Opening Belle, Hidden Bodies, Ann Patchett, Norse Myths, and Ellen Raskin!

When I started listing the titles for this post I thought, “wow, I’ve been on a hot streak!” But then I remembered that I’ve had to give up on a bunch of books recently, too. The life of a reader!

I grabbed Opening Belle at the library based on the cover and title, and the description sounded too good to pass up. Set (like Everybody Rise) on the eve of the financial crisis, the story follows Belle, a mom of three with a high pressure Wall Street job (echoes of I Don’t Know How She Does It). I found the writing to be smart, particularly in terms of presenting the historical context, and the plotting avoided a lot of typical plot situations. For instance, when it came out that Belle would be partnered with her ex-fiancĂ© on a big account, I was ready for the affair to happen. But it played out differently than I’d ever seen, and their relationship was complex and fascinating and actually made me think a lot about intimacy and marriage.

You know you loved You, so you will also love Hidden Bodies, maybe even more than You. In Hidden Bodies, author Caroline Kepnes picks up with stalker Joe Goldberg, where he’s fallen hard in love yet again, this time with Amy, who’s obsessive love for Portnoy’s Complaint kicks off a chain of events that brings Joe out of New York and to Los Angeles, where he takes up with a grocery store heiress and makes a mistake with his new neighbor called Don’t F* Delilah. The book is dark, funny, incisive, and has a romanticism that surprised me.

Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder was the pick for my church book club, and I can’t wait for the discussion on Monday night. This was the story that Elizabeth Gilbert referred to in her otherwise unmemorable book on creativity. Dr. Marina Singh is a pharmaceutical researcher whose colleague Anders has disappeared in the Amazon, so her boss (and lover) sends her to find him. The malaria pills bring up childhood memories and make her a little crazy, as does seeing her former mentor, the monomaniacal Dr. Anneck Swenson, the researcher who won’t leave the jungle and who won’t reveal the discoveries she’s made.

In kids’ book news, I read Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game with our homeschool coop’s 4th-8th graders and it was a huge hit. Maybe one of the favorite books of the year. We did some great enrichment activities like making brochures to “Come to Westingtown!” and speculating whodunit. My favorite memory will be that one of the 4th graders kept calling Sandy McSouthers “Bernie Sanders.” On my own I reread The Strange Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) to see if it would be a good fit for next year, when I will just have 4th/5th graders, and while I found it just as fun and wacky as I remembered, it had too much wordplay for that age group. Meanwhile, with my younger daughter I read aloud D’Aulaire’s book of Norse Myths. She’s a little goth so we had a great time with these weird and wacky tales.

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