Book Review: The Grammarians

I’ve been thinking about doing book reviews, so I thought about trying one out today. What do you think of the format? It’s a work in progress. The sectional ratings are out of 10.

The Grammarians    by  Cathleen Schine

Sarah Crichton Books      Farrar, Strauss and Giroux   New York   2019

Synopsis- The lives of  highly intelligent, identical twin girls who tend towards the pedantic. We see their story played out via the help of an archaic dictionary that their doting father brought them home as a gift. The novel takes place in the second half of the twentieth century in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. It would be classified as General Fiction.

The Ratings

Characters- The main characters in this book are not likable. They come off as rude, condescending and boring. If you want characters that you root for, this book is NOT for you. Rating: 4

Plot- There is really no plotline. We see the girls grow up, and while there is a climax of sort, it’s mainly underplayed. You do not wonder what will happen, you wonder if anything ever will happen. If you are plot focused, this book is not for you. Rating: 5

Setting- While there is some colorful New York City in the seventies/eighties references, this is not a lush narrative wherein the location makes the book move along. It could really take place in any urban area with suburbs. If you like highly descriptive novels, this is not for you. Rating: 4

Language- This is the strength of the book. As one would expect with a book titled grammarians, words, and the way that they are used are extremely important. Every section (there are no actual chapters) begins with a word and its archaic definition. There is a clever way that the author makes us look at the word, and the duality of meanings that some words have. If you are entranced by words, you might give this a try. Rating: 8

Structure- The novel is fairly straightforward and in chronological order. It is told third person omniscient, which is a good structure for the novel because we get a peak into each sisters thoughts independently. The novel lacks depth in certain areas, because there are entire parts of their lives that are skipped over. If you want to know EVERYTHING about the characters, it will leave you yearning for more information. While you often get a peak into their souls, there is not much background. Much is left for the reader to imagine or assume what happened. Unfortunately, the reader may not care what the characters are thinking. Rating: 5

Readability- As one could imagine, a book that lacks plot, setting and likable characters is sometimes difficult to get through. If you do not like clever word play and an almost essay like structure, you may have difficulty getting through it. Because of this, I found that I could only read a section or two at a time. There is not an immediate draw to pick up this book and read it. Though only 200 e reader pages, it often seems longer. If you want a page turned, not for you. Rating: 3

Message- This book made me think. While the traditional things on which we base a book are lacking, I still thought that reading this book was a worthwhile experience. There are underlying themes and messages in this book that are highly discussable, and relevant in todays world. After reading the book I was captivated by the thought of what is language, and what does it mean in the greater context of our culture. I will continue to think about this book for awhile, no matter what its shortcomings were, because I think its broader message is that important. Rating: 10

Overall Score: 39/70, which for today we will equate to 3 out of 5 stars.

There are many things wrong with this novel, but at the end of the day I’m glad that I read it. As always, open for discussion with anyone that has read it.




On or Off

As many of you know, I have a Yorkie.  She is extremely adorable and very loving and sweet.  She is also tenacious- she doesn’t give up when she sees something she wants.  She is also very excitable and yappy.20181022_0742317094808898146108947.jpg

Now, as often happens. pets and their owners share some traits.  I too an extremely adorable.  And tenacious. Excitable.  Yappy…. We say the dog has two speeds, off and on- as do I. I am either all in, or asleep…

Now mainly these are not particularly bad traits- just annoying sometimes. And it is often hard to follow where I’m coming from and where I’m going to.  I used to have an assistant who followed me around with a notepad and wrote down everything I said.  She said that I went step 1, step 2, step 15, step 20…etc, because my mind was working so fast my actual talking couldn’t keep up.  I have a friend I email and they laugh because of the amount of spelling mistakes I can make in an email because when I think of something clever my fingers can’t work fast enough to type properly.

