Reviews - Meredith R. (columbasimplex) - New York, NY

1 to 9 of 9
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Author: Dai Sijie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 658
Review Date: 3/8/2011
1 member(s) found this review helpful.


"A beautiful, often elegiac little novel that effortlessly blends its depiction of the brutal reality of "cultural re-education" during the years of Mao's Great Leap Forward with elements of fairy tale wonder. Often surprisingly funny and effortlessly witty, even as no punches are pulled about the very real terrors and routine humiliations its likable young protagonists face, this is a page-turner for the thinking reader."


Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction
Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction
Author: David Sheff
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 149
Review Date: 3/8/2011


"A wonderful companion to _Tweaked_, David Sheff's son Nic's own precocious memoir of his addiction to meth and other substances, _Beautiful Boy_ also stands as an amazing memoir in its own right. Sheff depicts the hope and hopelessness of a parents, step-parents, siblings, and extended family coping (and, often, not coping) with the drama and trauma of loving a drug-addicted child, as that child moves from the seemingly manageable ups and downs of adolescence to the dangers of an independent and uncontrollable life of a young adult with a chronic, nearly lethal drug addiction. I was more than once moved to tears by the crystalline clarity and unstinting honesty with which Sheff depicted his pain as a father dealing with this unexpected and almost indescribable pain and how it affected, for ill and for good, his entire family."


Bee Season
Bee Season
Author: Myla Goldberg
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 336
Review Date: 3/8/2011
1 member(s) found this review helpful.


"Sweet, strange, and worthwhile. Goldberg's descriptions of the almost mystical experience of spelling-bee transcendence are even better than her lyrical depictions of mystical spiritual experience. A truly unique, often very beautiful, always unexpected novel that I was sorry to see end."


Driver's Ed
Driver's Ed
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 18
Review Date: 3/8/2011


"Classic young adult page-turner that, I can safely say as a high school librarian, is universally beloved by teens who are fans of the thriller, mystery, and crime genres (and kids of all ages who are just looking for a great, exciting read)."


I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother
Review Date: 2/14/2011


"Allison Pearson's _I Don't Know How She Does It_ may (literally!) nearly scream from the cover that it's "chick lit" - against a slightly salmon pink background, a silhouette of a slender woman, her even her shadow outline clearly dressed in the ski-high pumps and suit-of-armor designer suit of the successful businesswoman of today, juggling silhouettes of a child's beloved toy, a pacifier, and of course, and overloaded briefcase - or maybe she's not juggling. Maybe she's finally, once and for all, tossing all of this up in the air for good. For all it's "chick lit" trappings, this novel, supported throughout by Pearson's finely wrought writing style suited to both wry comedy and genuinely affecting pathos (often within the same character's breath), explores issues that can't *just* be passed off as "chick lit" - it's a true gift to be able to deal with the real, serious, frequently life-changing ways in which gender affects all aspects of a certain class of educated, talented, career-tracked women.

Pearson manages to address the role of a woman in perhaps the least female-friendly career field possible, international stock and bond fund management (casual but somtimes brutal vulgarity and sexual harassment women fund analysts must bear with a tolerant smile; "the Mommy Track" that sends women seeking more time with their children down a dead-end of career advancement; and, perhaps worst of all for Kate, the endless last-minute business trips to clients from New York to Tokyo that she's expected to jet off on hours' notice, routinely missing key events in her two small children's lives. Although Kate's guilt is leavened by the gallows sense of humor that sustains her and her small cadre of working female friends, she is constantly gnawed at by the fear that 5-year-old Emily and 12-month Ben know and love the nanny better than their own mother, and that the stress and irritability that are a constant in Kate's life are taking their toll on her relationship with husband Richard.

For so many women, especially those who careers keep them in urban areas where the cost of living, not to mention a decent education, for one's children is gougingly high, _I Don't Know How She Does It_ may ring painfully true. Trying to keep her successful career to avoid the trauma that will surely come with abandoning her incredibly gift for economics and finance, Kate is nonetheless continually browbeaten and made to second-guess herself by the neverending and always conflicting demands of family life in a posh, closed London community that expects all mothers to stay home and bake from scratch for every school function. The open scening, in which Kate, freshly flown in from yet another international business foray at 2 in the morning, takes a vicious rolling pin to the crusts of store-bought mince pies in order to "distress" them adequately to pass as homemade and let her off as a "good mother" at her doctor's school is uproarious, but it also captures with jewel-like clarity the intense conflict, guilt, and shame Kate faces in a society that so recently encouraged women that they could "have it all." Kate is an enormously sympathetic character, and women on both sides of the work-home divide - and everywhere in between!!! - will understand her frustration, pain, and, above all, her ferocious and sustaining sense of humor."


The Namesake
The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 127
Review Date: 3/8/2011
1 member(s) found this review helpful.


"Amazing, amazing, amazing. The story, the characters, the gorgeous, lyrical, thoroughly relatable but always unexpected tone and style of this justly feted author... I can't even put into words how much I loved this book and what a powerful writer Jhumpa Lahiri is. Just... read it."


Talk Talk
Talk Talk
Author: T.C. Boyle
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 3/8/2011


"A surprisingly gripping literary thriller with all of T.C. Boyle's trademark wit, sharp characterization, unlikely (and yet, always, strangely believable) plot twists, and hilariously incisive observations."


The Westing Game
The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 161
Review Date: 3/8/2011
1 member(s) found this review helpful.


"I loooooooved it was when I was a kid - and I was pleasantly surprised I loooooooooove it even more as an adult! Clever, incredibly well-plotted mystery thriller, with characters whose quirks have stayed with me for literally two decades now. A wonderful read-aloud choice for parents and kids, but BOTH kids and adults will love it independently, too :)"


The Wonder Spot
The Wonder Spot
Author: Melissa Bank
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 111
Review Date: 3/8/2011


"Relatable journey through one very realistic young woman's late 20th-century journey from a uncertain childhood, through a self-doubting adolescence, to an aimless young adulthood and, finally, to some well-earned clarity about who she is, what she wants, and what growing up is for. I especially loved the episodic format, almost a series of connected short stories that comprise snapshots at key periods of the narrators' life. So, so wry and funny. Especially recommended if you enjoyed Melissa Bank's previous novel, _A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing_."


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