Sunday, August 10, 2014

What I read (in June and July 2014)

Here's what I read in June and July. For full reviews of these books (these are just excerpts of the reviews), click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

Great nonfiction:

Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid, by Joshua Safran

Free Spirit : growing up on the road and off the gridJoshua Safran's mother ("Claudia") was a counterculture feminist artist/activist, and when he was four years old, they left Haight Ashbury in San Francisco and hit the road. He was raised in an extremely open, permissive home and "homeschooled." But as much as his mother was proudly independent and strident in many ways, she ended up with loser after loser. This book, more than any other I've read, describes well what it's like to be in a home full of domestic violence. It's a story of redemption and discovery in spite of a very difficult beginning. This book brought me to tears at the end. If you're interested in knowing more about Joshua Safran's story, take a look at this video presentation of him talking at Google.

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World
What a phenomenal woman! I never would have guessed that someone so accomplished--reaching the top rung of her field at a fairly young age--would start her life with such large obstacles. In this memoir, she opens up and shares her stories from a young age...from when she was first diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to start giving herself daily talking about how her marriage failed. She revealed more about herself than typical for a Supreme Court justice and knew she might be judged harshly for some of her choices, but she made this decision consciously to offer comfort, and maybe inspiration, by showing that an "ordinary person, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else, has managed an extraordinary journey." I love Sotomayor's views on mentors and friends, on the value of life, and the importance of deep friendship and family. Although I had a hard time sinking into this memoir at first, it was well worth the effort! 

Fiction I Thought Would Be Better:

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Interesting premise: Australian Alice hits her head at the gym and when she wakes up, she's lost 10 years of her life. She thinks she's 29, pregnant with her first child, and happily married, but instead she's 39, has three highly spirited kids, and on her way to a divorce. This book turned out to be more in the genre of "chick lit" than I thought it would be. In the intervening 10 years, Alice got her perfect life and became a shallow, spoiled brat (in my view). I did enjoy this beach read in spite of its made me think about my own life, my priorities (am I spending enough high-quality time with my kids and my husband?), and how quickly life is passing me by. Read the review to learn what bugged me about this book.

We Are WaterWe Are Water, by Wally Lamb

I've read everything Wally Lamb has written, and this plot sounded promising. Sadly, I found this novel lacking in comparison to his others. It's the story of Anna Oh, an artist, wife, and mother, who has left her marriage of 27 years and is about to marry another woman. Annie has three children with her psychologist husband, Orion: Ariane, Andrew, and Marissa. The book spans all of these lives and many others. Read my review to see what I disliked about the book. The novel examines the generations of damage caused by sexual abuse, and reading it from the perspective of the pedophile was particularly difficult for me. This is still a good book, but not as great as his others.

And the fun read of the month:
Word Nerd

Word Nerd, by Susan Nielsen

I loved the painfully awkward and uncomfortable Ambrose...who is deathly allergic to peanuts and always manages to say the worst possible (and often, honest) thing. He befriends Cosmo, a grumpy ex-con, ex-druggie son of his Greek landlords, and his life changes. They join a Scrabble club together, after much cajoling and conniving by Ambrose. In the quirky world of competitive Scrabble players, Ambrose finally feels at home. Fun middle-grade novel!

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