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Reading Roundup: November 2017

A Disappearance in Damascus by Deborah Campbell

Before reading this book I knew very little about the effects of the American invasion of Iraq on regular people in the country. This book is a good look at the long-reaching effects of war on families and communities--and a reflection on the difficulty of being a reporter and foreign visitor in a region under attack. I would definitely recommend this book if you are at all interested in getting a peek at Middle Eastern politics at a personal level. 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This was our book club pick for the month, but unfortunately I did not get a chance to go see the movie with everyone else (I still haven't seen it). The mystery is quite clever and somehow I managed to not foresee the ending.

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

It took me a while to warm up to the protagonist in this book, since she is a bit prickly and defensive. However, as the book goes on, my sympathy grew as more and more details about t…

8 Minute Memoir: Billboards

I've been sitting on this for a while, because I'm not sure I can write anything interesting about billboards. I even debated skipping this day, but I figured I might as well give it a shot. 

When I was little, the bank my mom went to was next to Rock Liquor. We would often wait in the car while my mom went into the bank, and I was always fascinated by two large murals on the side of the liquor store. There was a painting of a bunch of people eating lunch in bright, summery dresses, and a poster advertising dancing in French. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that the murals were reproductions of paintings by Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, and not just liquor ads.

The other billboards I remember spending a lot of time pondering were the ones I saw in Spain as a missionary. As missionaries we spent most of our day out on the streets walking around, or riding the metro or buses. We saw a lot of advertisements and billboards, and since I was learning Spanish, eve…

Reading Roundup: October 2017

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

How many contemporary mysteries are there that involve an unreliable narrator who can't trust anyone and who is personally damaged? And why do I keep reading them? I'm not sure what the answer to that question is, but I love mystery/suspense, and despite the flaws in this book, I mostly liked it. The main thing that annoyed me was the fact that the ending did the thing where it created a solution out of small detail that had not really been mentioned at all during the first three-quarters of the book, and once it was brought up, it made everything really obvious.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

I've seen this book on several "best of 2017" lists, and it definitely deserves a place there. I'm not very familiar with Antigone, which this book apparently retells, but it doesn't really matter because the book treats that connection fairly lightly. It tackles hard issues and difficult questions, and none of the characters get cut any sl…

8 Minute Memoir: I Don't Remember

I generally have a good memory and there are a lot of things I can remember very well--in fact, I have a bit of a reputation at work for keeping track of stuff and remembering things I have seen. However, there are plenty of things I don't, or can't, remember (and some I don't want to).

For some reason I haven't memorized my library card number, despite the fact that I've had the same card for about fourteen years and use it regularly. I think it has to do with the fact that I can just scan it so I don't have to type in the numbers. I also worry that I'm not going to remember any passwords anymore now that I started using a program that remembers them for me. What if I have to log in to something from a different computer? I also have the same problem with my AppleID--I need it so infrequently that every time I need to use it, I have no idea what the password is, so I just have to reset it each time.

Another thing that I cannot remember is music. I've n…

8 Minute Memoir: I remember when

Several people I know have been following the Eight Minute Memoir prompts that Ann Dee Ellis has been posting on her blog.I'm more than a year behind, but I don't care, so I'm going to try it anyway to see if I can get back into writing and blogging. Instead of starting with the current prompt, I'm going to go back to the beginning. 

I remember when gas still cost 99 cents a gallon, and it seemed incredible when the price started creeping up higher than a dollar. I also remember when we lived in Seattle in 2008 and gas prices were crazy high, and we once passed a gas station that was selling it for over $5.00 a gallon, and I thought that was outrageous so I took a picture. I used to worry a lot about gas prices, but now I don't go anywhere besides work, the library, and a few stores, so I only fill up my car about once every three weeks and gas is a small part of my budget.

I remember when the kids were little and they work up early and I could put them to bed earl…

Reading Roundup: September 2017

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

This book made me laugh and cringe, often at the same time. If you're familiar at all with Trevor Noah, you'll completely understand. It is such a good book and offers a lot of new insights into a life that's very different from my own; I highly recommend it, but with the slight caveat that some people may find parts of it a bit disturbing.

The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman

This book had an interesting premise and unique setting, and I was enjoying it until things got really weird towards the end. I was surprised by the main twist in the central mystery and thought it was solidly constructed, but in general I did not enjoy the book. 

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

This is the third book by Reay that I've read within two months, and I think it's my favorite. First of all, it's set in Seattle. Second, it involves food. Third, it has a sweet romance. And fourth, the protagonist grows and becomes a better person, but the book avoi…

Reading Roundup: August 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

 I don't like hockey, but that didn't really matter because this book is not about hockey (despite the fact that hockey takes up a lot of space in the narrative).  It's really about family, and community, and relationships; I was particularly impressed with Backman's ability to fully realize so many different characters and to keep all the different threads of the story so tightly woven. It's been nearly two months since I read this book and I'm still thinking about it.

