Reading Roundup: February 2017

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I kept waiting for this book to get more interesting, and it didn't. The author hewed too closely to historical events and I felt like she was expecting readers' knowledge of Hemingway's life to provide the tension that is lacking in the book. I had trouble really connecting with the characters and felt like the whole thing just plodded from event to event without much tying things together or creating an actual plot.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult 

I will confess that I generally pick up Picoult's books with fairly low expectations--my experience with her books has been mixed, and for me the main draw is curiosity about how crazy the plot will get before the book is over. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, especially with Picoult's ability to create three separate characters who all have compelling stories. Yes, I'm troubled by some of the cliches in the book and the over-the-top drama of the plot, but it was still a decent book.

My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

I might as well review these together since I read the second book immediately after finishing the first. It took me a little while to really get into the first book because the writing is densely detailed and there are a lot of characters (thankfully the books include a chart of characters at the beginning). After about a hundred pages, however, I started to get really caught up in the story and had a hard time putting the book down. Also, the first book builds to a point that makes it nearly impossible to resist reading the second one (and then the third--which I read the first week in March). There is a lot I could say about these books, but I think it's mostly been said. I loved them and know I will have a hard time leaving their world behind once I read the fourth in the series.

Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America by Craig Harline

I've had this book on my list for a few years, but finally got around to it this year thanks to my goal of reading more nonfiction. I wish I had read it sooner since it was so good. I thought both stories, the historical one and the more contemporary one, were compelling, and I liked the way Harline wove them together along with his own insights. This book gave me a lot to think about.

Movies

Brave

I've actually only seen parts of this movie before, and that was a long time ago so I didn't really remember it. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to, and so did the kids. It was both funny and touching, and I particularly liked the way they animated the mom after she turned into a bear. Obviously I'm getting old because I sympathized much more with the queen than I did with Merida.

Duma

I'd never heard of this movie until I was looking around for something about South Africa that wasn't too intense for the kids. This was a great find--it's an adventure story that teaches some good lessons without being too sappy. We've watched a lot of movies about strong girls, so I was happy to show the kids one about a boy this time, and the cheetah was a big hit with the kids too.

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