Reading Roundup: January 2018

How to Survive a Plague by David France

I didn't enjoy this book as much as some other books I've read about the same time period; some parts seemed to drag and it could be hard to differentiate between all the different people involved. It was still an interesting book and I learned new things about the history of treatment for AIDS, and how complicated and difficult progress can be.

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Despite the fact that this book starts with a disappearance, it is not a mystery. In fact, there is not a lot of tension or a strong narrative thread. Instead, it is the story of a place and the people who live there, and how they grow and change over time. During the month since I read it, I've had a hard time mentally letting go of it because reading it was such an immersive experience.

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

I read a review of this book several years ago, but somehow didn't write down the correct title and never found the book. I checked out a book I …

Reading Roundup: 2017

I read 109 books in 2017, which is a bit higher than my number for recent years (here is 2016's post, which includes links to previous years). I did finish school at the end of 2016, giving me more free time, plus I read most of the Whitney finalists, and I read several shorter books.

90 books were fiction (including 2 poetry books), and 19 were nonfiction, which is pretty sad compared to previous years. I have a lot of nonfiction on my list of books I'd like to read, but don't seem to get around to reading it as often as I should. I think this year I will focus on reading more nonfiction (and less on staying up late reading mediocre books I downloaded free from the library).

82 books were by female authors, and 27 by male, which reflects trends I've noticed for the last few years. For some reason I tend to gravitate to female authors, especially when it comes to fiction. This year I also had several instances where I read multiple books by the same author, and in most…

Reading Roundup: December 2017

In the Woods by Tana French

I've seen this book pop up now and then on recommended lists, but never got around to reading it. While I love mysteries, I'm fairly picky about what I like, and wasn't sure I would enjoy this one. As you can see by what happened during the rest of the month, I totally loved this and went on to read the other five books that French has written so far. Although they are a series, each book focuses on a different character--although I would miss a character when we moved on from them, I also liked getting to know a new voice and perspective in each book. For me, the strongest aspect of this book was the psychology of the main character, and I was sad to leave him behind in the next book.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

I've liked all of Reay's other books and had been looking forward to this one, and perhaps that anticipation made it harder to enjoy. I liked the protagonist and thought the setting was a lot of fun, although at times it…

8 Minute Memoir: Adventure

Tonight we watched the movie Kiki's Delivery Service, which is the story of a young witch who moves to a new city to learn how to live on her own. In the movie she is only 13, which seems awfully young (and even other characters comment on her youth), but apparently in that world it is normal for witches to do this. She mostly finds good people to help and mentor her and to become her friends, and the drama in the story is fairly low-stakes as she learns how to work through life. Then I got on the computer and read a blog post from a woman who has been teaching her preteen daughter how to use public transit to get around her city. I realized that my kids are much more sheltered and less adventurous than I was at their age. 

I had an early-morning paper route starting at about age 11 that I kept through starting 9th grade (because Seminary interfered with it). Every single morning I'd wake up early, fold up all the newspapers, load them in my bags, get on my bike, and ride aroun…

Reading Roundup: November 2017

A Disappearance in Damascus by Deborah Campbell

Before reading this book I knew very little about the effects of the American invasion of Iraq on regular people in the country. This book is a good look at the long-reaching effects of war on families and communities--and a reflection on the difficulty of being a reporter and foreign visitor in a region under attack. I would definitely recommend this book if you are at all interested in getting a peek at Middle Eastern politics at a personal level. 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This was our book club pick for the month, but unfortunately I did not get a chance to go see the movie with everyone else (I still haven't seen it). The mystery is quite clever and somehow I managed to not foresee the ending.

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

It took me a while to warm up to the protagonist in this book, since she is a bit prickly and defensive. However, as the book goes on, my sympathy grew as more and more details about t…

8 Minute Memoir: Billboards

I've been sitting on this for a while, because I'm not sure I can write anything interesting about billboards. I even debated skipping this day, but I figured I might as well give it a shot. 

When I was little, the bank my mom went to was next to Rock Liquor. We would often wait in the car while my mom went into the bank, and I was always fascinated by two large murals on the side of the liquor store. There was a painting of a bunch of people eating lunch in bright, summery dresses, and a poster advertising dancing in French. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that the murals were reproductions of paintings by Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, and not just liquor ads.

The other billboards I remember spending a lot of time pondering were the ones I saw in Spain as a missionary. As missionaries we spent most of our day out on the streets walking around, or riding the metro or buses. We saw a lot of advertisements and billboards, and since I was learning Spanish, eve…

Reading Roundup: October 2017

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

How many contemporary mysteries are there that involve an unreliable narrator who can't trust anyone and who is personally damaged? And why do I keep reading them? I'm not sure what the answer to that question is, but I love mystery/suspense, and despite the flaws in this book, I mostly liked it. The main thing that annoyed me was the fact that the ending did the thing where it created a solution out of small detail that had not really been mentioned at all during the first three-quarters of the book, and once it was brought up, it made everything really obvious.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

I've seen this book on several "best of 2017" lists, and it definitely deserves a place there. I'm not very familiar with Antigone, which this book apparently retells, but it doesn't really matter because the book treats that connection fairly lightly. It tackles hard issues and difficult questions, and none of the characters get cut any sl…