Summer House with Swimming Pool

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 

herman-koch-summer-house-with-swimming-poolSummer House with Swimming Pool
Herman Koch
© 2014
387 pages (hardcover)

A couple weeks ago, I read To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, a book narrated by a slightly neurotic, perhaps unreliable dentist. This week, I read Herman Koch’s Summer House with Swimming Pool, a book narrated by a slightly sociopathic, perhaps unreliable doctor. Needless to say, this string of books has left me speculating as to the internal monologues of my seemingly friendly and caring medical professionals. If these books are any indication of the inner machinations of my doctors or dentist, then ignorance really is bliss . . .

Summer House with Swimming Pool begins with one of several extended diatribes by first-person narrator Dr. Marc Schlosser about his patients. Marc is a general practitioner with an office on the first floor of his house in the Netherlands. He has established a very popular practice with a waiting list for new patients based on one strategy: he spends twenty full minutes with each patient. Normally, he can diagnose an issue or illness in the first minute of the appointment, but he lets his patients go on and on and on, because he knows that’s all they really want: to be heard. While they’re talking or complaining or describing their aches and pains, Marc doodles, does his best to feign interest, and secretly thinks things like this: Continue reading

China Dolls

18404427China Dolls
Lisa See
© 2014
383 pages (hardcover)

In late 1938 in San Francisco, a nightclub called The Forbidden City opened its doors.  Located close to Chinatown, the club featured only Asian performers (most were Chinese, but there were a couple Japanese dancers who “passed” as Chinese), whose acts ranged from magic shows to ballroom-dance routines. The club attracted crowds night after night with taglines like: “The most popular dishes in town are Oriental!” and “They’re slant-sational!”

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a_250x375_0Delicious!: A Novel
Ruth Reichl
© 2014
374 pages (hardcover)

If there’s one thing I am more obsessed with than books, it’s food. I love cooking. I love long, extravagant dinners at fancy-schmancy restaurants and quick meals sitting at the bar at our favorite local taqueria. I love watching cooking shows (particularly The Barefoot Contessa) and cooking competitions (especially Top Chef). I love reading cookbooks and cooking magazines. I love testing out new recipes and then making them my own. I love shopping for fresh, delicious ingredients at our local farmer’s market. I love baking. And I love, I mean, LOVE eating.

But my love of food is child’s play compared to Ruth Reichl’s. In the world of food, Reichl is a member of the pantheon. Reichl has been the chief food critic for the LA Times and the New York Times. She was the editor of Gourmet magazine. She has authored cookbooks and food memoirs galore. She is a judge on Top Chef Masters. And she has one of the most unbelievable palates in all the land.

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Boy, Snow, Bird

Boy, Snow, Bird
Helen Oyeyemi
© 2014
308 pages (hardcover)

When I was a kid, I had Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes memorized. I knew “Cinderella” backwards and forwards. “At once, one of the Ugly Sisters, /(The one whose face was blotched with blisters),/Sneaked up and grabbed the dainty shoe,/ And quickly flushed it down the loo”:

I loved that the familiar fairy tales were a little grosser, a little raunchier, and a lot funnier than their Disney counterparts (and the accompanying illustrations by Quentin Blake didn’t hurt, either). Continue reading

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

81C3VRlodbL._SL1500_ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Joshua Ferris
© 2014
337 pages (hardcover)

Until Bryan and I moved to Atlanta last year, I had been visiting the same dentist for twenty years. I started seeing her in high school and never stopped.  I would make time for an appointment during my breaks from college and, later, from my visits home from Louisiana.  When I moved back to Virginia, I drove over an hour (through the dreaded HRBT) for my biannual check-ups. Once you find a good dentist, you keep her.

The dentist to whom I’m referring is a very intense, very small woman with a big, bright, toothy smile (a prerequisite for the job, methinks). Despite the fact that I only saw her for a couple minutes, twice a year, she always greeted me by name, asked after my brother or mother, and demanded an update on school or job or life generally. Whenever I appeared in the local paper, she would send my mom clippings with nice little notes. I continued going to her as much for her bedside (chairside?) manner as for her dental skills.

After we moved to Atlanta, Bryan and I asked around and found a dental office that a few friends recommended. We both visited within a couple weeks of each other. We compared notes and found that our experiences were nearly identical: good, thorough cleaning and check-up from a competent hygienist, followed by a one-minute peek by the actual dentist. Other than a “Hi, how are you?” the only thing the dentist asked was, “How’s your flossing?” (not “Do you floss?” or “How often do you floss?” ). And this exact procedure was repeated, for both of us, six months later.

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All the Light We Cannot See

18143977All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
© 2014
530 pages (hardcover)

In case you hadn’t noticed, I have some book prejudices. I generally dislike books:

  • That are over 400 pages
  • That employ split or jumping chronologies
  • About war (or, frankly, that could be classified as historical fiction, generally)
  • With overly flowery writing

Bearing this in mind, there are some books that I know I should probably avoid, because, based on these prejudices, they’re set up for failure. All the Light We Cannot See is one of those books that covers a bunch of my book-prejudice bases:

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