The first book I ever read on my phone, which is apt since I read Sepinwall's TV criticism on my phone all the time. That may be why I'm not entirely...moreThe first book I ever read on my phone, which is apt since I read Sepinwall's TV criticism on my phone all the time. That may be why I'm not entirely in love with this book - I've read so many people's critical takes on all these shows and listened to hundreds of podcasts (including Sepinwall's) so none of this was particularly enlightening. I find most of these shows as worthwhile as a good book or film - the medium definitely has taken a leap in the past decade.
The book still held my interest and kept me awake for middle of the night feedings these first few weeks of motherhood. I would recommend it highly for people who like thoughtful television... Just maybe not those like me who follow a half dozen TV critics daily already. (less)
I'm sure this book is for someone. Someone who has a ton of time to read about the miracle of breastfeeding and how magical it is. That person would h...moreI'm sure this book is for someone. Someone who has a ton of time to read about the miracle of breastfeeding and how magical it is. That person would have to have tons of spare time (which a 38 week pregnant lady just doesn't have) to be enveloped in the cocoon of hippiedom that I got from this book. I want advice and help and instead I felt like the fact that I bought a breast pump means that my baby will never bond with me once he's here (just one example of the way I felt prematurely judged for not planning on being the perfect example of the earth mother whose breasts are like jewels to my baby - if only because that is not practical for my lifestyle). In a perfect world, we could all breast feed like goddesses. In the real world, I need more practical advice on how to make this thing happen when the wiggle monster pops out in a few weeks. (less)
I picked this up because in our search for a pediatrician everyone (midwives, friends, acquaintances) said that a big decision point for most people w...moreI picked this up because in our search for a pediatrician everyone (midwives, friends, acquaintances) said that a big decision point for most people was the pediatrician's opinion on vaccinations. Turned out, I didn't have an opinion on vaccinations.
After reading Dr. Sears's book, I still can't say that I have many strong opinions on the subject, but at least I know that I am well informed. He lays out the information concisely, in easily digestible sections, and gives very even keeled information about what each vaccine is for; how often the disease is found; how likely your child is to have an adverse reaction to the vaccine AND how likely an unvaccinated child would have a severe case of the disease if caught; how the vaccine is made and any controversial ingredients; why or why not people choose to vaccinate for that disease; and finally, his opinion as a long practicing doctor. Never does he preach and never does he give a firm yes or no to any vaccine.
Even if you're like me and plan to vaccinate but maybe on a slightly (very slightly) modified schedule, but otherwise don't have a strong feeling one way or another, this book is very good to inform you as a new parent. Very happy I read it. (less)
As a long time Tropper reader, I appreciated the growth in "One Last Thing Before I Go." For the first time, the main character wasn't a rakish man ch...moreAs a long time Tropper reader, I appreciated the growth in "One Last Thing Before I Go." For the first time, the main character wasn't a rakish man child returning home to a family/town that no longer had faith in him. Instead, the main character is, quite simply, a loser.
Drew Silver has gone from a married father with a promising music career with a hit song to allowing his life to devolve into a divorced absentee father hitting up the local spank bank for cash in between stints playing weddings so he can pay the rent for his apartment at the depressing Versailles complex, home of dozens of similar sad sacks. The action begins when his 18-year-old valedictorian daughter comes over to tell him she's pregnant. When he asks why she's telling him, she bluntly says she isn't concerned about disappointing him.
Of course, that depressing tone doesn't pervade the rest of the book, even if Silver soon finds out - talk about a double whammy - that he has a heart condition that will kill him if he doesn't have an operation. The question becomes does he want to have the operation? He finds himself starting to connect a bit with Casey after half a decade of their relationship circling the drain. He starts to feel, in that cliched way, a bit more alive when facing death.
What I liked about "One Last Thing Before I Go":
1. Jonathan Tropper's voice. I've been a fan since his first novel, and I find him to be an easy fun voice to follow. He's an American Nick Hornby - though I'm finding I'm enjoying Tropper's latest works much more than Hornby's. 2. For the first time that I can recall, he doesn't write this in first person. For the first time, we get to hear the thoughts of those around the protagonist - Casey and her mother Denise get several interludes. It's not always perfect, but it was a surprising change. 3. Tropper writes better than most about friendship - specifically male friendship - and about the complexities of sex in modern society.