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

 This book had potential, but it just didn't work for me. It alternated between two stories, which made it hard to keep track of either of them and cut into the momentum of the plot. I also never quite connected with either of the main characters enough to understand their motivations, especially since one of the stories lacked a clear narrative arc. This could have been a much better book (or maybe even two better books, especi…

What I didn't do today

I got home last night from work and was hit with an incredible sense of inertia. While I ate dinner (leftover veggie pizza from book club the night before), I read a book on my Kindle. After dinner I had considered leaving the house to go see a movie, but instead I moved to the couch and spent some time finishing my book. And then I just sat. I could mow the lawn, watch a movie, clean the house, go out for a walk--and I didn't want to do any of it. It had been a while since I'd had a free weekend without kids where I wasn't going anywhere. 

I thought that maybe today I would get some things done, but instead I woke up still feeling lazy. I didn't mow the lawn, clean my house, bake a pie, unload the dishwasher, do any laundry, take my bike to get fixed, organize my photos on the computer, buy new pants, or iron my closet full of wrinkly shirts.  However, I did motivate myself enough this morning to go to the temple, which I haven't done for far too long. After I ca…

Reading Roundup: July 2017

The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak

I'm pretty sure I actually read this book in June, but for some reason it didn't make it onto my review post. I'm surprised I didn't write about it, because I can't stop thinking about the novel and its characters. The writing is gorgeous and the setting and characters are so vividly described that I can't quite let them go. It's a thoughtful, quiet novel that will stick with you for a long time after you read it.

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

I grabbed this off the new book display at the library when I was in the mood for a good mystery. I thought the setting was the strongest aspect of the book; although the plot was not too predictable, some of the revelations in the end were things I had suspected from the beginning. 

I Wasn't Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse edited by Lee Gutkind

I've never had any desire to actually be a doctor or nurse, but I've always loved reading about m…

Reading Roundup: June 2017

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright

My fears that this book would be too dense and complex and that I would get bogged down in reading it turned out to be unfounded. While it is long and covers a lot of different people and events, the writing is clear enough to keep a good pace and maintain interest throughout the book. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of religion, history, and our current political situation.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Rosalyn is a friend, and so I feel a little bad that I bought her book several months ago and didn't get around to reading it until now. I loved the magic system and the unique historical setting, since I know very little about Hungary (either in the past or the present). The plot was well-paced and had a lot of twists and turns that I wasn't expecting. I passed it off to S-Boogie after I read it, and she is having a great time with it too.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I've read a few …

Reading Roundup: May 2017

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

This was a satisfying ending to the entire series; I think the book I enjoyed the most was the third one, most likely because it is closest to the circumstances of my life right now. It's hard, however, to really choose one book over the others because they tell one continuous story in four parts. Letting go of that story and the characters is hard--I'm still thinking about them over a month later.

Extreme Makeover by Dan Wells

This book was extremely funny and slightly terrifying. Wells did a great job imagining all the possible ramifications of the mishap that starts the book going, and I kept getting surprised by all the twists and turns in the plot. That being said, it did feel a little weak in character development and I wasn't a fan of the ending. It was still a great read, especially if you like dark humor.

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger

This books strongest point was its attention to detail--it really convey…

Reading Roundup: April 2017

Born To Treason by E.B. Wheeler 

The history of Wales is not something I'm very familiar with, but I felt like the world building in this novel was pretty solid and I had a good sense of the time and place. The main character was sometimes a little too petulant and difficult for my taste, but she is meant to be young and naive, so I can forgive this a bit. I also liked the romantic elements of the book and felt like the pacing of the story worked well.

Deliverance by H.B. Moore

I have liked most of Moore's scripture-based books in the past, and I thought this one was just as good. The story of Moses has always intrigued me and I thought this book did a good job depicting what his life in the desert might have been like; I particularly liked the character of Miriam and her relationship with Moses.

Exodus by H.B. Moore 

I didn't read the first book in the series (that depicts Moses' life in Egypt), and maybe if I had I would have liked this one more since I would have been mo…

Reading Roundup: March 2017

I know we're already in June, which means I'm three months behind on book reviews. I did start reviewing some of these books a while ago and then life got busy. I don't want to abandon this so I'm just going to finish it quickly and post it. Hopefully as I get caught up I'll get back to more substantive reviews. 

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

I felt like I liked this book even more than the first two, and I'm not sure if it was the fact that it covers a time period most similar to my own current situation or because I had taken a break from reading the books and it was nice to come back. Either way, this is a solid series of books and I enjoyed the third even more than the first two.

Love at First Note by Jenny Proctor

This ended up being one of my favorites out of all the Whitney finalists that I read. I liked that the protagonists were both musicians, which provided a shared connection and realistic setting in which a romance can develop. …