I really thought I would enjoy this book but I barely got through it. I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, along with Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, both dealing with mental health and to an extent psychopharmacology. But I just could not get on board with Prozac Nation. While there are some enlightening passages, I found the author/narrator to be extremely unlikable. At times she admits how crazy she sounds, how irrational her choices are (she’s struggling with depression), but she is also a fairly privileged, beautiful, young woman living in NYC and attending Harvard. She constantly name drops literary figures (who she’s reading or famous people, like Joni Mitchell, that she’s gotten the opportunity to interview) in such an obnoxious way. It does not come off as witty to me (as some reviewers have said) but as arrogant or conceited.
Most of the people in her life – her friends, her professors, random men – generally fawn all over her and it’s still not enough, yet she takes this as a given – that people should go out of their way to take care of her; even if they are strangers. Towards the end of the book, the author has the idea to go to London to stay with her friend’s ex boyfriend, whom she’s never met, but she had a fling with his younger brother years before. She’s never met this guy but decides: “the thing for me to do is to go stay with Manuel for a couple of months until I get better.” A couple of months. With someone she has never met. But because of her depression, she feels that it is everyone’s responsibility to take of her. Understandably, this guy finds the whole situation pretty weird but he is convinced to do this favor for his ex-girlfriend. When the author shows up in London and she does not get the red carpet treatment, she immediately calls home crying about how awful it is and how mean he’s being to her.
I’m pretty surprised at the rave reviews this book got. One reviewer wrote: “It reads like a mixture of J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath, with some Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen thrown in for good measure.” Did we read the same book? I feel bad writing such a critical review when this is a nonfiction book about this woman’s life but it was very hard for me to find a takeaway from this. When it was published, one reviewer (a voice of reason!) in the New York Times wrote: “the reader may well begin riffling the pages of the book in the vain hope that there will be a few complimentary Prozac capsules tucked inside for one’s own relief.” And that the book maybe should have been called Listening to Wurtzel.
It was too long and rambling; maybe I would have enjoyed it better if it was a novella or simply an essay. I do not recommend. If you’re looking for something in this vein, you would be better suited reading The Bell Jar or “Girl Interrupted.”
Availability: USMAI and COSMOS Review Submitted by: Kaylie Jasinski Rating: Not Recommended Challenge: Book to film
With realistic characters and real-life drama, this murder mystery was a pleasure to read. At least these knitters aren’t over-the-top like in the previous review I wrote. And, if you’re a knitter (I’m not), you’ll get a free pattern at the end. Solve that mystery!
Availability: COSMOS Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko Rating: Highly Recommended
I have read some of Sarah Gailey’s novellas (River of Teeth series) before this book that was recently released. I knew she would be an author that I would want to continue to follow. Each body of work that I have read of hers has been inclusive with LGBTQ+ main characters, which is something that I really appreciate.
Magic for Liars is a wonderful mix of fantasy and mystery about twin sisters with a strained relationship. Tabitha has magic while Ivy doesn’t. They are forced to confront each other when Ivy is investigating a murder that took place at Tabitha’s place of work, a school for magical students.
Honestly, it was difficult in the beginning of this book to not think of Hogwarts. It took a few chapters of Gailey introducing characters for me to be able to separate J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world from the magical world that was being built by Gailey. I suspect any other Harry Potter fans will have a similarly difficult time at the start of this book. That being said, once you get into this book it’s easy to appreciate it for what it is. It’s a hard book to put down.
Availability: COSMOS Review Submitted by: Erin Crawford Rating: Highly Recommended Challenge: A book published in 2019
A new author for me, Betty Hechtman writes “crochet mysteries” with over-the-top characters who simply obsess about the benefits of crocheting. Oh, and someone solves a murder mystery along the way. I won’t be seeking out more from this author, but I won’t run screaming from another in her series either.
Availability: COSMOS Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko Rating: Recommended
Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America
Journalist Eliza Griswold spent several years in southwestern Pennsylvania, tracing the fortunes of one family who sold their mineral rights to an energy company. The promise of easy money for a new barn is quickly betrayed by escalating costs: hundreds of trucks rumbling by, kicking up dust and damaging roads; constant grime on the windows and walls; sick and dying livestock; poisoned groundwater; and ongoing health issues, mental and physical, for the family and their neighbors. Griswold explores the history and culture of the region, the knot of regulatory agencies and industry ties, and the ensuing years of litigation. I was very impressed with how deftly Griswold wove together a very complicated story. Her emotions are clearly intertwined as well, in a way that demonstrated her empathy and showed how deeply she herself was involved in the story: the book itself is dedicated to the protagonist’s two kids.
Availability: COSMOS, USMAI Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn Rating: Highly Recommended
I listened to Crazy Rich Asians on audiobook and was thoroughly impressed with the narrator. There are so many different female characters in the book, and some male characters as well, but the narrator manages to distinguish each voice so well. I found myself laughing in the car on the way to work, feeling like I was sitting in a room with a bunch of gossiping old ladies, and each voice sounded so distinct from the rest. Because the narration was so good, I’m glad I chose to listen to this book rather than read it. I’m really not sure I would have enjoyed it as much had I read it. It’s a lighter book, and not one I would generally pick up, but it was a fun listen in the car because it was light and because I didn’t have to pay attention too closely.
That being said, I enjoyed the book but was not over the moon about it. I enjoyed that it was a different take on boy meets girl, boy brings girl home to meet boy’s family. It definitely felt a little light and fluffy. I tended to get a little annoyed with some of the characters – the decisions they would make and their surprise at how badly things would turn out. For example, the title of the book is Crazy Rich Asians. The main character’s family is crazy rich, as the title implies. Yet he never leads his girlfriend to even suspect that he comes from money, and does not prepare her for this fact at all before bringing her home to meet his family in Singapore. As you can probably guess, this does not go over well on either side, which leads to some funny shenanigans, some not so funny. Between the book ending and the movie ending, I prefer the movie. I think the book was a little wanting on the ending – I believe I actually said “that’s it?!” when it finished in the car. But it’s a fun listen, great for the daily commute, and overall I can say I did enjoy it.
Availability: SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS Review Submitted by: Kaylie Jasinski Rating: Recommended with Reservations Challenge: Book to film; audio book
Yes, it’s summer reading time, so I read my obligatory Janet Evanovich novel. This series (Lizzy and Diesel) is even more far-fetched than the Stephanie Plum series, since these characters have supernatural abilities. Those reservations I mentioned are all based on your own ability to suspend belief–this book would be candidate for taking along on vacation, finishing it, then leaving it behind without any regret.
Availability: COSMOS Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko Rating: Recommended with reservations Challenge: A book with a number in the title