Reading Roundup: April 2014

Longbourn by Jo Baker

I like Jane Austen and have all read her books more than once.  I like Jane Austen quite a lot and admire her writing, but I don't consider myself a fan of hers. Based on other reviews I've read, this probably explains why I liked this book so much. If you feel like the Bennetts are your own relatives and that Austen's words are scripture, you probably won't like this book. If you love alternate versions of other stories, beautiful writing, and intricately detailed historical fiction about Britain, you will love this (warning: unlike in Austen, there is some violence and sex).

Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller

I thought this book was going to be more interesting than it was. It wasn't bad--she has had (and still does) a complex relationship with her parents--but had the problem of some memoirs where it focused mostly on telling a lot of stories about the past without really describing how they affects the present (the "so what" problem). It also had some surprisingly obvious typos, which I thought were unusual in a nationally published book. 

Winter Queen by Amber Argyle

This was a Whitney finalist that didn't get a lot of love from many of my fellow readers. I didn't think it was that bad--I really liked the world building and loved the characterization of the main character. The plot was also mostly well-constructed, at least as far as the main conflict between different kingdoms and such. However, the book was also about how this girl became a fairy queen (I think) and that aspect of the plot was confusing and didn't make a lot of sense. It made this feel like two different books trying to be put together, and that just didn't work out so well in my opinion.


Heart of the Ocean by Heather Moore 

The last Whitney finalist I read this year; this book was in the Speculative category, but those elements were fairly light (it has some supernatural/ghost aspects to it). Generally I liked it, but the plot was a bit cliche and I thought a lot of the historical details didn't feel right for the time period it was supposed to be set in (it's set in the 1830s, but the action and dialogue and some of the setting details felt much later, like 1870s, to me--I could be wrong though).

Wolves, Boys, and Other Things that Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler

This book has been on my list for quite a while and I had heard quite a lot about it from a number of people, so my expectations for it might have been a bit high. I also think I just wasn't in the mood for a book about an angsty teenage girl with a scary dad--I sometimes think I want to read a bunch of YA fiction and then I get overloaded. Despite that, I still really enjoyed this book. The author does a great job bringing together a variety of complex problems and making the book really work. Maybe I'd like it even better if I read it again some day.

Ripper by Isabelle Allende

Wow, this book was a total stinker--I only kept reading it just because I wanted to see if I was right about the ending (I was) and because it was so amazingly bad that it was funny. Isabelle Allende has written some great books, but this was not one of them.The characters are all horrible cliches, the plot is completely unbelievable (are there really only 10 people in all of San Francisco? it felt like it), and the writing is horribly overwrought.

The Death Class by Erika Hayasaki

I picked up this nonfiction book on a whim at the library because I thought the topic was interesting. It is the story of a woman who teaches a class about death and dying at a university in New Jersey, and about some of her students and their difficult lives. Some parts of it were really well-written and I particularly liked the author's insights about death and American culture. Other parts of it, especially her writing about the professor, were too simplistic and overly reverential. 

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

This book wasn't as substantial as I thought it would be, but it was a pleasant diversion while waiting a long time for a car repair that should have been quick. A novel told only through letters is difficult to pull off and I don't the author quite got it right. The letter writers didn't quite have distinctive voices and too often the artifice of the author was a bit too present. For a quick, fun, romantic read, though, I thought it worked.

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