Susan (SG) - , - Reviews

1 to 20 of 26 - Page:
The Blind Assassin
The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 492
Review Date: 5/18/2009
Helpful Score: 6


I just loved this book. There were times when it seemed it might get a little hard to follow, since, as many of the reviewers have noted, it really is (at least) 3 stories wound together. At first it may not seem clear what Atwood is getting at by intertwining these very different stories, particularly the science fiction-y one, but eventually I came to understand that each of the disparate pieces shed light on each other, and especially on the narrator. Without giving too much away - since part of what made the book so spellbinding was the various twists and revelations - I would say this is a classic example of an "unreliable narrator" story. The narrator is initially pretty unlikable, but as the story unfolds, you become aware of the events that have shaped her into what she is. I think I remember that the book started out a bit slow, but by the end, I was eating it up and trying hard to resist flipping to the last page. A wonderful book, beautifully written, and very unique. I would highly recommend it to book clubs, too, as I think people could have many different takes on what happens, and what they think of the various characters. I could see how some people might lose patience with it, but for me, it ended up being one of the best books I've read in awhile.


The Cambridge Paperback Encyclopedia
The Cambridge Paperback Encyclopedia
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/4/2010


Yes, we've all come to rely on Wikipedia for our quick encyclopedia needs. But there's something to be said for a comprehensive, pithy, desktop reference book that is edited by professionals. This formidable text includes many illustrations, and a 100+ page reference section at the back. Fun to browse, beautifully edited, and quite comprehensive, this encyclopedia may represent a dying breed, but there is still much to delight true bibliophiles.


Cambridge World Gazetteer (Chambers World Gazetteer)
Cambridge World Gazetteer (Chambers World Gazetteer)
Author: Munro
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/4/2010


Yes, we've all come to rely on Wikipedia or other web sources for most of our reference needs. Does anyone even know what a gazetteer is? Well, it's a "standard international directory of places and the facts, figures and people associated with them. It provides comprehensive coverage of the modern world, with rich statistical detail on countries, regions, cities and towns - their business and industrial activities, physical features, histories, population sizes and special points of tourist, religious and current affairs significance" (according to the dust jacket). In short, it's a comprehensive, pithy, desktop reference book edited by professionals. This formidable text includes many illustrations, and over a hundred beautiful full-color maps at the back. Fun to browse, this volume is perfect for the armchair traveler, or anyone who wants quick, reliable information about a place in the world. This gazetteer may represent a dying breed, but there is still much to delight true bibliophiles.


The Complete Book of Greek Cooking
The Complete Book of Greek Cooking
Author: St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 4/11/2010
Helpful Score: 1


This is a really excellent Greek cookbook - in fact, one of the best. The recipes have been collected by a group of home cooks who are sharing their family recipes. Thus, the recipes are straightforward, clearly-written, include mostly easy-to-find ingredients (at least, I never came across anything I couldn't find in my grocery store), and have many tips on how to work with tricky ingredients such as phyllo and squid. This is not a "frou-frou" cookbook in that it doesn't have any fancy language or artsy photos - in fact, there isn't a single photo in the entire book, although there are some simple line drawings. This may be a drawback to some, and if you're completely unfamiliar with Greek cooking, you may not know how some of the dishes are supposed to look when finished. But in my opinion, if you really want to have some fantastic Greek home cooking, this is the cookbook for you!


Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis
Review Date: 8/11/2010


This book presents a really terrific, practical approach to doing qualitative research, that is especially useful for students. Charmaz helps you figure out how to do grounded theory using straightforward, helpful examples, and takes a more flexible approach than some of the more hard-core grounded theorists. This book was one of the most useful resources for me while writing my dissertation, out of the many many books on qualitative research and grounded theory that I bought. Highly recommended.


Divergent (Divergent, Bk 1)
Divergent (Divergent, Bk 1)
Author: Veronica Roth
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 224
Review Date: 8/24/2011


NO SPOILERS.

