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What did you read last month? > What I read August 2012

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message 1: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Here is a folder for you to list the books you read last month.

Please provide:
~ A GoodRead link
~ A few sentences telling us how you felt about the book.
~ How would you rate the book


message 2: by Alias Reader (last edited Aug 31, 2012 09:42PM) (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Here are my August reads.


Arcadia
Fiction- play
Rate- 2
This was an interesting play. However, much of the science was over my head. Still, I was happy to read this Group Play Read with Deb. I like expanding my reading horizons. I hope more people join us in the future for these interim month reads where we read a play or short story.

My Name Is Asher Lev
Fiction
Rate 4
This is a story of a young Hasidic boy who is an enormously talented painter. Unfortunately, such an occupation is much frowned upon in the Hasidic community. The boy must decide between his gift and the wishes of his parents. I am not sure what drew me into this quiet story, but I was hooked.

Churchill
Non fiction
Rate: 4/5
It's a concise and succinct bio. I felt the book a bit unbalanced as the author is clearly a huge fan of CW. So the story is told through admiring eyes. The book can be a bit dry at times. But that may be do to the fact that the author felt rushed to get all the facts in at under 200 pages. That said, the book is a good intro to WC and I enjoyed reading it.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
Non Fiction
Rate: 4/5
This is an excellent biography of our 20th president. I first saw the author on Book TV and knew this was a book I had to read. The book is well written. The author, Candice Millard really gave me a good feel for the times by weaving Joseph Lister, Alexander Graham Bell and other notable figures into the story along with many interesting factoids. Before I read this book I knew little about President Garfield. After reading this book, he has won a place in my heart. Well done ! I definitely plan to read Candice Millard’s other book, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Four of a Kind
Fiction
Rate: 2/4
I read this for my f2f book group. It's chick lit, which is not my favorite genre. It's about a group of four diverse women who decide to start a Diversity Committee for the private school their children attend. It turns into a poker night club. The stakes are that they have to reveal a secret.

Gandhi
non fiction
Rate: 3/5
This is a short YA bio. It gets the job done. It's a good place to start if you want to refresh your memory or are thinking of reading a larger work on Gandhi.


message 4: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Michael wrote: "Alias Reader wrote: "My Name Is Asher Lev
Fiction
Rate 4"

I put this in my to-read list. The description mentions "cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn". One of my favorites times, pl..."

====================

It was my first library kindle book I read. :)


message 5: by Lesley (last edited Sep 01, 2012 08:35PM) (new)

Lesley | 239 comments I read 7 during August.


Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War
Fiction
A young Englishman fighting in France during WW1 struggles with his role but befriends a miner turned tunneller and they share the horrors of the time. He survives to discover he has a daughter from an earlier affair with a French woman. A great read. 4 stars.

Sarah Thornhill
Fiction
A sequel to The Secret River which I loved. Teenage Sarah learns of her father's brutal past with the local aborigines around the colony of Sydney, which has far-reaching affects on her life. The lack of punctuation marks had me confused at times as did some of the early Australian language. 3 stars.

A Reliable Wife
Fiction
A web of deceit set in the snows of Wisconsin in the early 1900s, where a sort of madness prevails. I later read that this was a time of extreme winters and ongoing drought, which lead to depression and suicides. 4 stars.


message 6: by Lesley (last edited Sep 01, 2012 08:37PM) (new)

Lesley | 239 comments The Red Queen
Fiction
Two stories; the first is the memoirs of a Korean queen from the 18th century, who has a connection in current times to a British doctor who visits Seoul. I didn't make the connection, but did learn a little about Korea. 1 star.

Shipwrecks
Fiction
On a wild Japanese coastline villagers pray for shipwrecks during wild storms, to provide food, clothing and tools to top up their meagre subsistence lifestyle. One ship brings smallpox as well, with awful consequences. A fascinating read. 4 stars.

Snow
Fiction
Set in Turkey, a German Turkish journo returns to catch up with an old love as well as report on a number of suicides. Too much going on in this one for me, and perhaps just too much of a political statement. I was left confused. 2 stars.

The Other Side of Silence
Fiction
Set in early 20th century, a young German girl suffers early hardships before attempting a new start in Germany's colony of South-West Africa (now Namibia) where brutality and killing are commonplace as the German army attempts to control the local tribes. Very brutal and bloody and at times difficult to read. I like Brink's phrasing and will seek out his others works. 4 stars.


message 7: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Lesley, I hate books that lack punctuation.


message 8: by Connie (new)

Connie (Connie_G) | 288 comments Lesley, Shipwrecks sounds like an interesting read.


message 9: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 239 comments Sometimes I find lack of punctuation can make reading faster and easier as it runs along, but with Sarah Thornhill I found I couldn't work out who said what so ended up re-reading parts.


message 10: by J (new)

J (blkdoggy) | 131 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Lesley, I hate books that lack punctuation."

