Friday, April 1, 2011

What I read in March

Here's a summary of what I wrote about in Marie's Book Garden this month (click the titles to read my full reviews):

The Book of Fires: A NovelThe Book of Fires by Jane Borodale. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In 1752, young Agnes Trussel finds herself pregnant and alone in London. She becomes an apprentice to a widowed fireworks maker. Borodale effectively captures the cadence of dialogue, food, setting, and habits of the British in the 18th century. A very satisfying read!

The WavesThe Waves by Virginia Woolf. Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I read this for my book group--the husband of one of my friends had read it while staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel and he had loved it. As for me and the rest of the group, not so much. The Waves is Woolf's most experimental novel. It is a series of soliloquoys spoken by different people who know each other but do not actually interact with each other through any dialogue. The language is masterful, yes, but not in a way that drew me in enough to put up with the lack of plot or connection between the characters. Even though none of us loved The Waves, it made for an interesting discussion at book group. We found it interesting that although Virginia Woolf wrote some great feminist manifestos, her female characters in this book were the weakest.

Buzz: A Year of Paying AttentionBuzz: A Year of Paying Attention, by Katherine Ellison. 3 out of 5 stars

Q: How many kids with attention deficit disorder does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Let's go ride bikes!

Katherine Ellison's son Buzz (a pseudonym) was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) not too long before she received the same diagnosis. Ellison embarks on a one-year journey to chronicle her parenting struggles with ADHD, exacerbated by her own personal challenges. This is the best thing I took from this book:
"The author Toni Morrison says that the best gift a mother can give her child is to light up when he enters the room. I think of all the times my mind was elsewhere, dim to him, and now focus on shining extra brightly." 

 Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage)Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Best book of the month and the one I would recommend to everyone. Such an important and long-overdue book! Kristof and WuDunn investigate the widespread abuse of women and girls via sex trafficking, prostitution, and slavery (across the globe); rape; "honor" killings; maternal mortality; and neglect of health issues. They also explore issues related to family planning and the "God Gulf," whether Islam is patently misogynistic, the importance of investing in education, and the benefit of microlending.

Stop--don't get depressed yet! Not only do they report on these widespread abuses and shocking inequality across the globe, but they also share success stories and the lives of women who have risen above these horrible situations. The power of this book is in the stories of those individual women.

In other blog posts, I wrote about the fact that an African-American acquaintance is suing the author of the help, Kathryn Stockett; ten great literary villains; and a book recommendation from my writer hubby (which I hope to read soon), Words in the Dust.

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