Reading Roundup: December 2020

Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe

I had read one of Monroe's pieces before this book (I believe she did expand it), and had vaguely heard of the other three stories she tells. This book reflects on why she is interested in reading about crime, and why other women might be too (and why some women commit crimes). There were a lot of interesting tidbits scattered throughout the book that lead me to reflect on both the stories we tell and the stories we consume.

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

Kinsella's books have been inconsistent for me; sometimes they are really fun and tell great stories, and sometimes they just don't work. This book had a great premise that didn't ever pan out. The main character was supposed to be cute and fun. Instead, she's pretty annoying and never changes much. The book is meant to show that both she and her love interest need to change in order to be more compatible, but it seems to favor her lifestyle as the best and only focus on him changing. The ending also felt rushed and manipulative. 

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Many of my friends were raving about this book, so even though my last experience with Novik was a bit disappointing, I decided to give it a try. I felt like it was a bit difficult to get into for the first few chapters; the world is complex and the narrator is cagey. However, after a while I started to get used to her voice and attitude, and the pace picked up. I ended up finishing it within just a few hours, and I'm already looking forward to the sequel (which is rather unfortunate since it will be a while).

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

I started reading this book, but thought it was a little boring and stopped for a while. But then I was stuck in a waiting room and I found it in my purse and read it in a few hours. It was still boring--the main characters were not very memorable and their wasn't a strong story arc. The premise was great, but I wanted stronger characterization and a bit more conflict.

Furia by Yamile Saied Martinez

I had a great time reading this book; I thought the author did an excellent job describing life in Argentina for those of us who've never been there. The main character was vividly portrayed and the conflicts were realistic. I would definitely read another book by Martinez.

Song of Names: A Mormon Mosaic by James Goldberg and Ardis E. Parshall

After nearly a year without regular church meetings or temple attendance, I've been feeling a bit disconnected from it all. Even the few times I've attended sacrament meeting have all been very quick in-and-out of the building moments without much chance to talk and connect. However, reading this book was the perfect way to spend a few hours on a Sunday. I felt the global reach of the church in a way I have not before. The breadth and depth of experiences contained in it was wonderful, and there are a few lines from the poems that I just can't stop thinking about. My only complaint was the book itself, which I know is likely beyond the control of the authors--the font was very small and difficult to read and the formatting was wonky.

When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains by Ariana Neumann

Just when I think I might get tired of reading about the Second World War in Europe, something new comes along. The incredible true story about the author's father at the center of the narrative is compelling on its own, but Neumann's further reflections about his life and the repercussions of the war on him and his family add extra depth to the book.

The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

This is the first book by Howard that I've read, and it was entertaining but not anything brilliantly unique. I thought the ending was a bit too rushed, and the final test was a little too far-fetched and not supported by the characterization early in the book. I still might try another book from Howard next time I'm in the mood for a mystery.

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Unlike the other British romance I read, this book was not boring enough. It was long and had a lot of things stuffed into it. I also didn't remember anything about the first book in the series, so it took a bit for me to remember all the characters and who they were. Some parts were enjoyable, but there were two main conflicts that really dragged on for too long. The main character also came across as brittle and annoying, and I don't remember her acting that way in the first book.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

It's also been several years since I read the previous book in this series and I also experienced a bit of trouble keeping people straight. After a bit of an adjustment period, I was firmly back in the world of Roshar and enjoying myself. This was a great read for my week off from work, and I've already requested the newest book from the library so I don't have to go years between reading them.

Movies

Home Alone 2  

I'm not sure I've ever seen this movie, but since we watched the first one last Christmas we decided to follow it up this year. Yes, many of the set pieces were near exact matches to the first movie, but it was still charming and a lot of fun.

Soul

I mostly enjoyed this movie and want to watch it again to catch some of the details. The premise was intriguing and the worldbuilding was excellent. However, I've also thought about the critiques I've read pointing out that although the movie is about a black man, he spends much of the movie being voiced by a white woman (why not use a black woman?). And there is the not-very-funny racial profile bit in the middle. I didn't read any commentaries until after I'd seen it, so I think I'll watch it again with some of this in mind. 

Little Women

I watched this for a second time and enjoyed it more than the first, since I knew what to expect this time around. It was a lot easier to keep track of what was happening, although I still don't love the unconventional structure and don't like some of the casting choices. 

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