Friday, September 2, 2011

What I read in August

Delights! A month of four-starred books! Click the titles to read my full reviews.

Fiction, best to worst:

State of WonderState of Wonder, by Ann Patchett: 4 stars

Ann Patchett's latest novel begins in Minnesota and travels to the jungles of Brazil, where a naive and emotionally stifled researcher, Marina Singh, hopes to discover what happened to her research partner, Anders Eckman. The pharmaceutical company Marina and Anders work for, Vogel, is funding the research of a new fertility drug in the Amazonian jungle led by her medical school mentor, the brilliant and chilly Dr. Annick Swenson. Patchett's best talent as a writer: her main characters are multidimensional and full of layered depths. This one had me getting up early one morning to finish the book!

After You: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)After You, by Julie Buxbaum: 4 stars

Ellie Lerner's best friend, Lucy, is murdered in broad daylight--in front of her 8-year-old daughter--in an upscale Notting Hill neighborhood. Ellie flies to London to be with her goddaughter Sophie and help Lucy's husband pick up the pieces of their lives. While she's grieving the loss of her close childhood friend, she's still mourning her son Oliver, who died in utero at eight months gestation. Ellie's difficulty in moving past her deep-seated grief has put her marriage at risk. While she's escaping her own commitments back in Boston, her husband wants her to return home, but she just can't. To comfort themselves, Ellie and Lucy escape into Francis Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.

 Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons: A NovelAngry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, by Lorna Landvik: 4 stars

 Kari, Faith, Slip, Merit, and Audrey are housewives in small-town Minnesota in the 1960s. They live on Freesia Court and start a book club (fairly unusual back then). Through the years, they share their heartaches, secrets, and intimacies in the ways that only women can.

 Bitter Bitch: A NovelBitter Bitch, by Maria Sveland: 4 stars

In this book, an apparent international bestseller in Europe, Sarah, mom of a toddler, has just turned 30 and is feeling like a bitter bitch. She flies to Tenerife (in the Canary Islands) for a week's vacation and reads Erica Jong's feminist classic, Fear of Flying, while she's away. However, she finds herself longing for quiet and uninterrupted sleep rather than the classic "zipless f--k." Sveland examines the state of modern woman- and motherhood and peels back the facade that women can easily have it all. 

Nonfiction, best to worst:

 Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous SurvivalTouching the Void, by Joe Simpson: 4 stars

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, climbed a mountain peak in the Andes--the 21,000-foot Siula Grande. While ascending, Joe broke his leg...which can be an immediate death sentence for mountain climbers. However, Simon risked his own life to lower Joe 3,000 feet down the mountain while Joe kept digging "belays" into the mountain, allowing Simon to stretch out the rope once more. When the rope did not go slack, Simon had no choice but to cut the rope, knowing that by doing so Joe would die. When the rope was cut, Joe fell into a very deep crevasse. Amazingly, he survived.

Julie & JuliaJulie & Julia, by Julie Powell: 2 stars

Skip the book and see the movie instead. Throughout Julie & Julia, Powell scatters made-up vignettes about Julia Child and her husband Paul. They seemed out of place and only made me want to read Julia Child's My Year in France to learn the real story. Julia Child was a fascinating, dynamic woman who loved life and her husband with a passion. Julie Powell, not so much.

Other news:

Take a look at this video with a reading flash mob.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionMy lovely and talented husband reviewed Unbroken on his blog...he loved it, so I must read.

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