity and obligation rather than for any sense of enjoyment. So I was happily surprised to find that Reichl's writing manages to make food and the foodie mag industry sound fascinating. I like her sustainability leanings, and the message that Paris is more enjoyable and rewarding on a shoestring budget than it is "traveling on the excess express."

I might have given this more stars had I not just read Love and Saffron, a sweet fiction novel by Kim Fay also about food writers and cooking, like maybe I'd reached full capacity? Anyways, if you're looking for food writing in fiction form, that's my recommendation for you

 
Interesting, Informative, Fun
Very funny, poignant

This is the second Jenny Lawson memoir I've read, and while it's all more of the same stuff or similar to what I read in Furiously Happy, she still does manage to crack me up. I read this book because it was assigned for a book club, and I really struggle to come up with stuff to say about it.

I'm studying to be an Elderly Patient Advocate now, and surprisingly I did find a couple things in this book that relate to my coursework. For example when Lawson described her difficulties with meds and claimed what she needs is a Drug Butler, I laughed because that's kind of part of my job. The other thing was her less funny, more Sisyphus-like experience fighting to get her ludicrously expensive medication covered by health insurance, first by requesting and then by appealing, and finally filing for an external or independent review. Her step-by-step description of the painful process entitled "An Open Letter to My Health Insurance Company," made for a much more comprehensive lesson than any I've received in class.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Gloomy
Read Olive, Again too!

I'm sure I would rate this book higher if it didn't get the Pulitzer, but as it did I was kind of underwhelmed. There seemed to be so much repetition in characters and quirks and things not significant enough to seem "thematic" or "symbolic" to me (winks, donuts, phobia of keeling over in public, food falling out of mouths, tiny escaping gaspy sounds).
It's a nice collection of short stories, and it was nice to get to know Crosby, ME through so many glimpses of its citizens, but this style didn't let the reader really get to know any of the characters in depth, not even Olive, not enough to satisfy the way a good novel does.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Informative
Great author, great topic, not so great ending

Geraldine Brooks is a great story teller and Year of Wonders is a great story about the plague in 1666, told from the point of view of Anna Frith. As a child Anna escaped an impoverished and abusive home by marrying out at the age of 15. Her husband Sam is a miner and his death at work leaves her a widow with 2 young boys. Then the plague happens and in one year she learns to read, learns Latin, and learns medicine. The village loses half of itself to this hideous disease plus a lot of its collective sanity and integrity. I like how we see Anna's transition into brainiac heroine, but the ending just got too wacky, so it didn't even feel like the same story to me anymore.

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