Reading Roundup: February 2016

In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib

A month after reading this book I can hardly remember anything about it. The author did a fine job describing the difficulty of being a Muslim immigrant family in the United States, as well as conveying the shattering aftermath of a tragedy that affects that entire family. However, the book didn't do as good a job with the characterization or with creating a well-paced plot with enough tension to sustain it.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is a long, dense book that took about a month to read in little chunks interspersed with other chunks. There is so much interesting information in this book that it's hard to absorb and hard to read in larger quantities. I've been sharing bits of my insights from it with many of my friends over the last few months, and I think I need to buy my own copy so I can go back and find the parts I really liked it so I can reread them.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

This book started slowly, and while I eventually got into the story, it never really grabbed me. The characters were interesting and the story took enough turns that I didn't put all the pieces together until the end. However, the mood was just a little too understated to make me want to read another book by the same author.


The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives by Theresa Brown

I love to read nonfiction about medicine and I'd read a number of positive reviews about Brown's new book. It was an interesting read and I can tell from her writing that she was once an English professor, but it still felt a little flat. There didn't seem to be a lot of tension or deeper meaning to the book, which might have made it a bit more interesting to read.

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

Mid-twentieth-century America seems to be a hot new setting for historical fiction, based on the number of new books I've seen examining this time period. This book is set during the early 1960s, in Idaho Falls, and it's interesting to read a book about the region that has nothing to do with Mormons (well, they are mentioned briefly, but none of the characters interact with them since they mostly stick with other military families instead).

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

This was our book club pick for the month, and I'm not sure I would have read it otherwise. I love The Princess Bride, but maybe not enough to read a whole book about it. This book, however, was a lot of fun--and it was funny and sweet (just like the movie). It was great to get a glimpse into the process of making movies and to read about a group of people that had a fabulous time making a film together. I've heard good things about the audiobook, if you're into those.

Movies

Spotlight

I was a bit surprised when this won the Academy Award simply because I expected something flashier to get the prize. I was also delighted that this movie won because it is an excellent example of film at its finest. I especially appreciated how the director did not artificially create tension in the story or exaggerate the evil in an attempt to create 'villains' and 'heroes'--instead, tension emerges slowly and it snuck up on me before I even realized that I was anxiously awaiting the end of the movie. The acting is all excellent, the story is powerful, and this movie definitely deserved the award. I think I need to watch it again.

Testament of Youth

This movie is beautiful; I wanted to wear all the costumes and inhabit all the gorgeous scenery myself. On the other hand, England during the First World War is a place that no one wants to ever revisit. This story is tragic, and even though I knew what was coming, each death was wrenching. Vera Brittain's memoirs are famous for their anti-war stance, and this movie certainly does them justice.

Sense and Sensibility

When Alan Rickman died and everyone was talking about him, I suddenly started craving this movie again. I've seen it a number of times, but not recently, and it was delightful to remember it again. In fact, this movie was my first exposure to Jane Austen in book or film form. I can still picture the first time we watched it, on VHS, the summer after I graduated from high school. Then I went to BYU and they had a Jane Austen week at International Cinema so I got caught up on other films and started reading books--and now I'm a firmly converted Janeite. The film still holds up well after twenty years--although for some reason the massive age difference between Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet bothered me more this time around. They are both excellent actors and do well in their roles, but they never seem to quite mesh as believable sisters who should be close in age. Oh well, I still love this movie and need to watch it next time I get a craving for Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant.

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