What I didn't like:
1. I'm so tired of books ending on ambiguous notes. Too many novels lately end where you just have to decide what happened. Come on already. 2. In the end, I didn't really LIKE Silver. I don't have to like main characters all the time, but there are some books where it definitely helps. I should have liked him more, but I didn't. 3. I held this up against some of Tropper's other works, and it just never entertained and impressed me the way "Plan B" and "This is Where I Leave You" did.
In the end? Three stars. I liked it well enough. I'm happy to have had it to read. Not something I want to put in other people's hands like his previous books.(less)
*This review makes the book sound much more depressing than it is. I genuinely liked “Seating Arrangements.” I promise.*
A wedding is as good a setting...more*This review makes the book sound much more depressing than it is. I genuinely liked “Seating Arrangements.” I promise.*
A wedding is as good a setting as any for a literary novel. In some ways, it’s probably better than most – weddings, even the smoothest and best ones, all come with drama and all have potential for emotions and tenuous family relationships to push up against one another. Maggie Shipstead definitely picked a good starting point for her debut novel.
Then again, this particular wedding – between Daphne Van Meter and Greyson Duff – is probably the least important part of “Seating Arrangments.” It’s given four pages at the very end, almost like an epilogue. You certainly don’t get inside of Daphne or Greyson’s heads, or get a feeling for who they are in the slightest. Are they good for one another? It seems so, if only because the somewhat unpleasant and self-centered people that do get top billing in the novel think so in the few moments that they aren’t absorbed with their own lives. Are they interesting people? Clearly not interesting enough to take center stage for even one second over Winn, Daphne’s father, or Livia, her sister. Why does Shipstead make Daphne seven months pregnant, if no one really seems to be that concerned with it, except for some vague thoughts of its impropriety from Winn’s side? I don’t know, maybe so that Daphne has something interesting to bring to the table.
As I said, the book focuses mainly on Winn Van Meter and his youngest daughter Livia, though we do get in the heads of a few other members of the wedding party as the long weekend plays out. The Van Meters and all of Daphne’s bridesmaids have descended on the family’s summer house on Waskeke, an island in New England that was once a center of whaling but now plays home to rich Connecticut weekenders. Winn is, in a word, a bit of a curmudgeon, someone whose sense of propriety overwhelms the entire proceedings of the novel. Never once is he able to just enjoy himself – he is the typical father of the bride, except that he is less concerned with the money and more just with how unseemly the whole spectacle of the wedding is, and how much he hates all the people intruding on the house that has been his family’s haven for relaxation for decades. I do appreciate that money isn’t really an issue, though, especially since while the Van Meters are a family that has gone to Harvard for generations and lived well for a century, they are definitely on the comfortable side instead of the gaudy ostentatious rich of some of the characters we meet. Winn gets a little tiresome. It’s like he has a midlife crisis in the course of the two days leading up to the wedding, though in typical 21st century literary novel fashion everything gets tied up by the event itself, not exactly in a tidy fashion but in the “we’ll agree to ignore our faults and sins, because we’re wealthy WASPs” way that is also highly typical of the current trend in novels.
Twenty-one year old Harvard senior Livia is definitely the more interesting character, though Jesus did she grate on my nerves. She is smart (one gets the sense that Winn doesn’t particularly like his daughters, but if he had to pick one to carry on the Van Meter name it would be Livia) but she spends the entire book in a foggy depressed state… over a boy who broke up with her six months before. Good grief. When we are allowed the glimpses of the Livia who would have attracted the boy in question in the first place, I relaxed a bit. But her general woe-is-me attitude made me grit my teeth from time to time.
“Seating Arrangements” isn’t a fun book, but it is a light book. It’s a fast read. The author is excellent at weaving memories and flashbacks into the present day to show who the characters are and how they got to here. Shipstead does a great job of giving full characterizations to the people who populate the novel. That said, they are incredibly dour. But I’m not sure I really minded. (less)
A fast read, an entertaining read, but not in any way an enlightening read. Littlefield is a little too self-congratulatory. But if you have an intere...moreA fast read, an entertaining read, but not in any way an enlightening read. Littlefield is a little too self-congratulatory. But if you have an interest in the big shows of the 80s-90s era on NBC, it's worth giving a few hours of your time to. (less)
It definitely picked up towards the end but good lord does he take his time getting to the plot. There are way too many bits of exposition about what...moreIt definitely picked up towards the end but good lord does he take his time getting to the plot. There are way too many bits of exposition about what exactly someone buys, or eats, or entire scenes that have no import at all - they're just people going out for coffee (they all drink coffee constantly) and then sitting and thinking.
