Reading Roundup: October 2018

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

This book took a while to get going and I was skeptical of why it had received so many different honors. About halfway through, it picked up momentum and I got to the point where I couldn't put it down. This isn't a long, epic novel, but it was a lot fun to read, especially as it got going and pieces started coming together in the end. 

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

This book was a fascinating look at an unusual crime spree and a part of the country that most people aren't familiar with. I also liked the pacing of the mystery, and how it was interspersed with background about the people and place involved. However, I ended up feeling just a bit disappointed in the end, because a motive for the attacks has never been revealed. I guess this a reflection of real life, but still makes the book fall a bit flat in the end.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I absolutely loved Atkinson's other WWII novels, and was disappointed by this one. All the reviews I read promised a book of intrigue and suspense, but I spent the whole book feeling a little confused. The main character's actions were inconsistent throughout, and I was never quite sure of what was going on.

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Despite what you might think, this book is not anti-religious; it manages to make pointed statements about problems with American culture, entertainment, and patriarchal religion. Essie is a remarkable character, and the ending was surprising.

The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs by Peter Wohlleben

I grabbed this book off the new display at the library without knowing much about it. I didn't even realize that it was a translation from German. The first few chapters were about weather and nature, but the last half of the book was about gardening, specifically about gardening in Germany. While it was interesting, most of it does not apply very well to my life.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

Somehow I ended up reading three books about England in the early days of WWII and espionage within a short period of time. This was a much more straightforward mystery, with a bit of romance. The love triangle was a bit too obvious from the beginning, but otherwise I had a lot of fun reading it and didn't figure out the solution until the end.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This book was really well written, and I felt that Orlean did an excellent job walking the line between admiring libraries and sentimentalizing them. She takes an in-depth look at all complicated aspects of running a large, urban, public library, as well as the history of the library in Los Angeles. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the way it was put together. It alternates chapters between describing the mystery of a fire that took place in 1986 and discussing the history and current operations of the library. I didn't like the alternating chapters because it interrupted the narrative too much and slowed the momentum, making the book feel a bit disjointed. However, I would still highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about libraries.

Movies

The Force Awakens

The kids are officially obsessed with Star Wars, and this was the first time watching this movie for all of us. I mostly enjoyed it, although I felt like there were too many moments that were set up just for fans that distracted from the story.

Jane and Emma

I mostly loved this movie and see it as a major step forward for LDS film There were a few things I quibbled with, like the setting of the movie and some of the characters. I also felt like there were some things that were a bit too understated, and I am not familiar enough with early Church history to understand what was going on. Despite that, the acting of the main characters was top-notch and a strong point of the film. 

The Wind Rises

I've been meaning to get around to watching this movie for a while, and I'm glad I did. It is beautiful and complex, just like its subject. When the kids get a little older, I want to watch it again with them. 

A Star is Born

This movie surprised me with how good it was. I knew it would be a cheesy, tragic love story. However, the acting was excellent and the main characters drew me in with their sincere emotions. I loved the music in the movie but don't think I'll buy the soundtrack. 


The Last Jedi

I really liked this film, even more than The Force Awakens. I felt like the story flowed more naturally and had more surprises. 

Wind River 

On the one hand, this movie is a fairly straightforward mystery/thriller. On the other hand, it is a timely look at a serious problem in our country--high rates of violence against Native American women. I particularly liked the details in the setting and characterization that made this feel like a real look at Wyoming, not just an outsider's idea of what it's like to live there.

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