Reading Roundup: May 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Harper's first book (The Dry) was one of my favorites last year, and I was excited for this book to come out. It is different, both in the setting and in the more complex mystery to solve, but I still thought it was well-written and a great read. Now I just have wait for Harper to write another one!

In Every Moment We are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist

I feel conflicted about this book--on the one hand, it had beautiful writing and powerfully told a story of grief and learning to live after tragedy. On the other hand, it felt a bit clunky at times and I couldn't tell if that was the fault of the translation or it was how the book had been written.

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughn

I love British fiction and thrillers, so of course I grabbed this one when I saw it on the new book display at the library. It's more of a cerebral mystery than a thriller, and more nuanced than I expected. The writing was a bit awkward in spots and sometimes things dragged, but generally I enjoyed it. 

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

For some reason I had been under the impression that this book was either fantasy or magical realism, and it took me a while to realize that it was not. Nevertheless, it was still a haunting book that dealt with difficult subjects through compassionate characters and beautiful writing. 

The Vanishing Velazquez by Laura Cumming

I thought I knew quite a bit about Velazquez, but I was wrong. This book gave me so many new insights and made me love him and his paintings even more. I thought the parts about the painter's life were more interesting than the parts that described his legacy later, and particularly the painting-related lawsuit in England, but if you want to know more about Velazquez (and you should), read this book.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Maloy

The only reason why I finished this book was the fact that I was reading on a Kindle and it was hard to skip through to the end (although I still might not have liked the ending, even after reading the stuff in the middle. The characters were difficult to empathize with and made poor, sometimes irrational decisions. I also didn't realize how terrible the circumstances the kids would be exposed to would be and was disturbed by some of the things that happened in the book; I also noticed that the worst things happened to the children of fairly minor characters who we weren't expected to empathize with. Every now and then I regret reading a book, and this is one of those. 

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Genova always does a great job combining medical detail with humanizing characterization, and this book is no exception. The plot hinges on a somewhat unusual situation, but not one that couldn't realistically happen, and so some of the turns of the story were predictable. However, I found myself rooting for the characters and compelled to read through to the end. 

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Coincidentally I ended up with the opportunity to hear Condie speak two different times within a few months of each other, and each time she talked about this book as a labor of love. We were reading YA fiction for my book club this month, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to read this. It was a great antidote to the sad and dark books I somehow ended up reading earlier in the month. Although the book covers some sad themes, it also shows how people can grow through the support of loving family, friends, and community. I also love books where all the pieces of the plot come together in the end in such a beautiful way. Now I need to get my kids to read this book (and you should too if you haven't yet).

Laura and Emma by Kate Greathead

This book suffered from both a lack of conflict and unlikeable characters that did not change, even though the plot covered several decades. I kept waiting for something to happen or for someone to have a realization that they were making bad choices, and I was disappointed.


Lady Bird

There were a few scenes in this movie that were a direct punch to the gut--both as someone who was once a teenage girl and one who is currently the parent of a teenage girl. Parenting is a tough gig, but so is growing up, and I thought this movie managed to capture both equally well. 

October Sky

I watched this with the kids when we were learning about West Virginia and they all loved it. It was not as cheesy as I expected it to be (although the plot was fairly predictable), and there was some good acting in it.

Call Me By Your Name

Some people I know totally loved this movie and raved about it enough that I finally decided to watch it. The acting and directing are great, and it really made me want to escape to Italy for a summer. At the same time, I had a hard time connecting with the characters and feeling like I understood them--I felt like there were undercurrents I was missing in order to really appreciate the film. 

Dead Poets Society

I haven't watched this movie in years, but it was a favorite of mine in high school so I wanted to see how it had held up. It's a bit cheesy in spots and overwrought (and I realized as I was watching it that it was the fourth movie in a row I'd watched about teenagers and their high emotions), but I still think it's a great movie. The acting is great, it's visually gorgeous, and the directing is solid. Even when you know what's coming, the ending still hurts.


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