Such an interesting experience to read a book that's completely not my cup of coffee but written by one of my favorite writers. I fell in love over anSuch an interesting experience to read a book that's completely not my cup of coffee but written by one of my favorite writers. I fell in love over and over again with a turn of a phrase here, a joke there, a character here (Croup and Vandemar, ahhhhh, delicious!), an insight there (Gaiman's thoughts on waiting). And inbetween, while plot was happening, I was... kind of bored out of my skull. The monomyth delivered so straight, and especially, wrapped in a fantasy package, doesn't much appeal to me. But I'm not sorry I read this, and I would easily recommend it to fans of the genre....more
Fluffy, compulsive reading. It's all empty calories, of course: Bridget Jones falls in love all over again with a conveniently perfect guy, after haviFluffy, compulsive reading. It's all empty calories, of course: Bridget Jones falls in love all over again with a conveniently perfect guy, after having lots of awesome sex with a conveniently perfect younger guy. It's very silly and much fun. What's life without a little cotton candy?...more
Well written and interesting, but I think there is something fundamentally changed about my tastes these days: I have so little patience for sweepingWell written and interesting, but I think there is something fundamentally changed about my tastes these days: I have so little patience for sweeping dynastic sagas populated by a hundred casually examined strange characters who all invariably keep deadly secrets. You know the kind of book I'm talking about. To me it feels clichéd even when the characters and settings are as interesting as the ones in this book.
So, all apologies to Mr Verghese, but I couldn't finish this book. I simply got distracted by other titles in my reading list that looked like (and were!) so much more fun. (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Palace of Illusions, Matt Taibbi's The Divide, Carol Shields's Unless, Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the end of the lane, etc.)...more
Wonderful retelling of Mahabharata that unfortunately pulls its punches in key scenes and falls short of delivering the explosive payoff that it so exWonderful retelling of Mahabharata that unfortunately pulls its punches in key scenes and falls short of delivering the explosive payoff that it so expertly builds up to.
Half the trouble is that this book seems to want to be a reinterpretation in many ways but it stays frustratingly faithful to the original in all but one subplot that has no impact on either characters or story. It stays true to the original as a faithful retelling even to the extent of remaining conservative in its morals despite starting off wanting to be feminist.
But there was much to love about this book, most especially the relationship depicted between Krishna and Draupadi. Reading this also made me realize how different Draupadi is from the other Pandava wives in all her choices throughout the story. There is a real heroine there, and the book did a great job highlighting this in such a sly, playful way, as glimpsed through the curtains of her all-too-human flaws and obsessions....more
Gave up on it at around page 50 when I realized the only thing that was going to HAPPEN in this book had already happened, and the rest was going to bGave up on it at around page 50 when I realized the only thing that was going to HAPPEN in this book had already happened, and the rest was going to be all inner monologue.
I'm a fan of inner monologue, don't get me wrong, but only when there's reason to listen to it - for example, while we're waiting for something to happen. Monologues need to be punctuated by plot, not parenthetical monologues inside monologues....more
I was honestly disappointed that (spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoilUrsula Monkton: creepiest villain ever, hands down. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU
I was honestly disappointed that (spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler) she ended up not being the main villain. I was so disappointed with that unnecessary turn of events that I took away one star from this amazing book. Why, Gaiman, why!!! She was perfect! Why did she need to be made insignificant in favor of some other villain that wasn't even a tenth as terrifying.
Everything else about the book was seriously brilliant. One of my favorite recent reads. Can't wait till my kids are old enough for me to read this one to them....more
One of my favorite nonfiction writers. Atul Gawande is always worth a read. In "Better", he considers the question of what might make medicine as a whOne of my favorite nonfiction writers. Atul Gawande is always worth a read. In "Better", he considers the question of what might make medicine as a whole industry ... better. In terms of cost, effectiveness, reach, and advancement of knowledge. For doctors and patients, and to a lesser extent, society as a whole.
This is an enormous question, of course, and Gawande does manage to address it in a meaningful way by detailing three major case studies and several smaller ones. I found the case study of polio eradication in India the most fascinating. That so few local overseers belonging to UN agencies coordinate such a massive effort for eradication is astounding, especially knowing the challenges of Indian systems intimately like I do.
