Reading Roundup: March 2016

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This book was a bit of a mess and I probably should not have finished reading it; the ending seemed to promise some kind of shocking twist, and yet I re-read it a few times before realizing that the author's idea of a 'surprise' and mine were quite different. Also, the first half seems to be making fun of a particular lifestyle that I know nothing about, and the author didn't do much to convince me as a reader that I should. If you are going to poke fun at something, you can't assume that your audience will always care about it in the same way you do. Also, all the characters in the book were annoying stereotypes and the plot had some major holes. Sometimes I can forgive that if the book is still fun, but this one certainly wasn't.

A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although this shouldn't be a surprise since I already shared Deresiewicz's opinion that Austen is a brilliant novelist and that her books should not be dismissed because they are about domestic subjects (and they aren't romance novels!). It's been a while since I have read some of the works he discusses and I appreciated his insights into each one and the things he learned from it. I also thought the book did an excellent job weaving together the memoir parts and the literary criticism parts--it really made me think about some of the books I've read and how they've shaped my life. 

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Some parts of this book were fairly predictable and I guessed them early on, but there were a few major parts of the story that did surprise me. It was a fun, quick read for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

I enjoyed the title novella the most, but the other three short stories in this book were not bad either (I particularly liked the one about the nun). All of them are linked by themes of piling up details--noticing and remember little things that construct a narrative. Although none of the stories was 'happy' in any way, reading the book was a pleasure simply because the artistry of McCann's prose is amazing.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

This was our book club pick for the month and was a book I had on my list to read eventually. I read a lot of historical fiction as a teen and I think I would have loved this if I had picked it up to read. The main character is smart and feisty, the supporting characters were also wonderful, and the plot was well-thought out with good pacing of the action and believable conflict. I particularly liked that it represents the diversity of people who settled the west in a natural way without resorting to tokenism or stereotypes.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

I don't even know how to describe this book other than to say that it was really, really good. I had plenty of moments where I thought that the author was completely unlike most people I have ever met, but those were always balanced by her ability to write about herself in a way that helped me understand her and her life. Her writing is beautiful and this book is filled with fascinating insights about all kinds of things, like grief and birds of prey. I've seen this on many recent lists of book recommendations, and I will certainly add it to my list of books to recommend to people.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I've had this book on my list since I read another book by Toibin last year. I was tempted to see the movie first, but decided not to, and I'm glad I read the book first. It's a quiet book, and while it covers some fairly significant themes and major challenges in the life of the protagonist, the mood is always subdued. This makes it sound unexciting, but really what it means is that it's refreshing to read a book that feels realistic about life and the time it takes to understand oneself and others.

Miss Burton Unmasks a Prince by Jennifer Moore

This year I decided to only read and vote on the Whitney finalists in the romance category since I had already read three of them. This book was fun, but not particularly memorable. It didn't have much depth to it at all and I did not think the central conflict was very compelling or the characters very interesting.


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