Safe Passage by Carla Kelly
I have liked all of Carla Kelly's books that I've read so far, and this one was just as good. I don't think it was my favorite, partly because there wasn't as much personal growth in the main character as in some of her other books. I also thought it was interesting that the main focal character was actually the man in the relationship--and even though this book is advertised and presented as a romance, it really felt more like a historical adventure narrative rather than romance.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wien
Wien's book Code Name Verity was one of my favorites last year so I was eager to read this one. I think some of that eagerness set me up for too high of expectations, though, because it took me a while to get into this book since I kept comparing it to the one I read last year. Also, this book starts somewhat slowly--there is a reason for that and the writer plays a great trick on the reader with this technique, but it turned me off initially. I also felt like the voice of the main character in this one was a little too similar to one of the main voices in Code Name Verity. Despite some of these flaws, I ended up really liking the book and think that Wien is an author I will read more of in the future.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This was a book that I also struggled a bit with, especially in the beginning. I found it somewhat ironic that I was rather nitpicky about a book about a man with obvious social impairments caused by his rigidity. Thankfully I did eventually get over myself and enjoyed the book, though I probably did not find it quite as funny as most people will.
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
There were a lot of things I liked about this book--Moriarty is good at writing about the many different types of women and the way their choices and stages of life affect their relationships with each other. This book was darker than her previous book that I read, and the plot was much more complicated. I enjoyed reading it and the only thing I didn't like about it was an epilogue that she added that revealed information to the reader that the main characters would never know. It felt a little awkward to put that in at the end and it shifted the tone of the book a bit too much for me.
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
I have been reading a lot of similar books lately--combinations of mystery and romance that bounce back and forth in time between people that are somehow connected through a shared history that they don't realize exists. I guess I've discovered a niche that I like and I'm just going to go with it for a while. This book was an interesting look at grief and family secrets--I particularly liked the sections set in the past during WWI since they described aspects of history that I wasn't as familiar with. Although some reviews I've read thought the contemporary character was somewhat bland, I liked her quite a bit.
The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Another romance/mystery about family secrets--I thought this one was really well written up until the last third of the book. The plot had a big twist that was just way too far-fetched for me and was too conveniently inserted in order to tie up some loose ends in the story. Other than that, it was a good escapist read for Thanksgiving break.
The Reluctant Blogger by Ryan Rapier
This was the second book I read during Christmas break and I decided to review it for Segullah. There are a lot of people who are interested in fiction about the contemporary Mormon experience that find a middle ground between simplistic, easy answers and total cynicism. I really thought this book did that--it echoed a lot of the problems and issues I've faced in my life and acknowledged that even when things do work out, life is complicated and not easy. I liked the fact that the main character realized that if we want to change and want our life to be more fulfilling, it takes not just keeping the commandments and making 'good choices' but also opening ourselves up to others, really being humble, and confronting the things that scare us. I needed that reminder in my life lately.
I haven't seen this movie since it came out years ago, but after seeing a recent missionary movie I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. I wrote more about my thoughts on that here at AML; in watching the movie again, I could appreciate how ground-breaking it was, as well as see many of its flaws. I think it's good to recognize it as a pioneering work but also realize that we can do much better.
Lars and the Real Girl
I've heard about this movie for years from a number of different people, so I finally decided to watch it. The first twenty minutes or so made me feel profoundly anxious--I really hate watching people in awkward situations, and it was very awkward (not because the quality of the production was bad, just because it was about socially awkward people). But, the movie eventually grew on me and I ended up loving it. It is a weird movie and hard to describe, but ultimately a sweet story about connectedness, family, and community.