Reading Roundup: December 2015

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

I enjoyed the last book I read by Kearsley and thought I'd try another one. This one didn't work as well for me. Once again, I felt like the historical parts of the book were the most interesting and the most well-written. The contemporary romance included a male love interest who was pretty much perfect and spent half the book convincing the whiny woman to trust herself. And of course they fell in love, which was obvious from the beginning of the book. I think this may be a sequel to another book, or at least include some of the same characters, so I might track down that one just to see if I could get a different perspective on the female protagonist because I thought she was really one-dimensional.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

This book has been listed on a number of "best nonfiction" lists, and after reading it I can understand why. Some of them are better than others, but I found myself re-reading and writing down quotes from some of my favorites. Many of the issues deal with pain and empathy, and with the act of writing itself. I love reading books like this both for the content and for the inspiration to do more non-fiction writing myself.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I have never paid much attention to the British royal family and don't care much about them, but I'm a sucker for a fun and fluffy romance and this fit the bill perfectly. You might enjoy it even more if you know anything about the royals and can get the inside jokes. I still had a great time reading this book and would really like a sequel because I had a hard time saying goodbye to the characters after it ended. 

Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly

One of Kelly's strengths as a writer is her ability to create a detailed historical setting for her book and a fine set of supporting characters that are unique and memorable. This book did not disappoint in either of those aspects; the village where the action takes place really comes to life, and I feel like I learned a lot of new things about early-nineteenth-century Scotland and the plight of the Highlanders. Although the two main characters were also well-written, I didn't feel like either changed much over the course of the novel. The conflict and story arc of the book were weak compared to some of Kelly's other books. This book is quite enjoyable, as long as you aren't looking for major plot twists or gripping romance.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

I read this book rather quickly, on my kindle, while I was sick with a bad cold; I also spent the first fifty pages feeling pretty confused because I had mixed it up with a different book that I had placed on hold. In the end, I thought it was a good read. Donnelly is another historical fiction writer that I enjoy, and this is another great YA read from her. I thought some of the characters drew a bit too much on stereotypes and I predicted all the plot twists long before they were revealed, but I can forgive that a bit in a YA book where the readers are likely just as inexperienced as the protagonist.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

This book took a while to capture my interest and I found myself putting it aside a few times before deciding to push through. The first part of the book details a number of different people, and the preparation of the boat for the expedition, the current scientific understanding of the polar regions, and so on. It got a little tedious. Then, however, the voyagers ran into trouble and things got really interesting. I admit that I peeked on Wikipedia to find out what would happen to the explorers because I couldn't stand the suspense. Even with the ending in mind, the rest of the book was gripping and I found I could not put it down. This is a great story that has been well-written and I recommend it to anyone who likes to read about history, science, and adventure (just be patient with the first third of the book).

Lord Fenton's Folly by Josi Kilpack

I was a bit underwhelmed by Kilpack's last historical romance that I read, but this one pleasantly surprised me. Although it employs some standard tropes, like an arranged marriage and two prickly protagonists that have to learn to love each other, it still felt fresh. I liked that the events that brought the couple together took place outside their relationship and forced them to learn how to deal with challenges together. I also enjoyed the way the book alternated focus between each of the two protagonists in a way that actually moved the story forward and felt natural.

Movies

Poldark (Season 1)
 
This is actually a television show, but I watched the whole season within a few days and thought I might as well review it. The show spends a lot of time on shots of the beautiful Cornish countryside, as well as Aidan Turner brooding on cliffs looking over the ocean (I'm not complaining about either of those things). I really enjoyed it--the characters are complex and this season ended with a cliffhanger that will definitely get me tuning in to watch the next one.

Comments

Th. said…
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Hmm. I had much more in common with you in November.

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