Reminded me of the book 'Eats shoots, and leaves.' or is it 'Eats, shoots and leaves.' Can't remember which.
: ) Just ain't the same.


message 11: by Amy (last edited Sep 03, 2012 12:54PM) (new)

Amy (AmyBF) | 517 comments My August reads were as follows:

Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck: 3 stars. A parenting memoir by a woman who, along with her husband, are Harvard graduates and overachievers in every sense of the word who have lived their lives in a frantic pursuit of perfection. Until their son is born with Down syndrome, and they come to the realization that they have a lot to learn about real life. I might have given this a 4 because I enjoyed the book, but the numerous detailed sections about Beck's spiritual "visions" didn't appeal to me and knocked the book down to a 3 in my view.

A Son Of The Circus by John Irving: 3.5. stars. Full disclosure: I am a huge John Irving fan. Whenever I'm asked to list my top 5 favorite books of all times, I always include A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Cider House Rules, A Widow for One Year and The World According to Garp. (In case anyone is counting on their fingers, my all-time fav list is rounded out with the inclusion of Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True.) While I liked "Circus," I won't be including it in my top 5. At nearly 700 pages, it's not for the casual John Irving reader--you're going to have to push yourself through various parts to finish it. It took me a while to get into it, and there were sections where my interest flagged.

Penelope by Rebecca Harrington: 2 stars. I've spent a lot of time on college campuses in my lifetime: I have several degrees, and I've worked at three different universities throughout my career (including my current job). So books about college/set on college campuses attract my interest. I wanted to like this book about a socially awkward Harvard freshman, but I couldn't get all that excited about it. You can tell that the author is still young and inexperienced--I winced several times at the clunky dialogue and the pacing. And the plot didn't really seem to go anywhere. I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because I think that the author's writing style will improve as she gets older and more confident in her abilities.

The Twins by Tessa de Loo: 4 stars. Twins who were orphaned at 6 and sent to live with different relatives--one in the Netherlands, one in Nazi Germany-- are reunited by chance seventy years later at a Belgian health resort. During their stay, they share their stories of lives lived on opposite sides of WWII. Well-balanced story that shows that people make choices for all different kinds of reasons, and nobody should judge another for making choices that are different from their own. And that war is hell--for everyone on every side.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar: 4 stars. This book just sucked me right in. Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two woman: an upperclass woman who hides the fact that her husband abuses her, and her illiterate servant who has her own family issues to sort through. It shows how the lives of the rich and poor are both tightly connected yet vastly removed from each other by the divisions of class and culture. Umrigar is fast becoming a favorite author of mine--she seems to hit a homerun with every book she writes.

Almost Home by Pam Jennoff: 2.5 stars. A suspense novel about an American woman who works as a State Department intelligence officer and travels the world on dangerous assignments in an attempt to outrun memories of a painful experience during her graduate school days in England. The plot became more far-fetched as the story progressed and there seemed to be a lot of lucky coincidences.

The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College by Jacques Steinberg: 3.5 stars. In 1999, over the course of a year, New York Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg was given an unprecedented opportunity to observe the admissions process at Wesleyan University. This book describes the process in detail, shedding light on the decisions that colleges make in their admissions process. I enjoyed the inside look, although the account is now more than 10 years old and slightly dated. But for parents of teens who are in the throes of the college application process, it's a good read.

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen: 2 stars. Predictable fluff. Eh.

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski: 4 stars. Excellent account of the build-up to Hitler's march to power, told through personal testimonies, diaries, letters, and previously unpublished memoirs by American citizens and journalists wh0 were living in Germany at the time. I didn't think I could be shocked by any new revelations of the time period, but I was. Definitely recommended.


message 12: by Amy (new)

Amy (AmyBF) | 517 comments As an editor, I find it very distracting to read books that are lacking proper punctuation. I can't help but correct it in my head while I'm reading, which makes it feel too much like work instead of pleasure!


message 13: by Connie (last edited Sep 03, 2012 02:31PM) (new)

Connie (Connie_G) | 288 comments My August Books:

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck 4 stars. This was originally written as propaganda when Steinbeck was working for the COI in 1942, then got translated into many languages by people in countries occupied by the Nazis in World War II. It's about a town taken over by the Germans, and how the people react to it. An excellent short book that gives the reader lots to think about.

