Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)

When you reach the end of the short time each of us is given on this Earth, what will be your most memorable moments? For Jacob Jankowski, who is in his nineties, his most powerful memories are from the days he worked for the traveling circus. Starting with the very unexpected death of his parents, Jacob's circus story is filled with sadness, violence, poverty, and injustice. In one situation after another, Jacob (and his new friend Rosie) are connected in a supernatural way. They are both alone and in need of a place to belong. Only for Jacob and Rosie, because it's filled with selfless, crazy people who want only to hurt them, the circus will never be the right home for either of them.

Oh, and another thing...Rosie isn't who you think she is. 

Harvesting the Heart (Jodi Picoult)

Because Paige O'Toole's mother abandoned her and Paige's father at a young age, she has been left with a lifetime of empty, longing memories and curiosities about what would possibly cause a mother to leave her child. Because of the scar left on her by this abandonment, Paige develops a proclivity for running herself. Though she has a wonderful and supportive father, as soon as she graduates from high school, Paige runs away from home to pursue art school...

And then she meets Nicholas. Nicholas, the cardiothoracic surgeon. Nicholas, the (not by much) older man. Nicholas, her knight in shining armor. 

They have a wildly brief courtship and marriage, and just as Paige is about to be on the brink of starting the art school she always dreamed of, they have a son. Max is the love, delight, and the great terror of Paige's life. Overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood, her perceived loss of herself, and by an increasingly unhappy marriage, Paige does the one thing Paige knows how to do. She runs. She runs far away from what and who she has, at the same time running toward who and what she wants. 

I love Jodi Picoult. This wasn't my favorite of her works, as in my opinion it was a bit lengthy at the expense of precision. Still, pretty good for some heavy mom-introspection. 


The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

Of all the books I read, there are precious few that grab hold of my heart the way this one has. I have not fallen so deeply in love with a book like this since To Kill a Mockingbird. The hubs was privy to many of the hilarious occurrences buried in these twenty or so odd chapters, and I love him for always listening when I started out with "You are not gonna believe what Minny Jackson has done to Miss Hilly Holbrook now!"

Set in the tumultuous 1960's in the even more volatile city of Jackson, Mississippi, this is the tale of a blossoming novelist and her desire to write about the precarious relationship between white ladies and their black maids. "The help" finally get their chance to tell their side of the story, but it is not without consequence for these truly brave women of Jackson.

Like all great novels, The Help is wondrously complex, with its side stories twisting and turning all over one another in one red hot mess. Skeeter is a new graduate with no prospects for a husband and, much to her momma's chagrin, is itching to put her shiny new English degree to use. While writing for the town paper, Skeeter's eyes become opened to the injustice of the way black people are treated. She begins to question the lines that have always been so clearly assumed between the white family and the help. Aibileen is one of the first maids willing to share her stories, and is soon followed by several others, all with the strictest condition of anonymity. They all have much to lose if they are discovered.

There are some truly lovable women in this book. Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter are just the kinds of characters you love to love. Hilly, Stuart, and Elizabeth are simply the ones you love to hate. Regardless of which side they are on, every character is distinctively complicated. Their natures and their situations would easily give way to endless discussions in a book club or high school lit class.

I'm definitely filing this one under "Favorites." :)

For more about the author: http://www.kathrynstockett.com/ 

I also just discovered that The Help is coming to a theater near you in August! :)

The Confession (John Grisham)

Donte' Drumm is a young man wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, and potentially on his way to being wrongly executed by the state of Texas. There is a team of legal experts working feverishly to save him, but the one person who can set him free is the man who actually committed the crime of which Donte' is accused. 

Enter Travis Boyette. Total freak and creepazoid with one disgusting crime after another on his record, Travis is one troubled man. He decides it's time to confess to the world that he knows Donte' is innocent, and explain how he knows that, and chooses a Lutheran minister in Kansas as his recipient. Pastor Keith Schroeder is in for the ride of his life as he and Travis race to Texas in a last minute attempt to set Donte' Drumm free. 

The Confession was an absolute fantastic read! I do love a good Grisham, and this one was definitely one of his best. No confusing legal jargon, no technical and detail-heavy plots that twist beyond all recognition. Just a great story that leaves you thinking, truly thinking, about what you believe and why you believe it. Capital punishment is definitely an issue that divides America, and not always along party lines. It is good to examine your beliefs in order to alter or affirm them, and it's why I am liking this one a great deal. I do love a good book that makes me think! 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Stieg Larsson)

This is the third and final installation in Stieg Larsson's "Dragon Tattoo" series. 

In the first, I met Salander and Mikael.

In the second, I tried to figure out what to think of them.

It is in the third book that I made peace with Salander and Mikael, and in many ways they found some peace (or at least closure) themselves.

Because of events that transpired in The Girl Who Played With Fire, Salander is now in critical care, literally fighting for her life...both from her own injuries and from the man down the hall who's trying to off her.

More than anything, she is trying to regain her mental faculties and physical abilities because she has things to do and people to kill. Oh, Salander...

There's also the trivial matter of that pesky triple murder case in which Salander is the only suspect.

I liked this series quite a bit, but this wasn't my favorite book of the three. It tended to be a bit slower and lacked the "pow" factor that was so heavy in the other two. However, I did love that in this book, FINALLY Salander gains some control and the ability to make some choices in what was to happen to her.