Reading Roundup: December 2013

Champion by Marie Lu

 Even after reading the first two books in this series I still didn't feel very invested in it. The characters just weren't that interesting to me; however, the world that had been built was interesting and so I decided to read the final book just to see how things turned out. The author made some interesting choices and I thought wrapped the series up well.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I've been hearing about this book for a long time and finally got around to reading it. It was a lot more engaging and readable than I initially thought it was going to be. I really liked it and felt like I learned a lot about personality and how that interacts with culture and society. I'm still not sure if I'm an introvert or an extrovert, but at least I feel better about owning my personality traits and working with them rather than against them. 

Rocky Road by Josi Kilpack 

I thought this book was better than the previous two in the series; the story was tighter and more focused, and more of the action was present rather than simply being talked about. It also had several interesting twists and turns that I wasn't expecting, and some yummy-sounding recipes too.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

This was another series I didn't feel hugely invested in but wanted to finish. I did like the characters better than those in Marie Lu's books, but felt that the worldbuilding wasn't as believable and have noticed some strange continuity issues in the books. That being said, I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit. The ending of the book has been controversial, but I didn't mind and felt like it fit in with the decisions made by the characters up to that point and with the general plot arc of the series.

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

This is a new book that's been generating a lot of buzz lately; I read it quickly within two days--it's the kind of book best read in one big chunk of time so you can get caught up in the story. It's powerfully written--a good blend of suspense and well-crafted plot with a unique voice and language choices.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

This book was an interesting read--especially after I recently read 1984 and just finished a semester discussing technological change and the future of information and all its implications (data collection and storage, privacy, etc). The story told in the book really drew me in and I read it all within one day. I alternated between nodding in agreement at some of the things the characters did and feeling horrified at other things. The ending did not go the way I wanted it to at all, but fit within the worldview of the book. While this is a very readable book and one that has a lot of ideas to talk about in it, it's not a subtle book and there are several parts that devolved into harangues from the author (I also noticed a few glaring typos and other flaws a good editor should have caught). It also has a fair amount of bad language. Despite all these things, I would still recommend it as a thought-provoking look at some of the major issues in our current society.

Movies

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I was surprised by how much I liked the first movie made from The Hunger Games. I still think that's the strongest book in the series and I'm ambivalent about the other two. I've read them all twice and just don't like the third book much at all. I thought this movie was well-done and did a good job capturing the essentials of the story; the actors are well-chosen and I think one of the strengths of the series. The ending, though, reminded me of why I hate the last book and probably won't go see that movie.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2
 
We just finished reading the seventh book so I decided to re-watch the movies. It's been a while since I saw these, and I saw them more than a year apart and without reading the books. After reading the books, the movies are less exciting because they mostly capture the highlights of the action without a lot of the intricate backstory and other details. They are still really well-made movies and quite enjoyable; it was also interesting to see the choices the director made when changing the plot. There were some that I thought worked and some that I thought didn't.

Silver Linings Playbook

I love movies that focus on relationships between people and that feature fine acting--this movie has all of that and a plot that somehow manages to end up being romantic despite running through a lot of cringe-worthy scenes along the way (and a lot of f-words from Robert DeNiro). I loved both the lead actors in it and think this ended up being one of the best movies I've seen this year.  



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