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 the past emerged. This was an excellent choice by the author, since it kept me going in reading the book, even more than the central mystery.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

It is not often that I like an author's second book more than the first, but this book is even better than the first one I read by Ng. It is complex and thoughtful, and although some characters do terrible things, they are all still sympathetic and understandable. I also love Ng's prose and her powerful insights into human behavior. 

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

I have loved all of Brown's books, and this is just as good as her first few. I think I need to buy it in order to be able to re-read it and take notes about things I learned.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

I love a good, complex historical novel and this one really delivers. I feel that the contemporary story is a little weak, especially in comparison with the historical one, but that doesn't harm the book in any way. I really loved the parts that took place in early modern London as well as all the twists and turns the story took along the way--by the end I almost believed the characters were real.

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

I really didn't know where this book was going, even through the end. That's a good thing because the way the story was constructed felt true to real life, where you don't know what is coming next or how choices you make now will affect the future years later. There were parts of the book I didn't like, and one part of the story that shocked me (warning for the squeamish), but I can see why McDermott has a reputation as a master writer.

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

This was a short book and I read it quickly within a few hours. In some ways, this works, since the book chronicles a short, specific event and it would not make sense to drag it out. On the other hand, I wanted more information about some of the characters, and I felt it hard to connect to and sympathize with the protagonist since her backstory and motivations were too opaque. 

Movies

Spider-man: Homecoming

I haven't been keeping up on superhero movies much lately, but several people convinced me to watch this one. It was quite a lot of fun and I loved how it played with so many movie tropes. 

Kubo and the Two Strings

I'd like to watch this again because I know I missed some details, but the animation was lovely and the story was surprising. The kids all loved it too. 

Belle

Another movie recommended by several friends that I finally got around to watching. I really liked the acting and thought the story was interesting and compelling. If you like historical films and British drama, you would like this.

Out of Africa

This was one of my favorite movies as a teen and it's been years since I last watched it. It does feel a bit dated in parts, but in general it's still a great movie, especially when it comes to the acting, cinematography, and soundtrack.

Prancer

I don't think I've seen this movie since it came out in theaters, but we wanted a Christmas movie and this fit the bill. As an adult, I feel a little sad watching it because the main character is dealing with many difficult things in her life, and none of the grownups seem to notice or take care of her. However, in the end, she manages to get their attention and it ends up being a lovely movie.

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