Reading Roundup: September 2015

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

I have not read anything by Kearsley before, but after reading this book I've decided to look for more of her books to see if I enjoy them as much as this one. I thought she did a great job balancing the historical story with the contemporary one, and I felt that both were equally compelling. There were some elements of the present-day romance that seemed a bit far-fetched, but I still enjoyed suspending my disbelief and enjoying the ride.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

I've already talked about this book on another post, so I won't say much here. I think this could be a useful book to re-read in pieces, rather than trying to read through all at once.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Sometimes I think I'm getting too old to read YA fiction, because when I read books like this where so much could be avoided by parents that paid attention to what their kids are doing, I just get frustrated. Now that I'm getting old enough to nearly have a teen, books like this make me feel a bit terrified for the future. Anyways, it's a beautifully written book and had some twists I didn't expect, but I'm probably not the best audience for it.

English Trifle and Devils Food Cake by Josi Kilpack

I'm still catching up on the first few books from this series, and after reading these two I only have two more. I liked the third one (Devil's Food Cake) much more than the second one (English Trifle). In the second book, Sadie is out of her element on a vacation to England, and she hasn't really decided that she wants to be a detective yet. The book does a good job portraying her hesitancy to see herself as a detective as well as the fact that she's still recovering from stumbling into a murder investigation involving a friend. However, the plot feels too rushed and none of the supporting characters were developed very well, including Sadie's daughter. The book involved a lot of self-doubt from Sadie and dithering around, and it was a bit frustrating to read. In Devil's Food Cake Sadie is back in her hometown, the setting of the first book, and she has finally accepted that she wants to be a detective. This new identity does, however, come with some consequences and push-back from those around her, which provides a nice secondary conflict in the book to complement the murder investigation. I also wonder if I liked this book a little more because it involved a number of characters who become regulars throughout the series, so it felt much more familiar to me.

The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo Moyes

Moyes is an author I turn to whenever I'm in the mood for a romance that is both delightfully escapist, and yet somehow grounded enough in reality that I don't roll my eyes (more on her skill at writing these types of books--but watch out for spoilers--at this link). This book was so much fun to read, particularly in the first half that was set in the past. That first romance was so well-written and really sucked me in. The second half of the book, which is mostly set in the present day, was not quite as interesting and a bit clunky in parts, but I kept reading just to find out how the loose ends of the past were all tied up.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

This was a quick and funny read--I read it all in one day when I was home sick from work. I don't know if it would be as funny for anyone who hasn't spent time in academia, since the humor is fairly subtle and focused on skewering the politics of college humanities departments. I also had fun reading it because it's an epistolary novel that really only tells half the story, and there were many moments when imagining the other half was just as hilarious as what was actually on the page.

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

This was our book club pick for the month, and maybe before reading it I should have watched something by Jim Gaffigan to get a sense of his humor or delivery style (confession--I still haven't watched any of his comedy performances). My friend who recommended the book had listened to it as an audiobook and thought it was absolutely hilarious. I didn't dislike the book, but it didn't really make me laugh, so I wonder if listening to it would have been better. As we were discussing parts of it at book club, they seemed funnier in retelling, so maybe it's just not the kind of book to read by yourself.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

I've never wanted to practice medicine, but I love reading books about medicine and the human body. This book was not just a fascinating look at neurosurgery, but also an excellent example of memoir. Marsh's writing has a distinctive voice, at times rather caustic and at others sympathetic and gentle. I'm not sure I would want to be friends with him in real life--but his ability to write compelling stories about contemporary medicine is one I can admire.

Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton

This was recommended for me by the library's ebook site based on some other things I had been reading. I'd read a few pieces by Glennon on her blog (Momastery) and so I thought I might like it. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't really like it that much either. The book is a selection of posts from the blog, but without any other writing to pull them together and add context, I felt confused at times and at others I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over. I've really liked some of her posts, and this book did include some great ones, but I think I'd rather read a memoir than a collection of blog posts.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

This book had an interesting premise, and at first it sucked me right in. However, as the mystery got weirder and weirder, it was harder to suspend my disbelief and go along with it (though, surprisingly, I guessed the major twist before it was revealed). Also, although an unreliable narrator can be kind of fun to read if done correctly, in this case the narrator was so unreliable that I was just left confused in some parts.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

It's impossible to pick my favorite Austen novel; each time I read one I think "oh, I love this and it's my favorite". If I have to make a decision, Persuasion and Emma are my top two choices (well, and Mansfield Park is right up there too). I'm not sure how many times I've read or re-read this book, but I love it every time. I really admire Anne for learning how to just be herself among so many silly relatives, and I just adore Captain Wentworth.

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