The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irene Nemirovsky by Her Daughter by Élisabeth Gille 3 stars. I enjoyed the parts of the book about I.N.'s childhood, but felt that her daughter was saving the information about the German occupation for her next book.

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen 4 stars. A daughter comes home to take care of her mother who has terminal cancer, and they form a strong connection emotionally. She is accused of mercy-killing her mother. Well written.

The Pull Of The Moon by Elizabeth Berg 3 stars. A woman who is turning fifty is having a mid-life crisis. She "runs away from home" by getting in a car, and driving westward. She talks to people along the way, does lots of thinking, and writes letters home to her husband about changes she wants in their marriage. The character had some good thoughts, but she also didn't appreciate what an easy life she had.

Black Dogs by Ian McEwan 3 stars. The narrator is writing the story of his inlaw's life, and is interviewing them. His inlaws are estranged due to differing political and philosophical ideas. Cold War era.

Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss by Jai Pausch 3 stars. Memoir of the wife of Randy Pausch, the author of The Last Lecture. It was interesting to read the point of view of a caregiver, but I kept comparing it to Randy's book which was so much more eloquent.

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson 4 stars. This book weaves together two stories, both with the theme of exploring foreign areas while encountering many obstacles put up by conflicting cultures. I felt like I was reading two different books together for the first half of the book, so that might bother some people. Interesting, colorful characters and settings.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid 3 1/2 stars. A coming of age book set in Antigua. I enjoyed reading about the customs on the island.

Winston Churchill: British Prime Minister & Statesman by Sue Vander Hook 4 stars. This was an enjoyable young adult book about Churchill that I read to get an overview of his life before starting our group read this month, The Gathering Storm.

The Summons by John Grisham 3 stars. An elderly, sickly judge summons his two sons to reveal the contents of his will. One son is successful, and the other has a problem with drug abuse. It was entertaining, but not quite as good as some of Grisham's earlier novels.


message 14: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 239 comments Amy, I recently picked up The Space Between Us at a used book shop for a few dollars and have The Twins on my TBR so I'm pleased to see you enjoyed both.


message 15: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 239 comments A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar sounds interesting to me too Connie, so adding that to my list. Thanks.


message 16: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Amy wrote:
Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski: 4 stars. Excellent account of the build-up to Hitler's march to power, told through personal testimonies, diaries, letters, and previously unpublished memoirs by American citizens and journalists wh0 were living in Germany at the time. I didn't think I could be shocked by any new revelations of the time period, but I was. Definitely recommended.

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Excellent reading month, Amy !

Thanks for the Hitlerland review. As I mentioned, I've put it on my TBR list.


message 17: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Connie wrote: "My August Books:

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck 4 stars. This was originally written as propaganda when Steinbeck was working for the COI in 1942, then got translated into many languages by p..."

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You were on a reading roll in August, Connie !

I never heard of this Steinbeck book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I've put it on my list.


message 18: by Amy (last edited Sep 04, 2012 06:34AM) (new)

Amy (AmyBF) | 517 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Thanks for the Hitlerland review. As I mentioned, I've put it on my TBR list.."

You might want to wait a bit before reading it, if you've recently read "In the Garden of Beasts." There's a lot of overlap with the sections about Martha Dodd--likely because both authors used her memoirs/letters/etc. in their research. I found myself skimming over the parts that quoted Martha's activities. The rest of the book is engrossing, however--particularly the initial accounts written by American journalists posted in Berlin in the 1920s, when Hitler was just coming onto the political scene. With the benefit of hindsight, it's astonishing that the danger he represented to Germany and the world wasn't immediately obvious. But nearly every journalist dismissed Hitler's plans as being far-fetched--and many laughed at him outright, calling him a "comic figure" and a "clown." Which gave the American reading public the impression that he was nothing to worry about--even when it was becoming increasingly clear to the rest of Europe that they should be very worried, indeed. It makes you wonder how different things might have been...if only.


message 19: by Sumofparts (last edited Sep 04, 2012 07:37AM) (new)

Sumofparts | 37 comments Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
4 stars
Very engrossing "true-life" novel about the author's maternal grandmother's extraordinary life, written in first-person. I'll definitely have to look up the author's previous book, a memoir called The Glass Castle.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead
3.5 stars (rounded up to 4)
I read most of this throughout August but finished it yesterday because I was on vacation. The book takes place after an apocalypse in which a lot of the human population is infected/killed by a plague that makes its hosts zombies essentially (though never called that explicitly). I really admire the author's writing, especially the imagined aftermath (view spoiler) and wanted to like this book more but it still left me cold. Maybe it was the subject matter and/or plot or maybe that was the intention in that there was never a lot of open emotion from the main character, possibly because of his circumstances but I could never get a good read on the character. This was part of the issue I had with the other book I read by the author, Apex Hides the Hurt. I would definitely still recommend this and will try some of his other books.

