Reading Roundup: February 2018

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I put off reading this book for too long because I worried that it would be cheesy (simply based on its massive popularity and the outline of the plot). However, I loved Beartown last year and finally decided to give this a chance. Yes, the plot could potentially be cheesy, but Backman's tone was just sarcastic enough to keep it entertaining and refreshing. I also love a book with an intricate plot where all the pieces come together in a satisfying way at the end.

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

This book showed up on a lot of  "best of 2017" lists so I decided to read it. I think it should be required reading for anyone trying to understand more about immigration issues right now. It's a small-scale look at a big, complex problem, and sometimes I wish it had been a bit more comprehensive, but as a small, slice-of-life, it works well.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I've heard some complaints about the ending of this book, and while I can see where they are coming from, it didn't bother me that much. It does feel a bit abrupt, but really the last third of the book doesn't quite live up to the beginning. I've read other big family sagas like this, and it can be hard to keep up the momentum as more and more characters get involved. Mostly, I liked it, especially since I haven't read much about Koreans in Japan before. 

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

This month for book club we all picked books about presidents, so I decided to finally get around to reading this book. It was much better than I had expected and I wished I had read it earlier. I didn't realize that he had written it before he decided to run for office; it's surprisingly candid about some aspects of his life. This is now one of my favorite memoirs and I'd recommend it to anyone.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

This book has gotten a lot of hype, and since I love mysteries I decided to give it a try. On the one hand, it was certainly full of unexpected twists that I couldn't guess, and kept me up too late because I had a hard time putting it down. On the other hand, I figured out one of the central mysteries early on in the book, and the protagonist's various dysfunctions got a bit tedious towards the middle of the book. It could have been a bit shorter and toned down some things, and I would have enjoyed it more.

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

I read a devastating article in the Guardian that was an excerpt from the book, and wanted to read more. This book is both beautiful in writing and absolutely terrible in content, and one of the best I've read so far this year.

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

I decided to start this year's Whitney Awards reading with this historical romance set in India. I liked the setting and both of the main characters, and that they had a mystery to solve in addition to figuring out their relationship. I had some issues with the pacing of the story and the fact that some of the supporting characters were not well-developed.

Wrong for You by Jenny Proctor

Jenny Proctor's romance book was one of my favorites that I read for the Whitneys last year. Perhaps  I was looking forward to this one too much, because it didn't quite meet my expectations. I do like that Proctor sets her books among Mormons in North Carolina, without a lot of the conventional trappings of multi-generational Utah Mormon culture. I also liked all the characters in this book (and especially like the inclusion of some ethnic diversity), but the central conflict and actual relationship just didn't work for me. The things keeping the characters apart could have been resolved rather easily and I just didn't feel like the stakes were very high or that any of the characters grew or changed as much as they could have. It was not a bad book by any means, but not my favorite by Jenny Proctor.


Groundhog Day

This was the first time the kids got to watch this movie, and they all loved it. I've watched it many times and it never gets old--I think it's going to become a new annual tradition. 

Where the Red Fern Grows

Another old movie that I decided to introduce to the kids. I did warn them that it was pretty sad, but the older two had read it before and were prepared. They all liked it more than I expected, even though it's a bit cheesy and dated. 

The Greatest Showman

We wanted to see a movie on a Saturday afternoon when my parents were visiting, and this was the perfect movie. It was mostly fun to watch, although if you think too hard about it you will realize that the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. The kids love the music (I can tolerate it), so we bought the soundtrack and have been listening to it frequently during the last few weeks.

Phantom Thread

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this movie during the last few weeks since watching it. First of all, the plot is pretty strange and goes in weird directions. However, the cinematography, acting, and soundtrack are all amazing. I spent the whole time completely engrossed in the world of the film--the soundtrack is practically another character (and I'm sad it did not win an Oscar because I think it deserved it).


I don't know why I have never seen this particular adaptation, but I think it might be my favorite. The actors are just perfect for their roles, and I especially like that Romola Garai plays Emma as naive and often sweet, not just a spoiled rich girl like in some other adaptations. There were a few little things I didn't like, but generally I thought this was extremely well done.


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