Reading Roundup: November 2018

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Writing a book from the point of view of a protagonist with dementia could be a brilliant idea, especially if you are creating a mystery or a thriller and want the reader to have trouble sorting out the clues. This conceit mostly works in this novel, but sometimes the opacity of the narrator's mind just made things frustrating.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I have a hard time figuring out how to review this book; it is certainly a great book, and one that everyone should read. It is not, however, a comfortable, fun, or easy book. In a way, I'm not the target audience. However, at the same time I am, because I know nothing about the experiences Coates describes, and it is vital that I learn. I'm grateful I read this so I can, hopefully, have a little more humility and understanding.

Dendo: One Year and One Half in Japan by Brittany Long Olsen 

I bought this book several years ago, but never sat and read it all the way through. Although I served a mission in a very different place, so many parts of this book rang true to me. I loved the fact that it was created as a journal during her mission--that gave it a freshness that isn't always there in memoirs. S-Boogie also read this and loved it; I'm glad she did, because it captures so well both the joy and the hard work of being a missionary. 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

As this book went along, I kept hoping I would start to like the characters more, but I never did. Perhaps that's not the point of the book, especially since they and their milieu are so unique. The first half of the book is slow and bit unfocused; the second half makes up for this as things begin to first come together, and then completely fall apart.

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

This book surprised me, since I have not loved most of the other things I've read by Meissner. The plot summary piqued my interest, and this turned out to be the perfect book to read on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The book introduced me to some new aspects of American history I was unfamiliar with, and when it was finished I was sad to leave the characters behind.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

I love big, long, books with complex writing and metafictional elements, so this was right up my alley. It was a bit slow to begin with, but the pace picked up as the book went along. The ending also left me thinking for quite a while after I finished the book.

The Witch Elm by Tana French

I finished this book a few weeks ago and have been thinking about it ever since. Once again, French demonstrates her gift for creating intricate mysteries that ask penetrating questions about human nature. I also love her ability to create settings that inform the action of the book in a way that most authors don't; the house in this book almost becomes another character. The only regret I have from reading it is knowing that French won't publish another book for a few more years

Movies

The Missing

This is a TV series and not a movie, but I'm going to review it anyway since I spent a lot of time watching it. I watched both seasons, and ended up liking the second season more because there was more growth in the characters and the mystery was more complex.

Bodyguard 

Another TV series, but it's only six episodes long, so we'll just pretend it was a very long movie. This one definitely kept me guessing, and Keeley Hawes is becoming one of my favorite actresses. I have a soft spot for British drama, and this show did not disappoint.

Incredibles 2  

I wish I had gotten a chance to see this in the theater, but it was great at home on DVD.  I still think the first one was just a little bit better, but this did a lot of great things with the characters and continued their story in a way that blended well with the original.
 
Wonder 

I had been skeptical about this movie because I was worried it would be too sappy (and because I'm not a fan of Owen Wilson). However, it turns out that I really enjoyed it--the acting is one of the strong points in the film, and I loved its depiction of family life. I fully acknowledge the issues with representation and the problem of making simply living with a disability 'heroic', but this was a lovely movie for us to watch as a family.

Alias Grace

It can be really difficult to adapt a complex, metafictional book into a film, but this one mostly gets it right. The actors were all phenomenal, and some parts of the book were left out or streamlined in a way that preserved the narrative arc and characterization without bogging down the film. It also brought out more clearly some of the themes of the novel, especially those having to do with women and power.  There was one subplot that I think should have been completely left out, but other than that, I really loved watching this. 

Loving Vincent

This movie is as visually stunning as all the reviews say it is and I was entranced by the animation the whole time. Despite that, it was hard to get into the story and I disliked most of the voices used for the characters.  

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