It does get old, like I said, that Blomkvist seems to sleep with every single female character. Every one.(less)
I did the thing. You know the thing. The thing that longtime booksellers roll their eyes about and grumble behind your back about. I saw the movie fir...moreI did the thing. You know the thing. The thing that longtime booksellers roll their eyes about and grumble behind your back about. I saw the movie first.
And I've got to tell you: in this case at least, I'm very glad I did. It's a good story, definitely, but it takes Larsson a LONG time to get to the damn point already. Having seen the movie meant that I was willing to slog through the beginning pages. Once the story takes flight, it is, admittedly, engrossing. I don't ever read mysteries, so it was an interesting change of pace for me. This book is a traditional whodunit, Agatha Christie-esque novel (the main character even refers to it as a "locked room" plot several times), but with an edge that is almost... annoying. Like Larsson took this very basic plot and decided to throw every single scandalous, over-the-top, depraved bit of characterization he could at the people who populate the book. Once you take that away, you really do have a very traditional story.
Okay, and here's the truth: the movie was better (I've only seen the American version). I hate myself for saying it, but it's true. The book is painfully long and doesn't have the emotional thrust that the movie does. You FEEL what the characters feel in the movie, whereas Larsson can tell me all day what Salander thinks (and, believe me, he does) but I still don't find her fully formed.
All that said? I'll still read the next one.(less)
The only one of the three where the actual psychology of the characters, and what it feels like emotionally to be someone living in the districts, is...moreThe only one of the three where the actual psychology of the characters, and what it feels like emotionally to be someone living in the districts, is explored to my liking.
These books were three days of my life. Liked them enough, not sure I understand the hubbub.(less)
An extremely easy and fast read, but a book that held my interest from minute one.
The story is set at the 20th reunion of the Harvard Class of 1989. K...moreAn extremely easy and fast read, but a book that held my interest from minute one.
The story is set at the 20th reunion of the Harvard Class of 1989. Kogan specifically follows four former roommates - Addison, Mia, Clover, and Jane - as they come together with their families for the weekend. The Red Book of the title is the book that updates all former alumni on their classmates' lives over the past five years; no one is required to contribute, but most seemingly do.
I questioned the honesty of the entries of our core four, especially in comparison to some of the other entries we're privy to. Granted, over the course of the novel we learn that the women speak mainly half truths in their entries, as they are fleshed out into real characters over the forty eight hours of the book. At the end of the novel, when we get the 25th anniversary updates that serve as the epilogue to our time with the characters, it is truly hard to imagine the women we've spent this many pages with speaking in such forthright terms to their classmates, but I suppose using the Red Book as the conceit to give us that epilogue means that we're going to have to accept some stretching of their characters.
My thoughts on the four women:
Addison is spoiled, narcissistic, and completely unaware of how irresponsible she comes across to everyone she meets. It was very difficult to feel sympathy with her, and a thrown off thought about her daughter at the end of the book was the one time that I was really engaged by her.
Clover is the daughter of capital-H Hippies, and of course she ends up being the clinical, mathematically inclined member of the four who made a fortune as a trader on Wall Street before the recession hits (Kogan even has her be a former employee of Lehman Brothers). Her storyline, however, never made sense to me - or at least the ending. Didn't buy it.
Mia is seemingly the most grounded, the former actress who married a Hollywood director and became a housewife and mother of four. She is definitely likable, but her final destiny (all of it) is telegraphed so brazenly in the last twenty pages that I rolled my eyes, wishing Kogan had chosen to fake us out.
And Jane, the Vietnamese woman who was adopted at age six, is by far my favorite. Yes, it seems like she can't meet a human being who doesn't cheat on their loved one (it becomes overkill), and yes, I think that maybe she's not SUPPOSED to be the most likable, but I'll be damned if I didn't find her cold exterior to be the most enjoyable to see cracked.
I wish there had been less overt money issues. One would be expected, two would reflect the times, but to have all four women in a financial bind (even if all four are for different reasons) was a little tiresome.