Reading Roundup: August 2015

Lemon Tart by Josi Kilpack

I started reading Kilpack's series when I started reading Whitney Award finalist a few years ago. I started in the middle of the series and never went back to finish the previous volumes. It didn't feel too much like a problem--the books stand on their own quite well, and the plot threads that weave through the series are generally understandable in isolation. Last month I saw this book on a display and thought I ought to read it .  I enjoyed this book and thought it was really well-written--in fact, reading it after some of the later books confirmed my impression of some of those books as being a little less polished than others. This book has solid writing, interesting character development, and a plot with many twists and turns that I didn't see coming. It also establishes a lot about Sadie's family that I ended up missing in later books because I didn't have the foundation of the first one. I think I should go get the next few books to catch myself up and complete the series.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

I really enjoyed the first two books I read by Krakauer and have read almost everything he's published. I even read Under the Banner of Heaven, even though I think many of his conclusions are really wrong and problematic. When I heard about this book, I decided to read it even though I wasn't sure about how much I would like it. I found the first part of the book to be confusing--there are three different rape cases that Krakauer follows, and he jumps back and forth between them. There are a lot of different people involved, including victims, accused perpetrators, university personnel, local police, and others. Also, I was reading on a Kindle, which makes it nearly impossible to flip back and forth between pages to get people and events straight in my mind. The second half of the book got less confusing, both because I had a better sense of what was going on and because Krakauer's writing was more organized. I think the strongest points of this book are Krakauer's descriptions of sexual assault's impact on victims and their families, but I felt like he was surprisingly reluctant to draw bigger conclusions about how campus culture contributes to the problem or about the difficult relationship between campus discipline and local law enforcement. He mentions some of these problems, but I kept wanting a more direct analysis and some concrete conclusions.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

This book--a layered family saga about a highly dysfunctional family--had a promising start. I thought the characters were all very interesting and I enjoyed the fact that the narration rotated between characters so each had a voice. However, the plot got really strange, and the complications veered too far into soap opera territory for my taste. There was also too much buildup to an ending that didn't really satisfy.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I had a hard time getting into this book--I think at least in part because I was reading it in small pieces over the course of a few weeks. This would probably be a better book to read all at once on a long airplane ride. There were things I really liked about the book, but other parts of it really felt like a first novel (especially compared to his more recent books that I have already read).

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman

This book was recommended to me on both Amazon and Overdrive so I decided to read it. Both places had billed it as a mystery/thriller, which was what I was expecting. It really wasn't that at all, which was frustrating because I spent the whole book waiting for the action to pick up the pace or for the central mystery to be resolved and the killer to be revealed. That never happened. I think the book was trying to be about coming-of-age, but the three main characters just grew up, and never changed or matured. They were frustrating to read about and never really redeemed themselves or caught my interest. The book was also written in a confusing style and jumped around a lot in time.

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

I first read this book in high school and was drawn in by the character of Arrowsmith himself and by Lewis' critique of American culture. Rereading it now as an adult made me like it even more. Lewis is not an overtly sarcastic writer, and I know that I missed some of his barbs just because I don't know enough about early twentieth-century America. However, this book is still surprisingly relevant in its insights about the tension between idealism and pragmatism, as well as broader themes of anti-intellectualism, the problems of capitalism, and the co-opting of science for propaganda purposes. I think Lewis is a bit unappreciated, but he's one of my favorite American authors.

Movies

Cinderella

Little Dude was camping with his dad, so the girls and I went and saw this movie at the dollar theater. I thought it was a lot of fun--gorgeous costumes and scenery, lovely acting, and a sweet message. I would happily watch this movie again.


Once I Was a Beehive

I wrote a review of this over at Segullah. I thought this was really well-done in so many ways--it was also sweet and sincere, and made me both laugh and cry.

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