Monthly Archives: February 2020

*** Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

I long resisted reading Nothing to See Here because I had serious doubts about a story that featured self-igniting children. How contrived! How silly! Well, I was wrong. Kevin Wilson has the magic touch when it comes to writing about children (see here and here) and the self-igniting children become completely normal, in a way, as well as symptomatic of the crazy family in which they leave. Also normal is the devotion of their unlikely nanny, strangely loyal to someone who betrayed her in the past. Let’s just say that you will never look at politicians the same way after you read the story.

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Filed under New fiction

** Killing Orders by Sara Paretsky

Killing Orders untangles a complicated story where the Catholic Church and the mob unite to circulate counterfeit stock certificates (I did not know such paper records still existed!). The detective’s aunt is involved and won’t help. It’s fast-paced and violent and enjoyable.

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Filed under Mystery

*** Kindness and Wonder by Gavin Edwards

Is it possible to find a heart-warming book that also has some substance? Try Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever, which tells the story of a very unlikely TV host who started his show with no budget but quickly attracted a loyal and ever-growing audience. The author carefully details how Fred Rogers avoided fortune and political entanglement, even as he met great fame. It’s a loverly rememebrance.

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Filed under True story

* All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg

Family patriarch is dying, and dies. He was a cheater, professionally and personally, and a violent man, and in a few days his wife, his daughter, his son, and his daughter-in-law will uncover many of his secrets and the family will implode as each flashback adds to the mayhem.

It is well observed but I found it all pretty tedious.

 

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Filed under New fiction

*** Kill Reply All by Victoria Turk

 

If  you are tempted to leave an anonymous copy of Kill Reply All: A Modern Guide to Online Etiquette, from Social Media to Work to Love o a colleague’s desk, think twice: after the wonderful, corporate-oriented chapter on using email in the workplace, the author switches  immediately to writing a good Tinder profile. Your intentions may be misread!

I particularly loved the humorous flowcharts included in the book. The one about mansplaining is perfect!

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Filed under Non fiction

*** The Sum of Small Things by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

In The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, the author argues that the rich are now less likely to buy fancy cars or watches and more to worry about organic blueberries, hand-knit, logo-less sweaters, costly educational activities for their children, and, before then, how to demonstrate that their babies are breast-fed. She calls the new patterns of consumption “inconspicuous”, which is the only quibble I have about the book. Sure, we are no longer talking about Cadillacs or Rolexes, but the omnipresent yoga mats and chatter about remote vacations seem pretty conspicuous to me. The entire analysis is based on spending patterns and meticulously scaffolded around those patterns. Fascinating.

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Filed under Non fiction

** Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss interleaves short essays about growing up in Alabama and taking care of her aging parents with observations of the plants and animals in her Tennessee backyard. There are poignant memories of her being afraid that her (still very young!) brother would be drafted for the Vietnam War,  loving but frank comments about how hard it is to take care of her mother, who has moved next door, and wonder at the intelligence of the squirrel that raids her squirrel-proof bird feeder. It’s quiet, and slow, and quite beautiful.

As a bonus, each mini-chapter is illustrated by the author’s brother with gorgeous illustrations of wildlife.

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Filed under Non fiction