Terrific, un-put-downable book, intelligent enough for adults. Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games series: dystopian, post-Apocalyptic setting; strong, brave heroine; harrowing tasks for her to tackle; and something mysterious going on underneath the society's surface that you have to wait to discover (and which will probably unravel over the upcoming books in the series, since not all of your questions are answered by the end of this book). Read it in two days during vacation, even with a small infant to care for -- that's how good it was! Thank goodness for naptime ; )


Drinking: A Love Story
Drinking: A Love Story
Author: Caroline Knapp
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 123
Review Date: 6/30/2010
Helpful Score: 1


My book club chose this book, and I wasn't sure how I was going to like it, but I ended up really enjoying it and for the most part, found it a page turner. I work in the health field so I know something about how devastating alcoholism is, but this memoir brought all those statistics to life through the author's gripping account of her own struggle with the disease. I found it difficult to relate to alcoholism as a disease until I read this book: the kind of obsessive behavior and physiological responses she describes really bring it home.

But the heart of the story is the author's searing honesty about the life she was living as an alcoholic - the lies she told, the relationships she wrecked, and most importantly, how alcohol stunted her emotional growth and ability to mature. Well written, witty, and moving, I highly recommend this book, even for folks (like myself) who might've thought they'd be put off by the subject matter.

When I finished, I looked up Caroline Knapp to see if she had any other books and find out how she was doing, if she was still sober. I was sad to hear that just a few years after she got sober, she died of lung cancer (smoking was her other addiction) at 42. I think she probably appreciated the irony that in the end, it was lung cancer and not alcoholism that got her, and I bet she was grateful that unlike her father, she had made choices before her death that meant she met it sober and lucid, and after she'd had the chance to repair some of the damage her alcoholism caused. I hope she found the peace she so desperately sought in the end.


Easyfinder Washington Dc
Easyfinder Washington Dc
Author: Rand McNally
Book Type: Map
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/5/2009


This is my favorite map for the Washington, DC area. It's laminated and folds easily, so it won't rip or tear, and is easy to wipe off when you inevitably spill your coffee on it :) It's also pretty comprehensive, and shows the major landmarks plus some other sights of interest (hotels, parks etc.). It clearly shows the highways and roads into town, as well, which is very useful when trying to navigate the confusing byways of Woodley Park or the Capitol, not to mention the awful roundabouts. All in all, it never failed me, and if I still lived there I would be keeping this map!


The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking
The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking
Author: Jacki Passmore
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 5/18/2009


This is a really wonderful and intriguing book that is difficult to classify, and covers the cuisines of Asian, ranging from Thailand to India to Japan and China, and everything in between. For the most part, it is an encyclopedia that lists and describes all the different ingredients, condiments, and staple dishes you're likely to encounter when cooking Asian cuisine. Some of the interesting entries include galangal, rosewater, five spice powder, miso, and amaranth. But a really wonderful additional feature is the many recipes interspersed throughout the book, such as coconut fish curry, Tom Kha Gai (Thai Ginger and Chicken in Coconut Soup), Drunken Chicken, Musaman Curry, Congee, Miso Soup, Sushi, Gado Gado, Kimchi, and so much more. There are many black and white illustrations included throughout the text. Just a wonderful book for browsing, learning more about exotic ingredients, and being inspired to try new recipes. Highly recommended for the adventurous cook, and anyone looking to try something different.


The Festive Food of Thailand (Festive Food)
The Festive Food of Thailand (Festive Food)
Author: Jacki Passmore
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/11/2010
Helpful Score: 1


This is a charming and unique little book. Although slim in size (just 61 pages), it's a lovely tour through the main dishes that Thai people commonly eat during festivals. It doesn't have photos of the dishes, but it does have many beautiful color sketches and illustrations of ingredients, typical Thai scenes, and Thai art. There are only 13 recipes, which include such classic dishes as Mee Krob (crisp noodles), Gai Pad Bai Kaprow (Basil Chicken), Panang Chicken, Mango Sticky Rice, Beef Salad, and Musaman Curry - so it's good for the cook who just wants to dip a toe in this cuisine. Each recipe comes with an accompanying description of when the food is typically prepared (and for which festival or holiday), and the significance of the festival. The book is written in a very personal and charming manner by someone who obviously appreciates Thai food and culture (in fact, Jacki Passmore has written numerous cookbooks on Asian cuisine). Helpfully, measurements are given in both metric and English customary/avoirdupois units (which most of us Americans use). The book does assume familiarity with common Thai ingredients (nam pla fish sauce, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, etc.) and isn't very helpful about giving substitutions, so it may not be good for someone who is completely new to Thai food. Overall, this is a lovely and unique little book that won't take up much space on your shelf, but will inspire you to have a greater appreciation of Thai culture and cuisine.


