PositiveThe Washington Post... an extended love letter to the Seine, from its ancient underground source in a \'forgotten corner of Burgundy\' to its drab discharge into the English Channel at Le Havre .... In too many spots, though, The Seine reads slightly more like an almanac than a love letter. With this sweeping level of research, the reader has the sense that no tidbit is excluded ... In fact, it’s clear that this book is meant not to be read in a narrative flow but to be sampled bit by bit, like the delicate macarons that line the shelves of so many patisseries ... With that attitude in mind, it’s fun to select the morsels, from those that will undoubtedly impress and disgust dinner companions to those that might come in handy in a trivia contest ... And Francophiles like me might find themselves collecting ideas for new places to visit ... Sciolino reaches the right elegiac note in her afterword. Although the book was mostly finished before the devastating April fire at Notre Dame, she added a final section that allowed her to conclude this homage to her adopted river, city and country ... At the same time, the book falls short in places. An entire chapter on the photography of the Seine offers up just one photo ... And this love letter sometimes comes closer to the tone of a guidebook ... But there are worse things than being seduced by a river, even if it sometimes leads to a couple of weak-kneed sighs.
PanThe Washington PostNovels with do-gooder intentions make me wary. Literature should be something else. Mind-expanding, maybe. A journey into another world. Something to challenge my assumptions. Or maybe just something to hold at the beach as the waves crash over my toes ... The book’s narrative flow can be confounding at times ... I was tempted to write down a family tree with small descriptions, the way one would with a sprawling Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy work ... The family members are illustrations of Cambodian heartbreak rather than full-fledged characters.
Megan K. Stack
PositiveThe Washington PostStack, who had stints in Jerusalem, Cairo, Moscow and Beijing for the Los Angeles Times, is a natural storyteller with an eye for detail ... This is a painfully honest investigation of what kind of compromises women make by hiring other women to do the grunt work ... Stack confronts a reality that many try not to think about: Who are the women who care for my children and clean my house? ... a double-edged indictment: of those, including Stack, who exploit domestic helpers in their desire to remain relevant in work but also of the men who abdicate responsibility ... In an unflinching way, Stack pulls the curtain back on the truths of women’s lives, especially the domestic part: how women make it work.
RaveThe Washington Post\"... we should be grateful that someone saw that Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live would not only be utterly fascinating, but also turn out to be an important voice in the science-based argument in favor of more biodiversity ... Never Home Alone is a spirited romp through the vast diversity that inhabits our daily lives and how we’ve changed our ecosystems, often for the worse ... The story of cockroaches is only one of the compelling narratives.\
John F Ross
RaveThe Washington PostYes, there have been several other comprehensive biographies of Powell, including Wallace Stegner’s ... Ross tells Powell’s story more powerfully, sprinkled with quotes from the explorer-geologist’s diary and a feeling of dramatic suspense—will he survive?—even though we know the outcome. The rip-roaring story of the one-armed veteran who risked life and (remaining) limbs to power through gorges and rapids, all while carefully recording evidence of the canyon’s ancient geology and gathering flora and fauna to take back East, never gets old. What makes the story more nuanced is that Powell didn’t seem to be especially likeable: didactic at times, refusing to dramatize his dramatic life, yet saddled with an almost reckless ambition. Disciplined. Bossy. Unbending
Alan P Lightman
PositiveThe Washington Post\"At first glance, it seems more than a little ironic to read a case for wasting time from a man like Lightman. The MIT professor, TED talker and writer is as prolifically and comfortably at home in the fanciful world of novels as in the awe-inspiring world of astrophysics. Lightman’s obsession with time and its place in our universe goes way back ... I can’t help thinking that Lightman is probably trying to convince himself as much as his readers. But that might mean being a little less prolific ... Ever the scientist, Lightman constructs a careful and well-sourced argument, citing the anecdotes of artists, scientists and writers to build his case methodically and convincingly.\
PositiveThe Washington Post\"For some reason, I had the impression that Pamela Druckerman’s new book, There Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story, would be more like Bringing Up Bébé, her charming and funny book that mixed in plenty of good advice about what French parents are doing right, and American parents are doing wrong, in childrearing. That book was ambitious — Get a baby on a four-times-a-day feeding schedule? No bananas before dinner? — but overall, the self-effacing tone made it highly readable and thought-provoking ... Granted, Druckerman is an entertaining writer who can make cancer laugh-out-loud funny ... I wish every chapter were this funny and personal. There are too many boring chapters, fillers with subjects like wisdom, the history of the midlife crisis and why finding your fashion style is a good thing.\
MixedThe Washington PostYes, this is a version of Eat, Pray, Love for women of a certain age. Call it Eat, Drink, Nap. Readers who want sparkling details about great meals in a beautiful setting might consider this agreeable story for a long plane ride ... If you met these characters at a dinner party, you would find them charming, if oblivious to their pampered existence. There is never, ever a moment’s hesitation over money. They furnish their rental villa with linens, fruit trees, antique garden tools and anything else they desire. One woman spends 1,000 euros on art and poetry books ... Everything is delicious, colorful and charming. All the lanes are lined with cypress trees, all the women are fashionable, and everyone is always stopping for a quick espresso at a cute cafe.