Reading Roundup: August 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

I don't normally read a lot of science fiction, but this book was recommended to me by several people I trust and I thought the premise was intriguing. It was quite a lot of fun to read and rather suspenseful; nice to read something a little out of my usual comfort zone and enjoy it.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti

This was our book club pick for the month and I honestly didn't think it was all that exciting. The writing style was a bit dry and it was hard to get into the first few chapters. I think I also didn't enjoy it that much because I've never had strong feelings about the Mona Lisa, and the book didn't do much to convince me that I should.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This was a book that I'd read many good things about, but didn't really care for much at all. I'm usually more willing to suspend disbelief for a plot when the characters are sympathetic, but the main character in this book really wasn't. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief to like her or even relate to her, and the plot was kind of crazy too. 

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

I read this book and the next three books all within a week--I had some time off before my classes started again and thought it would be fun to binge a little on fluffy reading. I enjoyed this book more than I expected too; the plot is fairly typical domestic fiction about a troubled marriage, but the characters were complex. It has the kind of alternating narrative structure that sometimes can be annoying, but that worked well for this book by adding a bit of suspense as the story works its way deeper into the lives of the main characters.

That Summer by Lauren Willig

This book was fun and fluffy, if you're willing to go along with the idea of someone inheriting a house that just happens to have a rare painting linked to a historic mystery hidden the attic. Oh, and a handsome art historian just happens to come along to save the day and fall in love with the protagonist. It's the kind of book that makes for great escapist fiction and adds a veneer of respectability by including some historical intrigue to go along with the contemporary romance.

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

This book was also fun and romantic, while managing to be much less fluffy. The plot is a bit absurd, but the characters are sweet and relatable and they all learn valuable lessons in the end. I also felt like Moyes really got the romance right in this book--the main characters are flawed and make mistakes, but they own up to their mistakes and act like grownups. They actually have to negotiate around a lot of issues and the author is not afraid to address some things, like class and money differences, that tend to get glossed over in other books.

China Dolls by Lisa See

I've had mixed experiences with books by Lisa See--some are wonderful and some are not so great. This book was a bit of a dud--the idea for the plot and the historic setting had the potential to be really fascinating. But the novel is told in alternating points-of-view from the three main characters and, unfortunately, none of them has a distinct voice. I had a hard time keeping them straight and remembering who was who. There also was not a clear story arc or sense of conflict and resolution--a lot of stuff happened over a number of years, but too often it felt like the book was just moving through events and ticking things off a list, rather than propelling the story or the characters forward.


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