Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I Read in October (2013)

This is my monthly recap of the books I've read and reviewed on my book blog. For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

October was a great month for reading, with only one just "okay" book:

The House I Loved, Tatiana de Rosnay
My book group chose this book for OctoberIt's the story of Rose Bazelet, a widow who lives in an old house in Paris in the 1860s, an era when hundreds of houses are being demolished to rebuild Paris. I found Rose to be difficult to like, especially because of her neglect and dislike of her daughter. She poured all of her love and affection into her son instead. And to stay in a house and put others' lives at risk all for the sake of principle? I found her to be reckless at best. It was somewhat interesting to learn about this era in Paris' history, but I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone.

Best Novel

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown

I loved this book. If you like historical fiction, cooking, eating, or pirates, you'll enjoy it too. England, 1819...after pirate captain "Mad Hannah Mabbott" kills Lord Ramsey, she kidnaps Owen Wedgwood, Ramsey's talented chef. 

She informs him that he can stay alive if he cooks a sumptuous dinner for her every Sunday evening. A wild pirate adventure, love story, and culinary tale all rolled into one!

Three Great Memoirs

The Invisible Girls, by Sarah Thebarge
Sarah Thebarge survived grueling breast cancer, and a recurrence within a year, before moving west to Portland, Oregon, where she meets a Somali immigrant and her five young daughters, and a friendship begins. Thebarge alternates her story between getting to know and helping Hadhi and the girls and her travails enduring breast cancer treatment. When she got to know and began to help Hadhi, who didn't speak much English, she seemed to relate to the "invisible girls" because of what she had endured. She too felt like a stranger in a strange land. Thebarge brought delight into their lives and she helped them muddle through, and she too was enriched by the experience. She decided to write this book so she could raise money for the girls to go to college. I hope she is successful in her goal. 

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
This book brought me to tears so many times. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a recovering alcoholic and fundamentalist (she was raised in the ultraconservative Church of Christ), and she is now an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) pastor, wife, and mother. She founded and leads a church called the House for All Sinners and Saints, or HFASS (pronounced Half-Ass) for short. In this book, Bolz-Weber shares deeply and honestly about her own personal trials and how she found her way to the Lutheran church: in one word, grace.

Her grumpiness comes out full bore in her memoir, but that's what I like so much about it: her deep honesty. She's like Anne Lamott as an ELCA pastor. I heavily dog-eared my copy of this book, and if this book sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to read my full review. It's too hard to summarize in a few paragraphs. 
This book, while it might not appeal to everyone (especially if you are sensitive to salty language), made me glad to be an ELCA Lutheran. I'm so glad that we have tattooed, alcoholic pastors like Bolz-Weber, and that she is spreading the word about God's grace to everyone. 

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's PrisonOrange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, by Piper Kerman
I'm completely hooked on the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black," so I was anxious to read the memoir that is the basis for the show. Rich, Smith-educated white girl smuggles drug money for her girlfriend. Ten years later, after she has reinvented her life and gone to the other side (she's engaged to a man), the feds show up at her door. She has to go to prison for 15 months (13 months with time off for good behavior) because of the mistake she made as a young woman. She serves her time in Danbury Prison in Connecticut, and toward the end of her sentence she gets transferred to even worse places--Oklahoma City and Chicago. While in prison, she makes friends and learns how to survive. Read the full review to learn more about how the book differs from the show. I enjoyed the book, but the TV show is so much fuller, mostly because the stories of the diverse prisoners are so much more interesting than the rich white woman's. I'm glad Piper Kerman wrote her story, though, because it's called attention to the bad conditions of women in prison and their lack of control over their environment.

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