The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy: Second Edition
The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy: Second Edition
Author: Vicki Iovine
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 90
Review Date: 8/11/2010
Helpful Score: 2


I was a little hesitant about trying this book. Some of the reviews (especially the whole "Carrie Bradshaw of pregnancy" quote) turned me off, by making the book sound shallow or frivolous, when what I need is some solid advice. But one of my friends recommended it to me, and I'm glad I tried it. The most refreshing thing about this book is that it doesn't have the preachy marm tone that many of the others (WTEWYE, Mayo) have. They mean well, and their medical advice is sound, but sometimes you get tired of feeling like you're being lectured to (and I'm getting a doctorate in public health, so I have a very high tolerance for lectures about health).

It's nice to know that the world isn't going to end if you don't feel like exercising because you're too damn exhausted. Or that other women get moody and occasionally feel like throttling their partners, too. It's also refreshing to hear the straight scoop about how, despite all the "miracle of life" business, pregnancy really sucks most of the time, but there are things you can do to make it a little better.

I would recommend that you try this book, plus either WTEWYE or the Mayo clinic book. That way you have your bases covered with some solid medical advice (which the Girlfriends Guide is pretty decent but not 100% on) from one of the other books, but can still rely on this one to help you get through your pregnancy with some good advice and a sense of humor.

By the way, if you're looking for a good book for dads, I recommend The Expectant Father. I guess my husband should really review that one, but at least I can say, it must be pretty good because he's actually been reading it. OK, he's only up to the 5th month and I'm in my 7th, but hey, that's not bad!


Lolita
Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 409
Review Date: 1/28/2010


I think the posted description of this book as a "love story" is somewhat misleading (although it is certainly open to interpretation). This is the story of a sick and depraved man who is completely obsessed with a 12-year old girl. Only a master of the English language like Nabokov (and it's not even his first language!) could write so superbly as to entice readers to stay on this emotional rollercoaster of a book. Lolita was both more graphic, disturbing, charming and funny than I expected it to be - and that combination is certain to make you uncomfortable at some points in the novel. My book club was deeply divided over this book, some people loved it and others hated it, even refusing to finish reading it. For my part, I think it's one of the best-written novels I have ever read, and I'm really grateful that I got the chance to experience it, after it sat on my shelf for many years. It's a quick and engrossing read, I finished it in a day, but it leaves you with many questions afterward. Highly recommended for book clubs!


Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 902
Review Date: 6/30/2010


To me, this book was a great beach read - a page-turner, with a lot of fascinating details about the world of geishas, which I knew very little about. You identify with Sayuri's desperation to escape the brutal poverty of her childhood, her limited choices, and later her determination to escape the gilded cage of the geisha house and gain her own freedom. The novel is driven by the emotion of the story, not so much the cleverness of the writing, which in many places felt a little cliche and flat to me. This book is like candy, I enjoyed it while it lasted but once I finished it, didn't give it a second thought. A good one to pass on to friends when you're done.


The Memory Keeper's Daughter
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 5403
Review Date: 8/17/2009
Helpful Score: 3


I think of this book as a good beach read: it definitely kept my attention and was a page-turner, but I don't feel any desire to ever re-read it. I think it dealt very well with the issue of Down's syndrome, and treated the subject with respect while avoiding cloying sentimentality. The characters were interesting, although I sometimes found their reactions to be too melodramatic. Something about the ending seemed a bit abrupt and unsatisfying. It's a well-written and thought-provoking book that doesn't insult your intelligence like some beach reads. However, for me, it ultimately fell short of being a truly great book. Still, I would recommend it, particularly as a book club choice, since there is a lot to discuss.


Middlesex
Middlesex
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 928
Review Date: 10/1/2010


This was a truly terrific book - beautifully-written, wonderful use of language, and a page-turner to boot. Even though it is quite long, I tore through it quickly and was sad when it ended. The subject matter, which revolves around hermaphroditism, may be too much for some to take, but honestly, it was almost secondary to the rest of the narrative, which was about the journey of a family that immigrates from Greece. Highly recommended.


