I'd never read anything by Leavitt before, but I like travel narrative (including expat memoir), so thought I'd try this one. He writes very well, tho...moreI'd never read anything by Leavitt before, but I like travel narrative (including expat memoir), so thought I'd try this one. He writes very well, though not sure if I'd rush to read any fiction of his; their acceptance as a gay couple a generation ago was a plus to hear about.(less)
A great book about what it means to be an upper middle class New England Yankee. I'm not interested in the Alcotts, so those references didn't resonat...moreA great book about what it means to be an upper middle class New England Yankee. I'm not interested in the Alcotts, so those references didn't resonate with me specifically, and I wasn't completely into some of the author's own personal story, but overall I felt the sociological aspect was spot on.(less)
I wrote a longer review that was stolen by the Review Monster (a cousin of the Sock Thief), so here goes try number two ...
I knew Zevin could write as...moreI wrote a longer review that was stolen by the Review Monster (a cousin of the Sock Thief), so here goes try number two ...
I knew Zevin could write as I liked her YA book Elsewhere a couple of years back, but this one shows off how she can really "show not tell"; at one point there's a tragic, dramatic scene, but instead of giving the whole thing, she cuts out abruptly, returning to fill in the episode more subtly later. I loved that! She has a great way with images, right down to focusing on Amy's harpooned shrimp cocktail on a date. Again ... yay!
A. J. himself goes from bitter, anti-social curmudgeon almost immediately early on in the book. I felt I was suspending disbelief there, but hey, it's fiction! His lack of social skills comes into play later as well, leading me to want to know more about his background before his wife died. We get almost nothing there; a cameo appearance by his widowed mom doesn't help either. I really wanted more about his parents' mixed race marriage, etc. Still, the book was plenty full without going into all that, so not absolutely necessary. The romantic angle is handled well, and a kudo or three to Zevin for NOT having sex scenes! We got the idea.
I had more to say about Amy, Maya and Esme as supporting characters, but I'll just leave it that they all worked well in their ways. Maya was a bit precocious, but even I teared up when A. J. writes a note addressing her as "my favorite nerd". Esme's story is handled quite well, although she still comes off as a bit too guarded. Amy is always a sympathetic character, coming into her own at the end. It's really tough to talk about that without hitting spoiler territory, so I'll just say her final appearance was fully credible, rather than contrived (Zevin really racks up those kudos).
Finally, I get to talk about Chief Lambiez (I listened to the audio, so not sure of the spelling). To me, he showed the most character development, possibly even more credibly than A. J.'s own story. We see him go from a gruff, stereotypical non-bookish cop, taking the story from A. J. of a theft, retreating to the background, emerging later as the coordinator of the Chief's Choice book club at the store, as well preventing a suicide attempt that both parties knew was one, but tactfully pretended wasn't.
Besides the instant-dad status early on, I didn't find that the plot involving the stolen manuscript worked perfectly either. Instead, it tied things up a bit too neatly for me. Maybe at that point I was just ready to finish up and getting a bit cranky?
Overall I'd rate the book as Highly Recommended. Scott Brick's narration made things come alive for me (I'd never heard him read before). (less)
I ended up liking the book more than I'd thought I might. Mate's determination is truly impressive; numerous accounts of the many who helped him along...moreI ended up liking the book more than I'd thought I might. Mate's determination is truly impressive; numerous accounts of the many who helped him along the way were inspiring also.(less)
Really 3.5 stars, but the writing quality was high enough for the round-up.
Author's background, and her research and interviews, were well-presented,...moreReally 3.5 stars, but the writing quality was high enough for the round-up.
Author's background, and her research and interviews, were well-presented, although I did find them a bit bogged down in the more scientific areas (in-depth discussion of chromosomes, and such). Strongest parts focused on examples of picky eater syndrome, and how those folks function in relationships, etc. I do beg to differ that as a picky eater myself, we do spend time picking out, and otherwise avoiding, unwanted items (such as picking small celery pieces out of a cup of soup). I would like to have seen more on how picky people function, but instead she chose to present the examples of herself and her friends, who (largely) learned to eat most things they always hated. The only food that I used to outright refuse, that I can now tolerate would be cooked spinach. Then again, I never had liver until I was an adult (my parents HATED it), and I'm fine with it. Frankly, I was puzzled that she'd extol the virtue of broccoli (the mere thought of which makes me queasy), yet she goes on and on about how "evil" raisins are? Talk about misplaced priorities!
I'd recommend the book for those interested in the phenomenon, though not the chapter on babies and children, with stories of parents whom I'd describe as ... overly concerned about their kids' eating habits. And, I'd certainly be interested in reading more by the author on other topics.
A partial list of my own "Hell No!" items --
Raw tomatoes, cucumber/pickles, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, celery, pineapple, tripe, blue cheese, green pepper.(less)
Perhaps should be 3.5 stars, but not four, from my experience (yours may vary).
From the blurbs, you'd expect a book where the author relates her own l...morePerhaps should be 3.5 stars, but not four, from my experience (yours may vary).
From the blurbs, you'd expect a book where the author relates her own life via her love of the book Middlemarch, an you'd be right ... partly. That aspect is interspersed throughout, though not exactly a "central theme" for framework; by and large, Mead's own story worked fine for me. A significant portion of the work serves as a biography of George Eliot, which I thought well done - four stars on that angle from me, providing a good sense of who she was, and what her life was life.
Unfortunately, after that the book turns to "lit crit" analysis of Eliot's work, going into depth for "meaning" and significance. I'm just not really fond of that stuff, so my ears glazed over, so that I found myself "getting through" not enjoying things. A slight rally at the end where we come back to Mead's own life helped, but didn't totally overcome my fatigue.