The other case studies, such as hand washing among doctors and the medical side of childbirth are also memorable. Hand washing especially, I went in with something like a "duh why can't they do it properly" attitude, and Gawande's case study left me with a deep understanding of exactly why not.
There were two slightly frustrating things about this book. One was that Gawande is so scrupulously apolitical that it gets a bit annoying. When he discusses health insurance, for example, it is hard to see how he can possible do it well while steadfastly remaining apolitical, and yeah, his reticence does hurt the chapter. He leaves many options for alternative systems for healthcare provisions unexamined because of it.
The other slightly annoying thing is how Gawande seems to see doctors as demigods, if not actually divine. Often this is an endearing attitude. But sometimes it grates, this high-and-mighty way he has of suggesting throughout that doctors are ever so Special and must be held to godly standards of performance and morality, etc. I am not one to suggest doctors are the same as any other profession like car sales, but Atul Gawande is on a completely new level of reverence for the profession. Like I said, this IS usually endearing. If I had to choose a doctor I'd most certainly choose one who felt the special weight of doctorly responsibility than one who is in it just for the money. But in some chapters, like the one on childbirth, Gawande's reverence leaves him utterly unable to admit the depth of the medical profession's failure in treating women like people, and accepting the fact that sheer greed is what is behind the over medicalization of childbirth throughout the previous venture that continues to this day. Any failures of the medical profession are blamed on lack of knowledge and good intentions. This is annoying.
But regardless, a really good book, great fun to read....more
I read this book half in ebook format and listened to the other half as an audiobook read by Nigel Hawthorne. I actually wept when it ended: mostly foI read this book half in ebook format and listened to the other half as an audiobook read by Nigel Hawthorne. I actually wept when it ended: mostly for poor old Stevens but also I think because the book was over. This was just a few minutes ago. I need to gather my thoughts before I can write a proper review. All I can say now is WOW. ...more
Funny, dark, and utterly brilliant: this UNromance is a most original coming-of-age story
It's the 1970s in suburban America and the stage is set for tFunny, dark, and utterly brilliant: this UNromance is a most original coming-of-age story
It's the 1970s in suburban America and the stage is set for the sort of story that, in a lesser writer's hands, would usually make me fling my e-reader across the room. David is a 30-something physics professor traumatized by the recent loss of his wife and daughter in a plane crash. Molly is his 16-yr-old babysitter set on a collision course with a world far less innocent than she imagines.
But this is no seedy romance - the book is much too feminist for that. Right from the beginning, Ms. Hutchison's trademark unflinching realism grounds us solidly in characters closely observed and fully realized, which means, among other things, that any romance or lack thereof is far from a foregone conclusion.
(We are kept in complete suspense about whether they will ever get together. At various points in the book I was either rooting for them to get it on already or convinced that it was hilariously impossible for them to ever do it. Will they, or won't they? The book kept me guessing and ended up surprising me. It's the most original UNromance that I've ever read.)
Both David and Molly come of age in this book, and we end up rooting for both of them because of how real they are to us. Molly, to give one example, is a very mature and emotionally intelligent young woman, but she also keeps reminding us in little ways that she's indubitably a teenager, with sudden fits of deadly sarcasm, spite, cocky judgement, or endearing cluelessness. David's depression, to give another example, never resembles pathos... instead he's exactly like that guy we all know who turned into a zombie for a couple of weeks and then into an asshole for a few weeks more, until he found his way back to semi-normalcy, flailing and floundering in hilarious ways.
The supporting cast SLAYED me. Cassandra, Molly's mother, is one of my favorite characters ever: she's the feminist mother I want to be (well, barring the awful sculptures, I guess) and I could write pages about all the things I love about her. She's the only person around Molly who's fully an adult, and fully respects Molly's autonomy as a young woman. I admired the heck out of her. Her boyfriend Colin is one of the comic highlights of the book. The Thanksgiving scene left me in stitches.
I am a fan of Sandra Hutchison's first novel, The Awful Mess: A Love Story. (It was one of five semi finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards general fiction category.) I used to be in a writer's group with Sandy many years ago, and I've followed her work ever since. She's one of those writers you can always bank on turning out a great read. And with this book I think she establishes herself as not only technically great but a deeply courageous writer, too. It takes guts to write this kind of story and mastery to pull it off so successfully. ...more