As a New Yorker, these traits help- there’s a reason why the phrase is “New York minute”. But even for a NYer- the speed at which I talk is lightening fast.  Italksofastthatsometimespeoplecantunderstandathingthatimsaying. Now my friends- well- they’ve just gotten used to this by now.  And my daughter talks as fast as I do.  This is actually an issue because people will often think we are nervous, but we’re not nervous- we just can’t wait to get things out. (our family joke is lose your breath, lose your turn)

By now, I’m guessing you’re wondering why I am writing about this today.  Well, here’s the thing: I am thinking of starting a podcast.  I’m considering doing book reviews, but you know, my kind of book reviews.  I know I can write them, but I think my personality (not my accent) is suited to talking out a really humorous review.  I think sometimes you just need to hear the inflection.



I realize the speed at which I do things is part of my personality- part of who I am. But I also know that I have to turn it down 5 or 30 notches in order to be understood. So I’m at a standstill- if I want to try this podcast thing I need to sloooow dowwwwwwn. I just don’t know how to take a breath- to pause.  I don’t exactly know what is between on and off.

What is the middle ground, and how do I get there?


LA Tries a Book Review

After a truthful one line criticism of a book that I had read, The amazing Ann from suggested I try my hand a book review.  So here goes: SPOILERS… There will be SPOILERS

“The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang Published June 5, 2018

Everyone was talking about this book- magazines, blogs, etc. The teaser for this book had me intrigued: Woman with Asperger’s hires an escort to teach her how to be in a relationship.  I thought to myself – Oh- this is going to be like “The Rosie Project” which is about a man on the spectrum who hires a woman to help him become more normal. I loved that book.  It’s charming and sweet.  That’s the hope that I had for TKQ.

Boy was I wrong.


First off- porn.  There is no other word to describe the beginning of this book other than pure, unadulterated sex scenes.  Now, I’m no prude, but I don’t need to read about THAT MUCH SEX in a book.  Secondly- the  book is intimating that people with Asperger’s can only have a relationship if it involves sex, and they must pay for it because no one else is willing to sleep with them.  I’m pretty sure that was not the author’s intention, but that’s how I viewed it.

OMG- all the sex.  Licking, biting….seriously- there was so much of that it could have been mistaken for a food review.  And it was gratuitous sex- it didn’t enhance the novel in any way, it just detracted from the main point.

What was the main point?  To show that people on the spectrum (mainly women) often  mask their feeling and quirks in an attempt to make themselves appear more “normal”.  They figure out how to navigate society and hide their “differences”. This is a pretty noble cause for a book, and I would love to read a book about this.  Alas, this was just not the right book.  The message of the author in the book comes across as shallow, trite and just not enjoyable.

Now to the love story angle- because of course these people fall in love.  Well- I like to see how two characters fall in love.  I did not see two characters fall in love.  I saw two characters (who were apparently the finest and hottest specimens of humankind ever) have a lot of lusty sex.  I saw two characters lust after one another.  There was a little conversation thrown in, but really it was peripheral.

And- they were hiding things from one another.  They were “falling in love” yet, they weren’t falling for the actual person- they were falling for the masked version. She was trying to hide her Asperger’s from him, he was hiding details of his family/father.  How do you fall in love with someone who is hiding things from you?  Doesn’t make sense to me. By the time they told each other the secrets they were “in love” and these secrets didn’t bother them.

Yeah right.  That’s totally how it would happen in real life.

After I read this book, I thought “What was this author thinking when she wrote the book?” So I read the author note: this was the only redeeming part of the book.  The teacher of her five year old daughter told her that she thought the child was on the spectrum.  Hoang thought “No way” and had her daughter tested and such.  Doctor did not find any reason to declare the child on the spectrum. Hoang was intrigued though, and started reading more about autism and Asperger’s.  What she found out started to surprise her- many women on the spectrum try to act “normal” and hide their differences (see- that’s where I got that point I made above) She began to wonder about her own behavior pattern, how many times she acted in a certain way in order to fit in. And she wondered how many undiagnosed cases of autism there are amongst women, because women are able to mask themselves.

“The Kiss Quotient”- don’t waste you time.  Ridiculous waste of words. Authors note- totally worth reading