My Son's Story
My Son's Story
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/12/2010


(From Library Journal)
"Gordimer's new novel, about a colored South African family ravaged by the father's affair with a white human rights advocate, probes with breathtaking power and precision the complexities of "love, love/hate," and the interplay of public and private reality. First-person narration shows son Will's struggle to deal with confusion and bitterness after discovering father Sonny's infidelity; alternating third-person sequences depict Sonny's evolution from a committed schoolteacher and devoted husband/father into a resistance worker for whom the movement itself ultimately becomes a second family--one his loyal wife Aila cannot share with him, though his lover Hannah does. The book's richness of sensation and consciousness is such that Gordimer's eloquence is, at times, almost unbearable. Always, though, she retains perfect control over her material, rendering her characters' shifting perspectives with truly extraordinary empathy and discernment. Highly recommended." Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/90.
- Elise Chase, Forbes Lib., Northampton, Mass.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

PS Just wanted to post a synopsis of this book, because there isn't one given on this page. This reviewer said it much more eloquently than I could!


Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 590
Review Date: 5/26/2009
Helpful Score: 3


I've been an Ishiguro fan ever since The Remains of the Day - he writes beautifully, and is a master of subtle characterization. He's able to reveal his characters' inner lives, even when they don't even seem to understand themselves very well. This book did not disappoint, it is that rare combination of gorgeous writing, interesting characters, and suspense -- enough to be a real page-turner. In fact, I ended up staying up all night to finish it!

As others have said, I don't want to give anything away about the plot, as the details of this alternate universe are unwound slowly throughout the book. About a third of the way in, you're given enough of a quick jolt of information to guess at what might be coming. But the book is less about a "surprise ending," and much more about exploring how the decisions of the larger world have impacted the characters. It is essentially a coming-of-age story about the main character (who is the narrator) and her two friends, and their lives at a boarding school in the English countryside. Because we only know what the narrator knows for most of the book, as readers we're left to pick up clues about why their community seems so isolated and circumscribed. I had a terrible feeling of foreboding the entire time I was reading it, which is part of what drives the suspense and makes it such a page-turner.

I think folks are right when they compare this book to The Handmaid's Tale, there are many similarities. It's not really a standard scifi or mystery novel per se, although it has elements of both. Instead, it connects you to its characters and the world as they experience it. Because it is not a world they fully understand, as the reader you're left trying to fill in the gaps, until you find out "the truth" at the end. This is a haunting and thought-provoking book, and I'm still thinking about it days later. Immediately after I finished reading it, I went right back to the beginning to re-read some of the early sections to see how they fit in to "the truth." I did feel a little frustrated that Ishiguro opens a Pandora's box without giving us a little more insight into the dystopian world he's created - even the revelations at the end feel a bit unsatisfying, and I wondered why some of the characters didn't react more strongly to their situation. I would guess this is a source of dissatisfaction for some readers who are looking for a more scifi-type read (and as a scifi reader, myself, I can see where they're coming from). But this novel is much more about getting you to care about and understand the characters, than describing the world they live in. Overall, this is a mesmerizing and highly-recommended novel.


North African Cooking
North African Cooking
Author: Hilaire Walden, Book Sales
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/11/2010


This cookbook provides a really great overview of North African cooking, including food from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. It's loaded with full-color photographs, and has very clear, simple instructions, including substitutions for ingredients that may be hard to find. There are recipes for harira (traditional chickpea soup), kebabs, various tagines, b'stilla (amazing Moroccan pigeon pie, can be made with chicken), harissa, mint tea and many varieties of almond cookies. The photos alone are mouthwatering!


The Organized Home (Real Simple)
The Organized Home (Real Simple)
Author: Editors of Real Simple Magazine
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/11/2010


This book is a terrific resource for anyone looking for ideas and inspiration to organize their home. Chock full of useful tips, organizing tools, and tons of gorgeous full-color photos on practically every page. Lots of great decorating tips, too. Just browsing this book makes me instantly feel more serene!


The Palace Thief Stories
The Palace Thief Stories
Author: Ethan Canin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 10/26/2011


A lovely collection of 4 (longish) short stories. Old-fashioned in the good sense: Canin's writing emphasizes his characters' humanity, and for the most part his characters feel true and real. There are no slick, post-modern tricks here, just good writing. If you like this collection, I can recommend Carry Me Across the Water, as well, which is one of his full-length novels.


1 to 20 of 26 - Page: