Reading Roundup: April 2018

I know it's August and I'm really behind, but I told myself I'd get caught up and so decided to go ahead and publish these. After ten years, I'm not ready to stop writing my little book blurbs. During the first part of the month I read some more Whitney finalists, and then later in the month I went on a quick trip and managed to read several books while flying back and forth across the country.

Gilda Trillim: Shepherdess of Rats by Steven Peck

I will confess that I wasn't sure I would like this book. Some of the more esoteric parts were challenging, and it really was as weird as I thought it was going to be. In the end, however, it was probably one of the best books I read out of all the Whitney finalists. I'm sad it didn't win an award, but also understand why it didn't, considering the types of books it was up against.

The Book of Laman by Mette Harrison

I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did; I think Harrison did an admirable job fleshing out the first part of the Book of Mormon and adding nuance to what has been written in scripture. However, I was frustrated by the presence of a wooden, stilted Nephi as a foil to a well-rounded Laman. I think the book would have been much better if both characters were more fully realized, especially since there actually is quite a bit of room for interpretation in the account we have in the Book of Mormon. Harrison's Nephi reads like caricature based on cheesy Mormon pop culture, not the person present in the scriptures (full disclosure, I've never cared much for Nephi either, but I think that he's not just the straight-up 'good guy' people want him to be). Also, there were some glaring typos and other errors (Jerusalem is not on the ocean) that distracted me from the story. There were some things to like about this book, but for me, personally, I like scripture retellings that feel more grounded in a close reading of the scriptures.

Courting Carrie in Wonderland by Carla Kelly

I have loved every novel I've read by Carla Kelly, and this one did not disappoint. I learned a lot about the early history of Yellowstone, and had so much fun with the story of Ned and Carrie. There were also enough twists and turns to keep the book moving at a good pace, as well as some more difficult plot points that kept the romance grounded and the characters realistic. 

Defiance by A.L. Sowards

I haven't read anything by Sowards yet, but I like historical fiction, particularly about World War 2, and thought this was well-written. I sometimes got frustrated with some of the main character's decisions, since he was an eighteen-year-old, and I wish that the book had been a bit longer and spent more time on his transition back home. Generally, however, I enjoyed reading it and think I will check out some other books by the author.

Condemn Me Not by Heather B. Moore

I thought the structure of this book worked well--it alternates chapters between the story of an elderly woman who has been jailed for witchcraft and flashbacks that tell the story of her life. Although some of the suspense is taken out of the story simply by knowing what the historical record shows, reading about Susannah's life

Waiting for the Light by Carol Pratt Bradley

The biblical setting in this book felt realistically researched, and the characters were fully-realized and complex. I felt like its main flaws were in the pacing and conflict--it dragged in parts. This is the danger of writing a book meant to cover the entire life of a person. In general, however, I enjoyed reading it and thought it was well-written.

The Proud Shall Stumble by Gerald Lund

I have yet to read a book by Lund that isn't incredibly boring. Apparently his style of minute retelling of historical events (with a lot of extra detail) is not my particular taste. I also felt like he fell into the trap of letting historical events already known by the readers provide the conflict for the story, rather than creating it within the world of the book.

The Duke of Bannerman Prep by Katie Nelson

Although I'm not very familiar with The Great Gatsby, having read it only once a long time ago, I could still see how this book was paying homage to it. However, although the themes and some of the plot points were there, this book was still very much its own creation, and I really enjoyed reading it. The characters were complex and I learned a lot about the world of high school debate, plus the story was realistic in how it played out.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann


Grann is a skilled writer who is good at pulling together many complex threads to make a compelling book. The only thing that might have made it better would have been a timeline of events and a list of people involved, since keeping everything straight was difficult at times.

The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

This was the perfect quick read for a plane ride, when I like something a bit more 'fluffy' that will capture my attention. It wasn't particularly memorable, but I was invested in the characters quite heavily and surprised by the ending, so it made for a good airplane read.

The Good People by Hannah Kent

Both the setting and the characters of this book were so fully realized, that I had a hard time when I realized the plot was getting darker and darker. I was really rooting for one character in particular, and I was devastated when she didn't make a change like I thought she would. Without spoiling it, this book got really bleak and there wasn't a lot of redemption for anyone--it was well written, but I was not expecting the ending.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu

This book was uneven--some parts of the story were really well-written and others weren't. I felt like the premise of the book was thin, and the flashback sequences were particularly under-developed. However, some of the characters' stories were vividly told and could have been turned into books in their own right.

Movies

Jackie

It's been a few months since I watched this movie, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  Movies like this are the equivalent of poetry--putting bits and pieces of experience together to highlight feelings and images that you might not otherwise notice. I've read mixed reviews of it, and can see why some people might not like it, but it's both beautiful and sad at the same time.

The Iron Giant

It's been a few years since we last watched this movie and the kids said they didn't remember it. I think we need to watch it more often, since it is one of the best animated films out there and we all loved it. 

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