What an absolute pleasure in the grey days of March! The Minnesota-based tale of Eva Thorvald and her wide-reaching impact on the world around her isWhat an absolute pleasure in the grey days of March! The Minnesota-based tale of Eva Thorvald and her wide-reaching impact on the world around her is as sweet and comforting as her locally-grown cuisine. I loved Eva at every stage, from her 11-year-old chili farmer to her hugely successful exclusive chef. And I loved the characters orbiting her, especially the small-town church lady and her old-fashioned bars. Stradal has a wonderful gift for making each story instantly accessible and engaging, but wraps them together at the end in a wholly satisfying way. Lightweight, but perfectly delicious....more
This lengthy novel was intimidating to me at the outset. I didn't know how I could possibly relate to its subject matter, knowing extremely little aboThis lengthy novel was intimidating to me at the outset. I didn't know how I could possibly relate to its subject matter, knowing extremely little about African history, let alone Nigerian history. Yet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie manages to draw in everyone who comes to her story. Half of a Yellow Sun is told through multiple perspectives - different ages, genders and ethnicity. To see the unfolding chaos through their eyes is to feel like you're there. And the author weaves in cultural and historical detail with such ease that none of it feels foreign. In many ways, this could be any county, although the author's heart is clearly in Nigeria. I loved her structure, her writing, her characters. It is a long book, but there's a feeling of great satisfaction upon finishing it. I felt like I had read a modern classic....more
Roxane Gay is an undeniably thoughtful and intelligent social observer and as a Haitian-American and feminist, her perspective is an important one inRoxane Gay is an undeniably thoughtful and intelligent social observer and as a Haitian-American and feminist, her perspective is an important one in a landscape where similar voices are few and far between. But having said that, I found myself ultimately turned off by her dismissals of most every pop culture artifact that didn't speak to her personally (Sweet Valley High being the notable exception). Take her analysis of HBO's Girls and its lack of diversity. Fair. But then she acknowledges Lena Dunham is writing from her experience. Then she says we need to do better as a society and show more diversity like the world really is. Then she goes off on how brilliant Girlfriends, featuring an all-black cast, is. So what is the point here? Who's to blame? Dunham? HBO? America?
Most of her essays begin with a strong and thought-provoking point (e.g. the importance of acknowledging one's privilege), but slowly veer off into territory that alienated me or baffled me. (See essay on 50 Shades of Grey that starts as an analysis of women's enjoyment of erotic fiction and moves into an off-the-wall defense of S&M.) The essays are strident, humorless and depressing - her audience and the world are the real bad feminists. But then at the end she says that no, she's just an ordinary woman who loves rocking out to rap music and painting her nails. Since when are you a bad feminist for liking the color pink? It seemed deliberately simplistic for a woman with such otherwise nuanced thinking.
I don't understand the hype behind this one. I don't think she had wildly original things to say and I just left feeling bad about myself. ...more
Ruth Ware's demented bachelorette (or "hen") party was exactly the kind of engrossing, fun, creepy escape I needed for the end of the year. While theRuth Ware's demented bachelorette (or "hen") party was exactly the kind of engrossing, fun, creepy escape I needed for the end of the year. While the ending wasn't totally satisfying (they rarely are in mysteries), the whodunnit atmosphere was a treat and I couldn't wait to return to the story to find out the next plot twist. Highly recommended for fans of Girl on a Train....more
I've now read three Anne Tyler novels and I feel confident in saying this author is not for me. What some readers may call "quirky" or "delightful" chI've now read three Anne Tyler novels and I feel confident in saying this author is not for me. What some readers may call "quirky" or "delightful" characters, I call annoying, whiny, stubborn and either self-centered or oblivious. And without much forward momentum to the stories, it's hard for me to engage with any of it. This latest work is a prime example of all of this. While I admire Tyler's ability to create complex, three-dimensional people, the story feels primed for something that never comes to fruition. particularly since her narrative structure here is rather perplexing. Undoubtedly quality writing, but just not for me....more
Issues of gender identity may have been in the news of late, but without close friends or colleagues who identify as trans, it was still a mystifyingIssues of gender identity may have been in the news of late, but without close friends or colleagues who identify as trans, it was still a mystifying topic to me. I don't support hurting or disenfranchising anyone, but I kept coming back to the same thought: I just don't understand. And for anyone who has had similar thoughts, you couldn't find a more interesting, compassionate, thought-provoking work than Becoming Nicole. Part family drama, part science/history lesson, part David-vs.-Goliath story, the author profiles one child from birth through high school and brings the reader into Nicole's mindset. Nutt's simple prose is eye-opening and the Maines family inspiring. If I have one quibble, it's with the audio version, read by the author. Nutt's cotton-mouthed, expressionless delivery doesn't do justice to the story and was even irritating at times. Better to read the book itself. But however you come to this book, you will find yourself thinking differently and more openly about this important issue and I can't think of higher praise for non-fiction than that.