Year 4, Book 61

61. A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages by Kristin Chenoweth
This was a fun, quick read. I read the whole thing in one day. It’s a very conversationally toned memoir by actress Kristen Chenoweth. It was just a good fun read. I laughed out loud multiple times while reading it. I have a whole lot of respect for the way she lives out her faith and hope that I do something similar. It also really made me miss Pushing Daisies. I’ll be sad to not be seeing Olive Snook on my TV every week this fall. The final manuscript was obviously submitted sometime between the first and second seasons of the show, so there’s lots of references to it in the book as what she is working on now. Anyone whose a fan will love this book and even if you have no idea who Kristin Chenoweth is I still think you would enjoy it. I give it 8 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 60

60. Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding
The author uses the small town of Oelwein, Iowa to discuss the meth epidemic. He talks about the history of meth and how this epidemic it came to be, the failed legislation that might have helped prevent it, and how it is a social scourge on small-town America. I found it to be an interesting read, although if you are familiar at all with the meth epidemic most of it will not be news to you. There was some interesting history as well as a connection to big farm agriculture that I wouldn’t have thought of, but totally makes sense now that he pointed it out. If you’re interested at all in this kind of stuff it’s worth a read. I give it 6 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 59

59. Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates
This is the second book I’ve read by Joyce Carol Oates and I think despite the fact that she is Alison’s favorite author it will be the last. I find all her characters to be too whiny and unsympathetic I think. This book had a lot of characters and I struggled to like a single one of them. Plus I wonder, at least based on this book, about Oates’s view of women. All of them were middle-aged unself-fulfilled women chasing after men who didn’t care about them or allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by men who disgusted them. I don’t get behind the whole you disgust me I want nothing to do with you until you force yourself on me and then I’ll melt into your arms deal. Not realistic and totally propagating date rape in my opinion. Not that any raping occurs in this book, I just think stuff like that gives people the idea that no doesn’t mean no.

At any rate the book centers around a guy named Adam who moves at some point in his adulthood to this small upper class town in New York. It is evident from the first few pages of the book that he has a secret past. He also dies in the first chapter or so and you figure the story is going to be about the discovery of his past after his death. Not so much. The story revolves around all these people in the town who knew him and their sad pathetic lives. All of them, mostly the women, but a couple of the men (not sexually) were entirely obsessed with Adam for some reason that remains elusive at least to me. So you get to find out what happens to their lives in the wake of his death. Finally near the end of the almost 500 page book you find out about Adam’s past. It was rather a let down and not worth reading through all the melodrama to find out about. I would definitely skip this book if I were you. I give it 3 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 58

58. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Paul and I spent our mini-honeymoon in Savannah, so naturally as a tourist I was inundated with stuff about this book. I had seen the movie when I was in high school, but had never read the book and didn’t remember much about the story. After our trip I decided I wanted to read the book, but never made it a priority. About a month ago though I was preparing for a week long staycation and realized I hadn’t picked up any books to read, so I perused the browsing books at work and this happened to be one of them, reminding me that I wanted to read it. So I finally did. I remember next to nothing about the movie, so I don’t know how true it stays to the book. It really is more like reading a book about Savannah society than the whole murder/voodoo thing I think the movie emphasized. Yes these existed in the book, but they weren’t really the emphasis of the story. At least to me the story was more about an interesting mix of people living in a historic town that is fairly insular. I enjoyed it well enough, but I wouldn’t rate it among my favorite books or anything. I give it 6 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 57

57. Too Small to Ignore: Why Children are the Next Big Thing by Wess Stafford
I was given a copy of this book free at a leadership conference I attended at my church. The author Wess Stafford is the CEO of Compassion International. In the book he talks about his childhood as a missionary child in Africa and the great things he learned from the people of the African village he grew up in, but also the horrendous things he experienced at a boarding school for missionary kids. He uses the backdrop of his life’s story to talk about how children are our most important investment and how God is calling us to help out children in need. I give it 5 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 56

56. Becoming Finola by Suzanne Strempek Shea
I picked this book up on a whim while looking for something to read over my staycation a couple weeks ago. I forgot to request any books on my to-read list so I made a quick sweep through the library’s browsing section and found this book. I have read several non-fiction books by this author and really enjoyed them. She actually started out as a fiction writer, so I thought I should finally read one of her fiction works. I’m not sure how representative of her other fiction books this one is since in the acknowledgments she clearly states that the book is in response to someone’s request for a love story, which makes me think some of her other books aren’t. At any rate this book very much is a love story that reminded me of a hundred romantic comedy movies. In fact I am thoroughly surprised that it has not been turned into one because the plot plays out exactly like one in such a way that I knew everything that was going to happen based on conventional romantic comedy plot lines. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, but I’m almost wishing someone would make it into a movie because I seem to stomach stuff like this better in movie form than I do book form.

At any rate the story is about a woman named Sophie who travels to a tiny town in Ireland to stay for several months with a friend who wanted to go there to get over some huge losses in her life. The friend winds up leaving after the first night there, but Sophie remains and begins to work in a shop named for Finola who all the tourists then assume she is. And of course as you would expect she eventually falls for the shop’s proprietor, Finola’s ex-boyfriend until Finola returns wanting to reclaim her life. What will happen? You can guess or you can read for yourself. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 55

55. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell
I read this book for one of my book clubs. We read the book and then went to see the movie before discussing both. The movie is very loosely based on the book. I didn’t realize it until I started reading the book, but the Julia Child part of the movie is actually based on her autobiography, “My Life in France”, while only the Julie Powell half of the movie is based on Julie and Julia and even that is changed a lot.

The book was a quick, easy read. I found it enjoyable enough. It was nothing great, but it had some amusing moments. If you’re looking for some light reading you could do worse. I give it 5 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 54

54. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
This isn’t the type of book I would normally read. I’m not much for the mystery, suspense genre. I had heard such good things about this book though even from other people who don’t normally read in this genre that I decided I had to read it. I have mixed feelings on this book. On the one hand I didn’t really care for it, but on the other the mystery did draw me in and made me not want to put the book down so that I could find out what happened. I also felt like the book got really long at the end. The main mystery was solved with about 100 pages left and then there was a secondary storyline that got readdressed that took way too long to wrap up in my opinion and included some really goofy tactics. Plus I was annoyed with the way the book ended on it’s final page. And one of the main characters obviously has some dark secrets from her past that are alluded to, but that we really never get to find out. I do see that the next book by the author that just came out has the same two main characters, so I assume we’ll get some more background on her in the next book. So now I kind of feel compelled to read that too. Although I feel like this could be a deadly cycle as the author is now dead and wrote 3 books prior to his death. There’s no guarantee that anything is wrapped up by the end of the third book, and he’s obviously no longer around to complete the story. So in a nutshell I didn’t exactly think this book was as great as everyone is saying, but it did keep me engaged, at least until the last 100 pages or so (the book is 560 pages long). And because of the way the characters were written I now feel compelled to read the next one. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 4, Book 53

53. ?
I know there was a book 53, but for some reason my brain is not recalling what it was other than it had a white cover. I can’t even remember if it was fiction or non-fiction. I’m guessing it must not have been very good. At least it was unmemorable. If I ever remember I’ll post a real review.

Year 4, Book 52

52. Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi
This book is another memoir by the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. This one focuses on her family, mostly focusing on her mother and father. She also of course touches on some of the things that were going on politically in Iran while she was growing up. I found this book to a bit tedious after awhile. As is true of many people her parents had certain ways of acting that carried throughout their lives. They never seemed to grow past these things and so it seems that most of the book is spent telling similar tales about the same fights and same problems over and over again. I give it a 5 out of 10.