When I looked into choosing Under The Tuscan Sun as my next Blogging For Books selection, I couldn’t believe that the book was actually published in 1996 and that it is now being released in a 20th Anniversary Edition. I was a bit skeptical of whether the descriptions of Italian life would feel authentic to me, coming from a foreigner, but I immediately fell in love with Frances Mayes’ writing and points of view on Italian culture. She’s really intent on learning as much as she can about Italian traditions and on immersing herself in the authentic life of the small Italian town she lives in.
I decided to watch the movie based on the book and starring Diane Lane and Raoul Bova (if you don’t know who Raoul Bova is, do yourself a favor and Google him). It came out in 2003 and to be honest felt over-caricatured and quite dated. The book in comparison still feels fresh and applicable to the current reality of Italian life in small towns in the Tuscany countryside. Another major difference between the book and the movie is that in the movie, Diane Lane’s character is recently divorced and travels alone to Tuscany to restructure Bramasole (the old house she’s bought), and hopefully also find love. In the
book, on the other hand, Frances Mayes is actually remarried and restructures Bramasole with the help of her new husband Ed. I just wanted to specify for people who loved or hated the movie, that the memoir has a completely different feel and even a different storyline. It stands apart from the movie and is worth a read for its own merits.
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I actually hadn’t heard about Liane Moriarty‘s novels until I started blogging last summer, but once I started to follow book blogs and keep up with popular titles, I started to hear her name everywhere. Her novels typically follow the same formula, with one major secret or twist at the heart of the novel’s plot, a cast of colorful characters whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways, and a pace which takes the reader from one small revelation to the next, until you get to the big reveal that brings all the previous smaller pieces of evidence together. Despite this formulaic basis, I’ve found the novels to be actually pretty different from each other thanks to the wide range of characters and central plot themes.
I’ve read 5 out of the 7 novels Moriarty has published to date, so I thought it was time to share my reviews of them with you. The novels are listed in order of preference. My definite favorite is Big Little Lies, and I’m really excited for the premiere of the series version starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in February on HBO. I put The Husband’s Secret last, which may surprise some people, as it’s definitely received many a rave review. I really didn’t like it however, I think also not helped by the very whiny sounding audiobook narrator that was picked for the novel.
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I love the first novel in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series My Brilliant Friend (you can read my review of it here), so I was very excited to read the second novel in the series – The Story Of A New Name.
Though I loved My Brilliant Friend, I was hoping to see Elena move out of her friend Lila’s suffocating sphere of emotional and psychological influence in Book 2, and I was not disappointed. Though Elena and Lila will always be connected, I thought that Elena really came into her own and established an identity separate from Lila in this second novel, which made me really interested to see how much further they develop separately in the third and fourth books as well.
The end of the book provided a pretty good cliffhanger in which one of the two protagonists is at the start of a great success and the other one has sunk into abject conditions. It really made me want to pick up Book 3 asap, even though I’m not reviewing it until early February. Meanwhile, read my review of The Story Of A New Name below.
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I’m an avid reader of anything having to do either with the history of scientific progress or with astronomy/astrophysics, so any book combining both is a perfect fit for my reading palate. When in addition you add in the element of pioneering women, making strides in a field previously forbidden to them due to gender or racial discrimination, I’m so on board, it’s not even funny.
I first heard about Hidden Figures because I work in the entertainment industry and I found out that the movie version that came out in December was based on a true story. I haven’t watched the movie yet, so the review below is only for the book, though now that I’ve read about the spunk of Katherine Johnson (the character portrayed by Taraji P. Henson), I’m sure Taraji’s performance is going to be a slam dunk.
Soon after deciding that I wanted to read Hidden Figures in advance of watching the movie, I learned that Dava Sobel (who wrote the excellent albeit nerdy Longitude) was coming out with a new book on a different group of female pioneers in science. Several characters in The Glass Universe have a connection to my alma mater, Wellesley College, and the rest is history. Here are my reviews of both titles. If you have any recommendations of more similar books about female contributions to scientific progress, please send them my way!
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I think by now I’ve made my love for medical nonfiction abundantly clear on this blog. You can refer to my book list of my favorite scientific nonfiction books here for proof, as many of them are medical nonfiction titles.
When I heard about Working Stiff, I knew that it was going to be exactly my kind of ideal mix between instructive and gory. I read Mary Roach’s Stiff a few years ago and I therefore knew I didn’t have a problem reading about what happens to the body after death. I’m not really squeamish in that way, and to be honest post-death physical changes, rituals and techniques actually fascinate me rather than gross me out.
While in Stiff, Mary Roach explores the different ways in which your body can be used or disposed of after death, in Working Stiff, Dr. Melinek (in collaboration with her husband) discusses her life as a forensic pathologist and more specifically how autopsies are carried out when necessary to determine cause of death for legal or insurance purposes. If you’re like me and reading about decomposition sounds like a great way to spend a few hours, make sure to check out both.
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