Reading Roundup: January 2015

Wedding Cake by Josi Kilpack

This was a fun and suspenseful end to this mystery series; I have enjoyed reading Kilpack's books and think she is a strong writer. She did a great job wrapping everything up in this conclusion--I like the way that each of the books has had its own plot in addition to the ongoing conflicts that have lasted through the series. Sadie is a great character and I loved watching her grow through all the crazy things she went through in each book. 

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

My reaction to this book was mixed. I think it had a lot of potential but didn't quite come together in the end. First of all, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the house and why it was built, but none of that ever gets resolved or explained in the book. I was expecting some kind of flashback or explanation at some point that would tie together all the hints and answer the questions, but nothing was really resolved. The end matter of the book included a short story about the house's origins, which seemed like an odd choice to me. I also felt that the book was simultaneously too long and too short. On the one hand, the inclusion of three different characters with three separate conflicts felt like overkill. Parts of the book dragged and other parts were confusing. On the other hand, this made the book feel like it wasn't doing enough to give each story a full resolution. I especially felt like the story of Lizzie was confusing--I felt like I missed something at some point, because the end of her story felt rushed and abrupt, and really didn't resolve the conflict much at all. I just felt like this book was trying to do too much and didn't quite get there with any of it.

The Rosefields of Zion by Marilyn Brown

This book is in desperate need of a good editor and a major rewrite. There is a dog that changes breeds from chapter to chapter, characters that change ages between chapters, historical details that felt inaccurate, and a very confusing chronology that really distracted me from enjoying the book at all. Not only that, but the plot of the book is based on an antagonist that is cartoonishly evil and a protagonist that is unrealistically naive. The only thing I enjoyed about the book were the beautiful descriptions of southern Utah and Zion National Park that made me want to go back for a visit.

Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn

Most of the negative reviews of this book that I've seen seem to be from readers who were expecting a more thorough discussion of Clark Rockefeller and his crimes. That really isn't what this book is about; in fact, the book really isn't about Rockefeller at all. It's a memoir, written by Kirn, about his relationship with Rockefeller--before and after learning about his true identity. I think it helped that I have read a few other things about Rockefeller so my curiosity about him was satisfied and I could appreciate Kirn's self-searching about why he had such a friend and why he didn't become more suspicious about him over the years. There were many things I loved about this book, but I can also see why some people would not like it.

Fresh Courage Take by Dean Hughes

This was the final book in a trilogy that I have read as they have individually been published, which means that by now I have forgotten some of the details from the first two books. Hughes is a solid writer and his characters are all realistic and engaging. He doesn't shy away from presenting some of the real conflicts of the early days of the Church, while still treating that past with respect and empathy. My only complaint with this series has been that the historical storyline is much more compelling than the contemporary one and I think that it could have been done as a straight historical trilogy without including the contemporary characters at all.

Pale Harvest by Braden Hepner

This book had beautiful, dense writing, but I am tired of books about how stultifying life in rural Utah is. Also, while I hate the concept of "likeability" and think that books can be readable without their characters being particularly reader-friendly, I thought that none of the characters in this book was very pleasant and some were rather disturbing. I can see why this book is well-written and deserving of much of the praise it has received, but it was not one that I enjoyed at all.

A Generation Rising by Gerald Lund

This is apparently the first book in a series, which might explain the lack of conflict and sense of plot. The writing wasn't bad and it wasn't unpleasant to read, but it was a bit boring and I'm not sure I want to read the rest of the series when it comes out. 

The Thieves of Summer by Linda Sillitoe

This book was a delightful surprise, and unique enough that it's hard to describe. I wasn't sure about whether I would like it or not based on the plot summary. Precocious triplets? An elephant? A kidnapper on the loose? It sounds like it might be zany, but it's really not. One of the things I thought Sillitoe did best was balancing some fairly heavy topics with a light tone--she doesn't sensationalize, but she also doesn't gloss over things either. This family feels real and their conflicts are relatable, even though the story takes place nearly eighty years ago. Some parts of the book feel uneven and a bit choppy, and I thought it could have been a bit longer, but the imperfections can be excused with the knowledge that this is a posthumous publication. I think this is a great contribution to the world of Mormon literature.

Movies

You've Got Mail

It's been a long time since I last watched this move, probably at least ten years. I really don't like Sleepless in Seattle for a lot of reasons, but thankfully Hanks and Ryan don't bug me half as much in this movie. It also hasn't aged too much, surprisingly, but that could just be because I'm old and have no idea how romance works in this day and age.

Notting Hill

I was in a rom-com mood during my break from school and decided to re-watch this one since it had also been a very long time since I had seen it. I have a soft spot for Hugh Grant, and he does his schtick quite endearingly in this movie. I actually think my favorite aspect of the movie is his group of friends and his relationship with them, and not so much the romance part of it.

Mao's Last Dancer 

I don't usually write down "kids movies" that I've just watched with them, but I watched this one with S-Boogie since she had read the book for a biography assignment for school. I haven't read the book (she says it's a pretty faithful adaptation), but I enjoyed the movie and thought it was pretty well done.

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