Reading Roundup: May 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

This book is not particularly groundbreaking in its plot, but I really liked the characters and the fact that it realistically portrayed how difficult the healing process can be. I also appreciate books that demonstrate the importance of strong support networks in the lives of teens--sometimes teen books make it seem like kids just exist in isolation, but good books like this recognize the complex relationships they have with family, friends, and their communities. This would be a great book for older teens.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

I kept waiting for the characters in this book to mature or grow in some way, and they really never did. I also think likeability is overrated, but some sort of sympathy for the characters needs to be created by the author, and I never quite felt that from this book. Even as I got to the end, I still didn't care much for the main character and did not feel very invested in the ending. 

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is one of the best books I've ever read about the struggles of learning a new language and the difficulties of translation. It made me want to start studying Italian again, or perhaps start learning a new language. She had so many wonderful descriptions of what it feels like to be limited in communication, as well as what it is like to find new forms of expression through new words. I don't know if other people will like this book as much as I did, since I'm a language geek and I already have studied Italian, but I thought it was excellent.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Although some of the plot twists in this book were fairly conventional and I guessed them early on, it was still a great read and really drew me in. I thought the author did a particularly good job of describing the city and culture of Nagasaki during the early 20th century.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I've read nothing but rave reviews of this book and I agree completely with them. I always enjoy memoirs and have been drawn to books about medicine for years, so it was a good fit. At this point in my life when I have several friends and family members dealing with cancer, it's hard to read a book like this at a distance. It really made me think about what it means to be mortal and how our perceptions of our self and our priorities can change as our life circumstances are altered. It's not, however, sentimental or trite in any way; it's a thoughtful book that I know I will keep contemplating for some time.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

It was fun to read this book while in London visiting many of the places mentioned in the book. It's a dense book and the writing style took some getting used to, but after pushing myself a bit, I really enjoyed it. Some historical fiction feels too much like contemporary characters dropped into a particular setting, but this book retains some of the foreignness of the past. This is not a book to quickly devour in an afternoon--it takes some time to read and think about everything that is going on.

Descent by Tim Johnston

This book seemed to be a little confused about whether it was a straight thriller or a more contemplative look at the effects of tragedy on a family. The beginning and the end were fast-paced, but the middle was a meandering look at the people left behind when someone disappears. It was a nice little 'vacation read', but I don't know if I'll remember much about it in a few months. 

A Traveller's History of England by Christopher Daniell

This was a great book to read before my trip. It was a little dry, but it moved through time rather quickly so that made it easier to read. I still am a bit confused about who reigned when, and would like to read some more in-depth coverage of certain periods of history, but this was a great start. 

Movies

The Big Short

I watched this on the plane over to London and I think I was a bit too distracted to follow the story well. It was interesting, but I think I need to watch it again sometime. 

Man Up

Another airplane show--I really enjoyed this little comedy (even while cringing at certain parts), mostly because the story and the actors were very real and relateable. It was a lot of fun.
 
About a Boy

I know I've seen this movie before, but I could barely remember it so I decided to watch it again. It's another great movie about very real people--the acting is a particular highlight.

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