Alias Reader - I watched Arcadia a couple years ago at my university and went into it cold. I don't remember much about it except that there were interesting ideas about the nature of science. I will have to take a look at your discussions.

Amy - The Space Between Us sounds really interesting; I'll have to check it out.


message 20: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Amy wrote:You might want to wait a bit before reading it, if you've recently read "In the Garden of Beasts." There's a lot of overlap with the sections about Martha Dodd--likely because both authors used her memoirs/letters/etc. in their research. I found myself skimming over the parts that quoted Martha's activities. The rest of the book is engrossing, however--particularly the initial accounts written by American journalists posted in Berlin in the 1920s, when Hitler was just coming onto the political scene
----------------
Thanks for the tip. It will be some time for I get to it. My next book on WWII will be our Buddy Read on Sept. 15 The Gathering Storm~Winston Churchill
I am hoping you and others will join in.


message 21: by Alias Reader (last edited Sep 04, 2012 07:45AM) (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Sumofparts wrote: "Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
4 stars
Very engrossing "true-life" novel about the author's maternal grandmother's extraordinary life, written in first-person. I'll definitely have to look up..."


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Sum, I've read The Glass Castle twice. A second time for my book club. I really enjoyed it. More so than Half broke Horses. For me, I found Glass Castle more believable.


message 22: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 85 comments My August reads

The Black Cat by Martha Grimes

Rating 3.5/5 This is the latest in her Richard Jury series. I enjoyed this one better than the last 2 books in the series


A Fatal GracebyLouise Penny
Rating 4/5 this is the second in her Three Pines series. You see growrh in characters and her descriptions are wonderful

A Bitter FeastbyS.J. Rozan

Rating 3.5/5

Messenger of TruthbyJacqueline Winspear
Rating 4/5
This is part of the Maisie Dobbs series. It was an enjoyable read.


message 23: by Lori (new)

Lori Baldi | 37 comments My August reads were a bit light but I tend to read lighter in the summer.

The Duke of Shadows. This was recommended as a Historical Romance with a heavier dose of Indian history, the Sepoy Mutiny to be more exact. I had also heard that this author is someone to watch since she is newer to the genre. I found the book to be a little too light and not surprising since most romances don't give me enough story these days. But I always hope to find a really good author. This didn't do it, though.

Savannah Blues was the next book and I have no idea why I followed up with another romance. This was a book that went on about 200 pages too long. There was really not enough story for the number of pages. It would have been good at about 250 pages or so.

And the real disappointment was Before Ever After. I didn't see this coming at all. I had heard many good reviews but they must have come from people who enjoy other-worldly types of reads. I'm not one of them. Unlike the other 2 books of August, I felt that I had wasted my time on this one.

By the looks of the list I had a crummy August for reading. And I don't include the 2 that I put down without finishing since I found them not to my taste. The Duke of Shadows would have been the best of the lot for the month since I did have a good time reading it.


message 24: by Amy (new)

Amy (AmyBF) | 517 comments Alias Reader wrote: "My next book on WWII will be our Buddy Read on Sept. 15 The Gathering Storm~Winston Churchill. I am hoping you and others will join in..."

Honestly, I think I am a bit "World War II"-ed out right now. I am currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which also takes place in Barcelona during the early 1940s. When I switch back over to nonfiction, I think I might dive into a totally different time period: I just downloaded Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn. I've read so much about Henry VIII, but hardly anything about Henry VII. So I'm going to give that a try.


message 25: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Meredith wrote: "My August reads

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Thanks for sharing with us, Meredith. My f2f book group selected a Maisie Dobbs book for discussion. It was quite popular with the group.


message 26: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 13250 comments Lori wrote: "By the looks of the list I had a crummy August for reading. And I don't include the 2 that I put down without finishing since I found them not to my taste.
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Here's wishing you a better Sept., Lori. These reading lows happen to us all.


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