Reading Roundup: August 2016

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

I really liked Simonson's first book, although it had a contemporary setting rather than a historical one like this book. Like her last book, this one's great strengths are its characters and its setting. There are, however, a lot of characters in the book and some of them are more effectively realized than others. I also thought the book had a lot of hot-button issues crammed into it (war crimes, refugees, suffrage, homosexuality, class conflicts, etc) in a way that felt a little strained at times. However, despite those shortcomings, I had a great time reading it, and I still think about the characters and their little village more than a month after ending the book. I've seen at least one review recommending this book for fans of Downton Abbey, and I think that's a great comparison.

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

I read most of this book while finishing the fourth book of Harry Potter with the kids, and I noticed a lot of interesting parallels--they're both kind of bloated and slow-paced, and they both involve a lot of discussion and debate about the best way to confront a particular enemy. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy either of them, but there were parts of both that were a bit of a slog and could have been tightened up considerably. And maybe the angst could have been toned down a bit too.

Windfallen by Jojo Moyes

This book started slow and didn't get much better with time. I think it's one of Moyes' first books and it shows--there are too many characters and the plot is too convoluted, so some things really don't get resolved. 

The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens

This was my book club read for the month, and while I can see how it would be really powerful for some people, it wasn't necessarily that significant for me. I think it's a great book for people who are struggling with Church culture and who would respond to something that leans more orthodox in its approach, but I already agreed with a lot of things said in it.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I have loved most of Moriarty's previous books and she's one of my favorite 'fluff' authors when I just want a fun book to escape into for a few hours. Some of her books have been better than others, and this one wasn't really one of my favorites. There were just too many characters and too much switching between points of view to really get invested in the story, and some of the characters were really difficult to sympathize with. I also found the amount of switching between past and present too much to really keep up with and felt like it disrupted the flow of the story.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

This was my second time reading this book, and I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it even more the second time around. It's interesting reading this book about the dynamics of marriage and of friend relationships, and particularly married-couple-friendships now that I'm no longer married. Now that I'm outside that particular life situation it felt easier to see both the benefits and the problems as Stegner outlines them. And, well, Stegner is just an amazing writer and such a pleasure to read (For what it's worth, I may also have enjoyed this so much since it came after reading several mediocre books in a row).


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