Here is my long ago promised catch-up post. You'll have to settle for abbreviated reviews since there are so many to include! Happy reading!
Under the Dome, Stephen King
I haven't read Stephen King before but I may have to start because I really enjoyed this. One morning an invisible, impenetrable dome simply appears over a small town in Maine. As the citizens both inside and out try to figure out what to do about it, King takes the opportunity to examine how people react when the consequences are radically different. The characters in this book were what made it great. Although it was a long story, I didn't find it drawn out. For those who enjoy science fiction, it does have a bit of that twist, especially at the end.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
I'd heard so many great things about this book that I just figured there was no way it could possibly live up to those expectations. Unbelievably, it did. I was completely absorbed by the lives of blacks and whites in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. When young white girl Skeeter Phelan sets out to interview black maids, neither she nor the maids have any idea what they will learn. I absolutely recommend everybody read this, although it's so popular that you may have to wait in line for quite a while!
A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick
This was highly recommended on a number of book blogs but it didn't have a great effect on me. It's about a woman who answers an ad to be the wife of a man in the frozen American Northwest. They marry without really knowing each other and it turns out they both have secrets. I found I couldn't relate well to either of the main characters which is probably why I didn't enjoy it as much as others.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
Here's another must read for everyone. This book can appeal to a wide range of readers, whether you like science, faith, family, or any other topic. Although it's non-fiction, I found that a lot of the book felt like fiction in how it sucked me in. The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancerous tumor cells were extracted and used for research and never died. Lacks and her family never knew that her cells were famous worldwide. The book alternates between the story of the cells and of the family learning of all they have done. It raises so many great issues for thought and discussion without dragging through political discourse or too much science. Go read it now!
I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb
This was a recommendation from a fellow book lover and I can see why she enjoyed it so much. Dominick's twin brother Thomas has extreme mental problems and Dominick struggles to understand how his twin could be so different from himself. In learning about them we also get the story of their past and their families. It's a dark book at times but feels real and I definitely enjoyed it.
The History of Love, Nicole Krauss
This was a re-read for me because the first time I read it, I fell so completely under its spell that I finished in just a few hours and couldn't remember many details later. I tried to go back and read it slowly but got completely enveloped again, which just shows how good it is. The novel swirls around the fictional book The History of Love and those who have been affected by it. The author does a great job of incorporating lots of humor without sacrificing gravity. If you pick this up, make sure the rest of your weekend is free.
Girl Mary, Petru Popescu
I'm not a religious person, but when I do contemplate religion I've never thought much about Mary. In my mind she's always been a bland, passive character in a pale blue robe. But who was she really? And more interesting, who was she before she was a mother? In this novel Mary is absolutely captivating, a leader of her tribe who has absolute faith in God yet still questions everything. This is a woman who could stand up for herself and change the world. My old image of Mary has been absolutely overhauled thanks to this intriguing novel.
Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich
In today's economy, a lot of focus is placed on the unemployed. However, most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about the working poor: people who have one or even two jobs but still don't earn enough money to truly live comfortably. Barbara Ehrenreich set out to explore what this is like by working in these jobs and trying to live only on what she made. While I found her an annoying narrator, it was worth the read to learn so much about a culture I was completely unaware of. Pick this up the next time you make fun of someone for working at Walmart.
The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie
I admit I was a bit intimidated by Salman Rushdie and expected his work to be dense and deeply philosophical. I was only partly right. I did have to focus on the read but it was a pleasure to dive into his long, swirling thoughts and richly embroidered descriptions. The power of love was at times magical in a way that reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Laura Esquivel. The intricate story traverses hundreds of years throughout Asia and Europe and as such it can be hard to follow occasionally, but it's worth the work to unravel it.