Reading Roundup: September and October 2014

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

It's been a few years since I last read this book and I was craving something more serious after my last fluffy book binge. The more I read Stegner, the more I love his writing. It was also interesting to re-read this book after being divorced--it's a book about marriage and relationships, and I felt like I noticed different things this time around.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Another excellent book about marriages, although written in a very different style from Stegner. I felt like this book combined the best aspects of the two books by Moriarty that I've read previously. It had the hilarious social satire of What Alice Forgot along with the gripping mystery of The Husband's Secret (but without the awkward ending). Sure, the ending of this book was just a bit too tidy, but overall I thought it was really well-done.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I've had this book on my list for years and never got around to reading it. I feel bad that I hesitated for so long--I loved the historical mystery aspects of it, and found the story to be just creepy enough to scare me without preventing me from reading further.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

This book was hilarious--it's completely over-the-top ridiculous and a lot of fun to read. It probably helps that I lived in Seattle for a few years and recognized some of the particularly bizarre characters that present themselves, but I think it would still be hilarious even if you've never lived in the Pacific Northwest. 

A Long Time Gone by Karen White

Despite a slow start and some confusion in keeping straight the many different characters, I did finally get into this book and enjoyed it quite a lot. The mystery wasn't hard to figure out and there were a lot of stereotypes (a wise old black woman, cranky teenaged stepdaughter, evil ex-husband, nice old flame who is still available, etc), but it was a fun read once I decided to put up all those things.

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This book is long and dense, and parts of it were more interesting to me than others were. The main thing I realized as I read it was that I thought I knew a fair amount about cancer and its treatment, and I didn't really know anything at all. Even though Mukherjee is generally good at describing complex concepts in simple terms, there were a still a few sections of the book I felt I didn't understand as well as others. This is still a book I would recommend to anyone looking for a good nonfiction read.

This is How We Grow by Christina Hibbert

I thought this was the perfect book for me at this point in my life, but at the same time I could see how someone else might not get as much out of it. I loved reading about how Dr. Hibbert changed and grew after major trauma in her life, and many of the things she went through mirrored things that I am working on right now. However, the book is a fairly personal, journal-style book that has been lightly edited and sometimes gets bogged down in personal minutiae. She also has a fairly high level of privilege in her life, with a large supportive family, flexible work schedule, and apparently a fairly high income--sometimes that made it hard to relate to some parts of the book. I still really enjoyed it and found it very useful, but it might not be as applicable to other readers.

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

This book has been compared to Gone Girl in a number of reviews that I've read, and while I think that it has similar themes, it really doesn't compare in the style of writing at all. It's a fairly straightforward suspense book where someone's fairly simple life rapidly falls apart into terror. I thought it was a quick read and it certainly kept me guessing, but the ending felt rushed and the main character wasn't really fleshed out enough for me to totally root for her. The book felt like it could have used a bit more narrative padding and better pacing.

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