Reading Roundup: January 2016

Kisses in the Rain by Krista Lynne Jensen

The part of this book I enjoyed the most was the setting. It takes place on an island in Washington and the characters both work in the kitchen of a restaurant. I had a major craving to take a vacation to Puget Sound after reading this. It was an enjoyable little romance, but like too many LDS fiction books I read, it felt a bit thin and superficial to me. I wanted deeper conversations between the characters, more time spent developing and resolving the conflicts, and richer language. This book touched on some great themes, but it just didn't quite do enough with them for me.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

I have really loved Brown's other books, so it's not a surprise that this was a hit for me. It's meant as a follow-up to Daring Greatly, so you should read that one first in order for this one to make more sense. I particularly liked her emphasis on narrative and how we see ourselves. I just need to buy a copy so I can go back and re-read some parts a few more times to get them to really sink in.

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

A month after reading this book, I can't remember most of the details other than those about the setting. This is the first book I've read that is set in the Falkland Islands, and the author makes good use of the unique aspects of that setting to drive the story. However, I didn't feel that interested in any of the three main characters and I thought that the main conflicts in the plot were too formulaic to hold my interest.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I've been hearing about this book for nearly two years, but didn't get around to reading it until my book club picked it this month. It was a beautifully written story that really drew me in. The setting and the plot are its strongest aspects; the main characters all felt a little distant too me and I had hard time rooting for them. Also, the book jumps around in time quite a bit, so you probably want to read this in print. 

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad

This is a long book, and I took my time reading it. I also had to put it aside a few times because it was simply overwhelming. I'd seen this book mentioned on several "best of 2015" lists and thought it sounded intriguing (the English translation was published last year; it was published in Norway in 2013). This is probably one of the most powerful books I've ever read, but I would only recommend it with the caution that it is very graphic in its descriptions of a massacre of teenagers. Equally disturbing are the chapters that delve into the thinking of Breivik himself. It's not an easy read by any means. However, I was incredibly moved by Seierstad's writing--this is not a polemic and it is not an attempt to psychoanalyze Breivik, either to agree with or condemn him. Seierstad is surprisingly neutral in her assessments of perpetrator and victims; however, you can tell that she deeply loves her country and is deeply concerned about what happened.  I've read a few things that complain about the feel of the translation, but I liked the fact that it stays close to Norwegian and feels a bit rough in places. I like a book that still feels like the place and language that it came from, even when it's disconcerting at times. If you think you can handle it, I recommend this book. There is a chapter near the end that is one of the most beautiful pieces about grief that I have ever read.

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

This was the third book I read this month that had a setting that was more interesting than the characters and the plot. I needed a quick, easy read to pass some time while waiting for a car repair and this was the perfect book for that. The plot required major suspension of disbelief, which got harder and harder to do as the book went on. 


The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is the sort of movie that makes me feel really old, because I'm definitely not a teenager anymore. Even when I was a teen, I wasn't much like the ones in this movie. That aside, I still enjoyed it and would probably even watch it again.

The Last Five Years

If you are a hard-core fan of the musical you will probably enjoy this movie like I did. If you don't like musicals or this one in particular, this movie will probably make no sense and annoy you. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan do a great job with the music, and the director keeps things simple in way that doesn't detract from the story, but there is no real good way to translate this musical to film. This is a pretty decent attempt, at least.


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