#36 was Lolly Winston's second book, Happiness Sold Separately. I liked it a lot - I could not put it down. It was about one couple's struggles with infidelity and infertility. I think a lot of authors feel the ends of their books must either have to be completely depressing or unrealistically happily-ever-after, and life just isn't like that. All the characters were really likable and you got to see where everyone was coming from. I would definitely recommend it, and I hope to read her first novel, "Good Grief", next.
#37 was another Jane Austen fanfic book. Pamela Aidan wrote a trilogy of books that tell Mr. Darcy's side of the story, from "Pride and Prejudice". The first is entitled "An Assembly Such as This". I was not super-impressed. When you read Pride and Prejudice, you always wonder, what was Darcy thinking? Why did he do that? What happened when he left Netherfield with Bingley? Aidan provides some answers, but I didn't like all of them. She does things that may seem perfectly normal, but are not Austenian - such as exploring Darcy's relationship with his various servants, and talking about the politics of the time. While this seems laudable, since Darcy is supposed to be sympathetic, it is not anything Austen ever discussed in her novels.
#38 - A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving was a delight. It is about buys coming of age in New England and how their lives are shaped by tragedy and religious faith. I could see certain plot twists coming, but I still kept reading - I just wanted to know how it all happened. This book is really long, and I didn't want it to end. I like all of his books, but I find many far too sexual. This book didn't have too many graphic sex scenes. It was gripping, and I would read it again. Three thumbs up.
#39 - As a teacher, I didn't find "The Overachievers" surprising at all. Written by journalist Alexandra Robbins, it chronicles the lives of real students at a top high school who are driven to get into the best colleges. It asks tough questions about whether or not the most prestigious colleges are actually as good as they're cracked up to be, the motivations behind the ranking systems, and whether or not the SAT is really a valuable test of anything. It's scary to read about high school students taking performance enhancing drugs so they can take more AP classes and students who take an extra class, sacrificing their lunch period. For anyone in the education world, or in the process of raising children, it's a must-read.
#40 - I read "To Hell with all that: Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife" for a light read. Ever since I've gotten married, I've liked books like that. I have to say writer Caitlin Flanagan surprised me with how poignant it turned out to be. She wittily dissected the wackiest parts of our culture (white weddings by people who live together, our relationships with our domestic workers, etc.). Without ruining the end, I'd say that any working mom or stay at home mom could get behind the stories she tells in this non-fiction book that's part story, part social commentary.
Cross-posted to 50bookchallenge.