Reading Roundup: March 2019

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

I've never been particularly interested in Scientology, but I've heard good things about this book for years and I like Wright's writing. He excels at creating coherent narrative through a long period of time and across many different characters. Although not a quick or easy read, this was a fascinating book and I will be thinking about it for a long time.

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

This is the last book in Atkinson's mystery series, but I'm happy to hear that there is another one coming out this summer. Jackson Brodie and his crazy antics have grown on me, and while this wasn't my favorite in the series, it was a fun read.

Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour

Damour's book Untangled was one of my favorites from last year. This book was a great follow-up that talks more specifically about stress and teens. I marked a bunch of different sections in it and hopefully some of the things I learned can make a difference for our family.

Seeing Miss Heartstone by Nichole Van 

I discovered Nichole Van a few years ago through the Whitney Awards and have enjoyed every book of hers that I’ve read. This book had some great twists and turns as the romance between two headstrong people wound its way to a satisfying conclusion. Although it dragged a bit in a few spots, this was mostly an excellent book. I loved the many little details in the story and Van’s talent for turning a clever phrase, but more than anything I loved read a book that showed two imperfect people learning how to communicate, forgive, and grow into real love.

Flame and Ember by M.A. Nichols

This book’s unique plot kept me reading and I finished it quickly. I particularly loved Mina’s character, and although at first Simon really irritated me, as he grew and changed, I grew to like him as well. My only two quibbles with the book were that the ending was too abrupt and that it needed one more good pass with an editor to clean up some of the awkward phrasing and repetitive word choices. Other than that, I think M.A. Nichols has a lot of strengths as an author and I look forward to seeing more from her.

The Truth About Miss Ashbourne by Joanna Baker

One of the things I like in romance books is a sense of real growth in the characters; this book did an excellent job showing Juliana’s gradual change from being guarded and defensive to opening up to the love and care of others. I really liked the relationship between her and William, and I loved all of family members and wish I could spend some time with them on their estate. One of the things I like in romance books is a sense of real growth in the characters; this book did an excellent job showing Juliana’s gradual change from being guarded and defensive to opening up to the love and care of others.

Anna the Prophetess by H.B. Moore

Moore's scripture books are always some of my favorite Whitney finalists to read. She combines strong writing with meticulous research and love for her characters. This book was not as strong as some of the other ones by her that I've read, simply because Anna is the kind of character who is practically flawless right from the start and doesn't change very much. I still liked reading the book and felt uplifted by the example of Anna.

One Candle by Gale Sears

The descriptions in this book made want to plan a trip to Northern Italy next week--the setting and people are a definite strength. I had a little trouble following the plot simply because the chapters alternate between so many different characters and there wasn't a strong narrative arc. I've noticed this problem before in historical fiction that is afraid of getting too far away from what actually happened; however, if you don't shape the story well, it loses energy and ends up being boring.

As Wide as the Sky by Jessica Pack

This book requires both a willing suspension of disbelief, and a high dose of empathy from the reader. For the most part, it succeeds in both. At times I found the shifting between different points of view to be distracting--there were a few sections that could have been cut out and the book would have been just fine. It was, however, a powerfully written book and I'm still thinking about it a month later.

The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright

This book had an intriguing premise, but it never quite came together for me. Both of the main characters were unrealistic and one-dimensional, and the jumping between points of view slowed down the story's momentum too much (and Katy didn't change at all over the course of the book). There were also a few irritating writing issues that could have been cleared up with more editing.

The Unlikely Master Genius by Carla Kelly

I've loved pretty much every book I've read by Carla Kelly; she's not only a skilled writer, but she's done meticulous research that adds depth to the story. She also does a great job at creating supporting characters that are just as fleshed out as the protagonists. I was a bit skeptical about this book based on the cover and the plot summary, but it was a lot of fun to read and I was sad to see it end.

Movies

Meet the Robinsons

The kids and I have never seen this one before, and generally we liked it. The storyline was a bit hard to follow (time travel always creates a lot of unanswered questions), but it was fun to watch.

Pinocchio

It's been a very long time since I've seen this movie, and the kids all wanted to watch it since they had not seen it before. It's still a little weird (and from what I remember from reading it in my Italian class, the source material is weird too), but the kids enjoyed it anyway.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

I didn't get a chance to see this in the theater, so this was my first viewing and the kids' second. They enjoyed it just as much the second time and loved pointing out all the fun little details (there were a few things I pointed out to them too). I enjoyed the way it was constructed, and both the surface conversation about our current online-mediated world and the deeper story about friendship and growth. 

Cold War

This movie seems to fit many cliches about foreign film--moody black-and-white cinematography, bittersweet love story, obscure references to Polish political history--but I loved it anyway. It's gorgeous and sad at the same time.

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