If you're particularly interested in Eliot and her work, then I'd highly recommend the book. I had read Middlemarch earlier, recalling little of the details, so as to the question of "Can one appreciate this book without having read that one?" I say: a qualified yes, IF you're otherwise interested in Victorian (female) authors. Mead recaps enough of the plot that it's not absolutely necessary.
I was invested in the protagonist, Lena, throughout the book. NYC setting was very well done. Satire (or at least critique) of the news biz was wel...morePros:
I was invested in the protagonist, Lena, throughout the book. NYC setting was very well done. Satire (or at least critique) of the news biz was well done without being made into a huge drama (or farce), and using a peripheral character here worked especially well.
The pacing/plotting was tricky in that the book was rather slow at first, and hurried later. However, it's a debut novel, so I'm cutting slack a bit for that. Had the book been much longer, it would've seemed drawn out. Story required a bit of suspension-of-disbelief at times (no deal breaker, but happened).
Audio narration was very good.
Definitely recommended, and I'd be quite interested in more from the author.
Although the book got bogged down in places (especially in the frequent references to the author's mother), I'm giving it four stars for the spot-on d...moreAlthough the book got bogged down in places (especially in the frequent references to the author's mother), I'm giving it four stars for the spot-on description of life with chronic low self-esteem.(less)
If you were a Romney supporter, skip this one ... just walk on by. Alter admits his bias at the outset, though he promises to be factual in his presen...moreIf you were a Romney supporter, skip this one ... just walk on by. Alter admits his bias at the outset, though he promises to be factual in his presentations. He's largely successful in that regard, if not completely.
I had thought it'd be more of an overview of the 2012 race; however, as it's about Obama, the Republican primaries as largely ignored, going from pre-race background almost straight into the summer pre-convention period. Some highlights I found particularly interesting were that the age gap between the parties means that Republicans have a rather small pool of savvy young geeks to choose from (Romney's "tech team" turned out to be a net minus for them), as well as the origins of that "47%" video.
Other reviewers have thought the book bogged down at times, and I agree, though not so much that I actually fast-forwarded though those sections. I wasn't sure about Alter's reading his own work, but either he got into the groove as he went along, or I became used to him. By the final chapters I was dreading that it was ending ... and I had thought at first that it would take me a long time to get through an 18-hour audiobook.
Very slow start that got a bit better, but still it was almost all set-up, and little action. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters to the...moreVery slow start that got a bit better, but still it was almost all set-up, and little action. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters to the extent that when a couple of previously minor characters turned out to be important players later on, I had no idea who the heck they were! Her gay roommates were presented a bit awkwardly I thought, as though the author were trying to make them "fun" but not stereotypically flamboyant, so they were just sort of ... there. A secondary plot regarding a scam artist was very poorly done; the victims came across as Too Stupid to Live, and the perp would've been caught in real life fairly quickly, although I didn't see exactly what "crimes" she'd committed exactly?
So ... would I read the next one? Maybe, to see whether the characters had grown much. This one was really more of a 2.5, being good for passing time more than for particularly noteworthy characters or plotting.
I have to agree with a reviewer who said he found the author's regular "We're not a 'couple'!" protestations a bit off-putting; moreover, the audio na...moreI have to agree with a reviewer who said he found the author's regular "We're not a 'couple'!" protestations a bit off-putting; moreover, the audio narration came of as a bit effete to me, which didn't help in that regard.
As a travel narrative, it was okay, although there was a fair amount of emphasis on the other hikers they met as part of the story; that aspect didn't fully work for me. There's much juvenile humor, unfortunately made worse by the narration as well. I suspect the print version might be a full three stars, with 2.5 for the audio edition. I will say the writing itself is fairly good in terms of flow, so it's not a matter of needing "editing" as such.
I was concerned that the book wouldn't tell me much I didn't already know, but I had a hard time putting it down. The first section, between the 2010...moreI was concerned that the book wouldn't tell me much I didn't already know, but I had a hard time putting it down. The first section, between the 2010 mid-terms and the Republican race was a bit boring, but not mind-numbingly so. The primary coverage was fascinating, and took up over a third of the story -- I had no idea that the establishment had been working so frantically behind the scenes to get Christie into the race, to avoid being stuck with Mitt. The final part on the general was largely focused on the debates I felt, with some reference to Hurricane Sandy and other events, seeming a bit tacked-on/rushed in that regard. In the final post-mortem, it was obvious that Mitt and his team failed to acknowledge that they lost because they were out-of-step with the American people, blaming the loss (pretty much) solely on higher-than-predicted Dem turnout (by the infamous 47%).
Audio narration was very good, a few minor quibbles aside.(less)
I had not heard of the author, a television personality, before starting this book. The first part, regarding his early life and career, really wasn't...moreI had not heard of the author, a television personality, before starting this book. The first part, regarding his early life and career, really wasn't that interesting, tempting me to bail. However, once he was able to set up TV interviews with Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, etc. for program segments I became quite interested, as Dan was both curious and skeptical at the same time. Chopra fans may not like that he found their guy a bit condescending, but I really liked it that the more he tried to pin him down on what he meant in his "new-age speak" (shall we say), the more confused he became! After that, he goes on meditation retreats, which are interesting as he tries to "get it", but really doesn't for quite a while. His delving into the world of Ju-Bu's (ethnic Jews who have espoused Buddhism) was a bit awkward I thought, making the final part less interesting for me. Or, perhaps, Dan had just said what there was to say by then?
Glad I didn't give up, but can understand why others had a not-so-positive reaction to the book. Recommended for those who find the point-of-view that's neither out to expose frauds, nor gushingly fawning, an interesting approach. (less)