Reading Roundup: January 2021

 Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum

This is the book I can't stop talking to people about, even two months after reading it. It's fairly short and yet still packed with all kinds of interesting insights. It tied together threads from several books I had read last year about history, media, and race relations. I highly recommend that everyone I know reads this book.

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Wein is so good at creating complex and unique characters that are also believable people I would love to spend to with. She also does a wonderful job creating an optimistic tone throughout the book, despite the rather awful things that were happening to everyone. This was a great book to read right now when I could use some realistic hope.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

About halfway through this book I remembered that I actually don't like horror fiction. All the positive reviews I had read of this convinced me to read it, and I think that you might like it if you are into creepy horror stuff. I thought it was interesting that even though the author is Mexican-American and the book is set in Mexico, there wasn't much about the story that was obviously Mexican (unless you count the influence of writers like Carlos Fuentes).

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

This was a nice bit of fluffy reading for a quiet Saturday afternoon. It wasn't that memorable, especially since several aspects of the story felt derivative of a (better) book I read last year. Also, while it can work to have a love interest who has a prickly, difficult personality, it just gets annoying if they never actually change.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

For book club this month we decided to read fun or light-hearted books. While this book wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as I had thought, I still had a great time reading it. Kaling and I were both hopeless nerds in high school and have struggled with dating. I also really liked the parts where she talked about her career--while she downplays her efforts a bit, she is a great example of working persistently and consistently to use her talent and to put herself in the spaces where things are happening.

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

This book was a bit slow to get started, but I trusted the process and just kept going (although after finishing it, I still think it could have been trimmed a bit). Things came together wonderfully during the last few hundred pages and now I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Every Day We Get More Illegal by Juan Felipe Herrera

Some of the poems in this collection were so good I took pictures of them so I could remember them. This book is a good example of the ways poetry can convey truths even more powerfully than narrative might, simply by the sparseness of the words and the specificity of the images.

Movies

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Little Dude had never seen this movie so we decided to watch it together one night. It's been a long time since I last saw it and I had a great time rewatching it. He also thought it was hilarious and enjoyed seeing many of the actors he is familiar with from his favorite TV shows. 

The Tale of Desperaux

PB and I finished reading this book together and so we decided to watch this movie. It had a few good parts, but we were mostly confused by the unnecessary changes made to the plot and characters that turned a wonderful book into a mediocre movie.  

Thor: The Dark World 

This movie was a lot less boring than the first Thor movie so I enjoyed it a lot more than the previous one. It still just felt like a stop on the way to better things, which I hope it really is. Hopefully the kids will have time to watch some more of these soon.

Emma

I really wanted to like this new version of one of my favorite stories. The visuals were great and some of the supporting actors were perfect for the roles they were in. However, I didn't like either of the leads and didn't feel like they were convincing in their portrayal of the characters. Mostly this made me want to go back and watch earlier versions that are much better.

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