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Search tags: netgalley-books
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review 2018-10-23 04:56
Are You Sleeping?
Are You Sleeping - Kathleen L. Barber

Like most people who have weighed in on this book, I did find it fairly predictable, but still a decent read. I thought the comparison to Serial was misleading, because it was more of a knockoff, like a bad Rom-Com version of Serial, despite the heavy-sounding premise. While she tested my patience with characters whose dialogue (and actions) often defied believability, Barber's skill in pacing and an interesting narrative form kept me turning the pages. I did enjoy the family drama — the romantic tangles not so much. Despite the sometimes-clunky characters, I did finish, so I will be interested to see what Barber thinks of next.

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review 2018-09-29 18:50
Reading with Patrick
Reading with Patrick - Michelle Kuo

This was an eye-opening book. I found Kuo's story at turns heartening and frustrating — as an eager member of Teach for America, she offered hope for an impoverished, unruly group of last-chance students, but at the same time, she was so ill-equipped and naive it was dangerous. Often throughout the book, Kuo compares Patrick's plight to her own immigrant family's struggles, which I understand, but I think it made her tone-deaf to this particular urban crisis. I give Kuo tremendous credit for reconnecting with Patrick when she learned he was incarcerated, but I sometimes felt those months with him provided a beyond-reproach excuse for her own career indecision. Upon her return to the Delta, Kuo learns the harrowing fates of many in the class she taught, but does not seem concerned by her inability to make an impact with anyone but Patrick. What's more, at different points Kuo acknowledges huge gaps in their education, that provide few with the skills to reach beyond their circumstances. Obviously, this is not a situation that can be changed overnight, or with the limited attention span of a short-term volunteer teacher, but still.

 

I appreciate Kuo's devotion to Patrick, and the sacrifice it entailed. But parts of this story seemed more to me (and I hate how cynical I feel saying this) like they were intended to pad a resume or write a book. There were so many others in Patrick's class simply left behind, and I could not get that out of my head, how you could choose just one student to place all of your hope in, at the expense of the rest.  But despite all my misgivings, I do believe that Kuo has provided a valuable window into an untenable situation — where the difference between the haves and the have nots is, in some cases, literally criminal.

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review 2018-09-03 02:51
Before Everything
Before Everything - Victoria Redel

I cannot resist a good book about a close-knit group of girlfriends, especially a sad one. When Helen, Ming, Molly, and Caroline gather to say goodbye to Anna, who is about to enter hospice, I was ready for some wild stories and long overdue confessions. Despite the setup, this story was not the gripping tale I expected, and there were some surprising moments of pettiness among the characters given the gravity of the situation. Despite this, it felt true to me. It reminded me of the times I have experienced perspective altering events, when my own troubles — that had seemed huge and unmanageable before — were eclipsed by unexpected tragedies. Redel does an excellent job of creating characters who are human and believable. They are not always perfect, or selfless, or even kind and forgiving, but they are capable of change, and so there is always hope.

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review 2018-09-01 05:50
Memory's Last Breath
Memory's Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia - Gerda Saunders

I chose this book on NetGalley because the topic was timely for me — my mom is dealing with many of the same issues — and I wanted to learn more about it, especially given the first-hand account. As it got closer on my to-read pile, I found myself resistant. By then, I had read the eye-opening book, The 36-Hour Day, which certainly helped my understanding, but also pretty much squelched my desire to be more informed. In this respect, Saunders anecdote-filled book was a relief, but, as a scientist herself, she balanced the narrative with so much information that it was occasionally overwhelming. It is always difficult to see someone whose livelihood depends on their superior intellect affected by a disease of the mind, but I was more moved by the daily diary entries that detailed embarrassing lapses in the countless mundane acts we all perform thoughtlessly every day.

 

There are a lot of digressions here, but I forgive her those. I think that, given the platform of this book, she is allowed to show off a little, to prove that she still has a wealth of information at her command, despite this disease nipping at her heels. A thought-provoking story, and, for those of us who truly understand her struggle, a comfort.   

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review 2018-08-29 05:25
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward

With writing most often described as lyrical and lush, Ward's elegiac prose eases you gently into harsher truths. Having read Salvage the Bones, I was happy to see this new title offered on NetGalley, especially with that amazing cover. But despite the fact that I got the kindle version, I decided to listen to the audiobook, which added an AudioFile award to the many others this book has garnered, including the National Book Award for Fiction. This is a powerful, deeply moving story, combining the gritty underside of life with the ethereal world of those who have left but refuse to be forgotten. Compelling and truly a wonder, as you might expect.

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