Reading Roundup: July 2010

All the Stars in Heaven by Michele Paige Holmes


This is an interesting book because it is presented as a romance but really reads like a thriller. I thought it was a fun read and I really enjoyed the story. The main characters were complex and the story was unique enough to be engaging without being completely unbelievable. I thought it was fun to read a Mormon version of the genre that was suspenseful and gritty without being explicit or violent.


The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I can think of several books that are quite similar to this one, and in some ways are better than it. It's fairly long and fairly conventional, and I could see the ending coming from a mile away. But I still had a great time reading it and stayed up late just to finish it. It's not the most original book out there but it was a compelling read and worth my time.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

A few months ago my book club read Anna Karenina, and many of the commentaries I read about it mentioned Middlemarch by way of comparison. I had never read Middlemarch before and thought it would be a nice break from the more contemporary stuff I usually read. The book is rather long and dense; took me several weeks to get through. There isn't a lot of compelling action in it; while it reminded me a bit of Austen in its setting the tone is different. That said, I really loved the book a lot. The characters were complex and felt like real people to me, not like characters from a book. The quotidian struggles they faced felt significant and I loved Eliot's writing. I actually found myself marking several passages to comment on in my own writing some day. Reading this book was work, but satisfying work


Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman


This was our book club pick for this month, and while I enjoyed some parts of it I didn't really like it as a whole. The writing style is really old-fashioned and focuses a lot more on 'telling' than 'showing'. It just wasn't my kind of romance novel.


In the Company of Angels by David Farland

I've been wanting to read this book after this review and others recommended it. I admit to a bit of hesitation simply because I've never been a big fan of early Church history (or, to be honest, much early 19th century American history). I'm so glad I read it and I know that this will be making my list of recommended books for the year. Yes the plot is about the handcart pioneers, but the book is about so much more than that. It is about hard choices and faith, and asks hard questions without providing many easy answers. I love books that make me think and I have a feeling that this book is going to stick in my brain for a while.


The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova


I agree with other reviewers that this book really could be much shorter. And I didn't enjoy the contemporary story as much as the historical parts. But I still enjoyed reading this book a lot and think it's a great summer escape book.


If I am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus

After a few chapters of this book I started wondering 'why am I still reading this?', and then I felt guilty for thinking that because it is the true story of someone's life. It was a difficult book to read, but I learned a lot about what constitutes an abusive relationship and gained a much greater appreciation for the safe life that I live.

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields

It's been a while since I've read To Kill a Mockingbird, but this book made me want to reread it after learning so much more about the author. It is a unique book and its author is a very unique woman. I thought this biography was very fair and empathetic to its subject but it ultimately felt somewhat flat, most likely because it is written without any input from Lee or her family. Obviously that would be impossible, so as far as biographies of Harper Lee go this is probably the best there is.

The Local News by Miriam Gershow

I decided to read this book because I thought the plot sounded interesting, but what I ended up liking most about it was the protagonist. She is a sixteen-year-old girl who sounds and acts exactly like an average high school student (rather than a character in a book); I thought her voice and the high school scenes were the greatest strength of the book.


Movies


Shall We Kiss?

This movie is very French, meaning that if you are used to the way American romantic comedies work you will be disappointed. The best word for it is probably 'charming'; it was fun and clever but not terribly memorable.



Shutter Island

I thought this was going to be scarier than it was, but it really isn't a horror film like I had been lead to believe. It's classic film noir, and I love both film noir and Leonardo Di Caprio, so I thought it was a great movie.


Rudo y Cursi

I thought this movie was going to be more funny; it had some moments (especially a hilarious music video), but I wasn't laughing most of the time. I also realized that I don't like vulgar movies in Spanish because hearing the swear words while reading them gets rather tiring after a while.

Avatar

I was prepared to hate this movie based on all the things I had read that made fun of it. Yes, the plot is pretty much the same as many other movies and the message is blatantly obvious. The characters were still fascinating and the technical achievements of the director are amazing. I really found myself drawn into the movie and would definitely watch it again.

Baby Mama

We love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and so we thought this movie was going to be pretty funny. It had a few good spots but overall it was pretty lame.

Food, Inc.

This was an interesting documentary but it didn't really tell me much that I had not already learned from several other books and articles I have read on the subject. It simultaneously made me want to grow all my own food and go out to get a cheeseburger.

Comments

Earth Sign Mama said…
I read "Mrs. Mike' about 35 years ago and I loved it. I'll have to read it again to see if as an older person I appreciate it as much. I mostly remember the tragedy and sorrow and hardship of their life. I can't even remember the writing style---but my mantra today as a writing teacher is just that: show it, don't tell it.

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