Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Archive for the month “December, 2022”

Review: Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit

My Friend Lisa recommended E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It to me because she loves Victorian children’s literature. She also felt that it portrayed the children as realistically bratty, yet they stood together when push came to shove. She also notes that this is the weakest book of the three-book series, so I might consider reading the other two books.

I generally enjoy children’s books, but I didn’t like the children in this one. Nor did I like any of the adults or the sand fairy (who grants one wish a day) the children find. Still, it was published in 1902, s it had the moral attitude of a tale to teach children right from wrong.

All in all, it was an interesting glimpse at how children were regarded at the beginning of the 20th Century. I will try the second book, to see if Lisa is right (she often is), and let you all know what I think.

Review: Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner has written a very special book, Crying in H Mart.

Note: For those of you who are not familiar with H Mart, it is an American grocery chain specializing in Asian foods and other goods. The stores are huge, with a mind-boggling array of items — often at better prices than in “regular” supermarket chains.

I listened to it in one long sitting, because it rang so true to what I felt about the loss of my own mother (from breast cancer that returned and went to her liver). The trappings of the two families (hers, Korean American; mine, American assimilated Jewish) may be very different, but the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship and the complexities of grieving the loss of one’s mother are very much the same, and Ms. Zauner does not shy away from them.

She also is very clear about how she held on to the Korean part of her heritage by cooking the dishes her mother had made when she was growing up. Comfort food is, after all, the food that brought us comfort as kids. (Mine is my mom’s split pea soup, rich with beef instead of pork, and loaded with carrot and potato chunks. It can be made from scratch, although Mom often used these packets from either Manischewitz or Streits as a base. But I digress…)

If you have lost a mom, I don’t think you will be untouched by Crying in H Mart. Then, again, even if you haven’t lost a mom, I believe you will find Ms. Zauner’s book relevant. I certainly recommend that you read it, even if it appears to not be something you would pick up as a matter of course. It’s definitely well-worth the time.

Review: The Good Rat, by Jimmy Breslin

Jimmy Breslin was, perhaps, the ultimate New York City true crime writer. <i>The Good Rat</i> shows all the reasons why, too. Meticulously researched, told brilliantly, with subjects you can almost feel living and breathing, a superb ear for dialog, and an almost Runyonesque tone. Breslin is a master at holding your attention. I will admit, that being said, that it didn’t hurt that a lot of this book takes place in neighborhoods I grew up in or next to, so I had no problems visualizing the locales he noted, which always adds to a book for me. Further, more than just the story of the rat in question, <i>The Good Rat</i> is a study of how two New York City cops go from heroes to bad guys. It’s especially fascinating since one of them grew up in a family “in the life” and claimed he became a cop to counteract some of what his father had done. True crime aficionados will definitely appreciate this book. So will readers who like books that look at what happens beyond the surface of a neighborhood. Brooklyn, Queens, or other NYC natives will recognize much of the area and enjoy that, as well.

Review: Mona, by Pola Oloixarac

I found this book as a result of a YouTube video where this fellow buys and reads the books he sees other people reading on the subway, so I knew I was taking a risk by choosing it.

Sadly, it was not my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. The writing is good, and the story is interesting if a bit disappointing. The protagonist is a Latina author who is nominated for a prestigious award, so she is at a writers’ conference in Switzerland. However, she has a secret that even she has pretty much blocked out, which affects her in many ways, including her interactions with the other attendees and nominees.

I found the characters well-written, even though there was not that resonance that makes a book “spot on” to me. I didn’t like the ending — it felt like a copout, which annoyed me.

Still, I am glad I tried it, and — if I ever get my mobility back for real, I would be interested in trying the YouTuber’s experiment.

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