Friday, July 15, 2011

July 2011 Book List

15. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens' mom died tragically when Lily was just 4 years old. Now 14 and at the breaking point in her relationship with her father, she leaves town with her caretaker, Rosaleen, who she has sprung from under police guard at the hospital. Guided by a picture of a black Virgin Mary glued to a piece of board with "Tiburon, SC" written on the back, Lily and Rosaleen head out to find out about Lily's mother's past.

This is a wonderful story about love and forgiveness, friendship and family. Though I wasn't sure about it when I decided to read it, I found it hard to put down. I've added the movie to my Netflix queue, and will hopefully get to watch it in a few weeks.

16. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Henry DeTamble has a genetic anomaly that causes him to time travel. That's how he meets Clare, his future wife, when she's just a child of six. When they meet in "real time", Henry hasn't met Clare yet; only his future self has. But Clare knows him and loves him and is thrilled to be "reunited" with him. In spite of the uncertainty of his life, of what may happen to him at any time, they marry and build a life together.

The story is told through alternating "his and hers" viewpoints, but each is clearly indicated, along with the time of each incident and the ages of both Henry and Clare.

This book was really confusing at first. I felt like I needed to take detailed notes in order to follow what was happening, but after I got used to the whole time travel idea, it wasn't so complicated anymore. Even through the initial difficulties, the story was so intriguing that I couldn't put the book down.

It is graphic in some places (a strong R rating, if not X at times), so be warned. But overall, the story is a good one. I've got this movie on my Netflix queue as well. I've heard it's good. My mom even said so, so I'm thinking maybe the movie didn't get quite as "steamy" as the book.

17. The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers

Sierra Madrid's world is turned upside down when her husband Alex takes a high-paying job in Los Angeles and moves the family there without any input from her. Holding on to her anger, she refuses to enjoy anything Alex tries to do to help her adjust to their new life. As they grow apart, they begin to hurt each other with their words and their actions. Shortly after a tragedy in Sierra's family, Alex announces that he's moving out and wants a divorce. As she fights him and deals with her hurt and anger, as well as the reactions of her children, she begins to find her way to Christ. Reading a journal written by one of her ancestors, she sees parallels between their distant lives.

At first I was a little disappointed with the book. It seemed to follow a standard Christian romance formula, and the characters seemed too predictable and boring. I stuck with it, though, and after a while, the characters became more real to me - so much so that I cried a few times during the story. It's not one of Rivers' best works, but it's still a good read.

18. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

Kathleen Flinn had long dreamed of attending Le Cordon Bleu, but it wasn't until she lost her job in London that she even considered it. Urged on by her boyfriend, she used her life savings to spend a year in Paris and attend the famed culinary school. She shares her life as a student in the Basic, Intermediate, and Superior levels of the school's culinary arts program, as well as her life as an American in Paris. It's masterfully written and hard to put down.

I've loved to cook for as long as I can remember, but when it came time for college, I didn't give culinary school the first thought. I wasn't passionate about it then, but I've toyed with the idea some over the last few years. Reading about Flinn's experiences at Le Cordon Bleu made me realize I don't want to go to a full-fledged culinary school. Not for a degree, anyway. Many of the things she had to do are things I don't want to experience. Also, I don't have the money to put into a full culinary arts degree program since I'm not wanting to make a career of cooking. Still, it made me think, and it gave me an idea...

19. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

My only knowledge of this book came by seeing it on the "new" shelf at the library. The title and cover caught my eye, and after reading the description inside the book jacket, I stuffed it in my book bag for later.

Kavita, a poor Indian woman, gives birth to her second daughter in secret. Her husband Jasu took their first daughter away to be disposed of because she wasn't born a son. After grieving for her, she vows he will not do the same with her second one, whom she names Usha. With the help of her sister, she secretly travels to an orphanage in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and gives her up, hoping for a better life than she would get otherwise. She finally gives birth to a son, Vijay, and Kavita and Jasu pin their hopes on him.

Somer Thakkar, a pediatrician in California, is devastated after she learns she will never be able to have a child. Her husband Krishnan, an Indian, encourages her to consider adoption from an Indian orphanage his mother has recommended. She eventually agrees and they adopt Asha (Uhsa).

The story focuses on the lives of Kavita, Jasu, Vijay, Somer, Krishnan, Asha, and Krishnan's mother Sarla over a 25-year period as they deal with loss, guilt, uncertainty, anger, and, finally, love and understanding.

This book touched home in many ways. I have friends who are serving as missionaries in India. I have an Indian friend, a missionary, who, with his wife, will be returning to serve there after serving several years in the Philippines. I have friends who are in the adoption process, both domestic and international. Adoption has also played a major role in my own family. It was interesting to see the various perspectives surrounding adoption and to learn about the cultural influences on it.

I also felt some conflicting emotions regarding the characters in this novel. I initially felt like the one American woman was stereotyped as cold, distant, selfish, and weak, while the Indian characters were warm, open, and loving. Of course, things evened out over the course of the story, but it took a while.

Overall, it's a great read, and I can see someone making it into a movie.

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