Reading Roundup: January and February 2022

Vanishing Edge by Claire Kells

I think this is the first book in a new mystery series, and I plan on reading at least the next one. I did not figure the mystery out until the very end and I had a great time reading this book. The pacing is good, the protagonist is relatable, and it almost convinced me to do more hiking and camping because of the descriptions of the setting.

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

This book was a little dense and slow to read, but filled with a bunch of interesting insights that helped me see things in a new way. It connected well with other books I've read recently about history and racism. The author's arguments are compelling and well-supported by the data and I recommend giving it a read.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

I guess that after two years of COVID pandemic it's not surprising that there will now be novels using it as a plot device. This one jumped around quite a bit between time periods and characters, which can be a bit annoying at times. Nevertheless, it was a good read and I did not figure out the big twist before it was revealed, so I had a fun time reading it.

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley

It took me a little while to get into this book because the pace is slow at the beginning and it was a bit tricky to get a sense of who the different characters were and how they fit together. It eventually picked up a bit in pace and I settled into the story. Kearsley always does a great job with her descriptions and I felt immersed in the world of the book. Since I finished reading it last month I have continued to think about the characters and their stories, and I hope that there will be another book about them in the future.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford 

I had read a number of good reviews of this book and I think it has a lot of potential. Some passages had beautiful writing and great insights into life and humanity. Because the writing skips forward across time and between characters, you only get glimpses of moments in the lives of the characters, and while I know this is the point of the book, it was a little unsatisfying in the end.

By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl

I saw this book on a number of 'best of 2021' lists and I thought it sounded intriguing. The main thing that critics pointed out about it was that the protagonist is a transgender lawyer and takes a case that creates a conflict for her. (It is set about a decade or so ago, which makes the conflict more realistic.) The mystery itself was not particularly compelling, but I liked the protagonist and would read another book featuring her. My only complaint was that there were a few passages that felt more like the author was trying to explain everything and educate readers, and they took me out of the story a bit too much. I've seen similar things in books by Mormon authors and I've never particularly liked that strategy--I'd rather just let the story stand on its own.

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

Our theme for February's book club was romance books and I thought this would be a hit since it was recommended to me by multiple people. Unfortunately I really hated it, although I did read the whole thing to see if it would get better. I'm much older than all the characters in the book and I think my different life perspective made it harder to relate to them. Also, both the main characters were too annoying and never really got better. And the main antagonist was just a nasty, difficult person with no real reason to be that way and no improvement over the course of the book.

The Rise of Light by Olivia Hawker

This book is set in Rexburg, Idaho in the 1970s among the members of a Mormon family. Well, they are a dysfunctional Mormon family--and I appreciate the author adding ways for readers to tell that the father is unusual even for his particular time and place. I was never quite sure where the story was heading as it moved along and I did end up enjoying it by the time the book was through. It is a character-driven book and the characters are one of the strong points. There were some details that felt a little bit off to me--it's easy to forget that the 1970s are more than forty years ago and the Church and its culture were very different then (I've also been doing research recently on that time period so there were some things that stuck out to me as I read).

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

This was the romance book that I truly loved this month. The main characters have been through a lot of things that I would never have done and that I don't understand, but I still found myself rooting for both of them. I also love books like this where the romance is accompanied by actual change in the protagonists' so that they are growing and developing as well. The other thing I liked about this book was that it immersed me in a culture that I am not part of and know little about, and I'm trying to read more books that broaden my horizons.

Te diría que fuéramos al río Bravo a llorar pero debes saber que ya no hay río ni llanto by Jorge Humberto Chávez

I started reading this book of poetry last year, got interrupted by various life problems and never got back to it. This year I decided to finish it before returning it to the library. It would be difficult to say that I 'enjoyed' this book because many of the poems deal with violence and other social problems in contemporary Mexico. However, I can see why it has won a number of awards because the author is very skilled at choosing his words carefully to evoke powerful images. He uses a number of juxtapositions of various symbols and ideas in intriguing ways. When I read books like this, I remember why I like poetry and I feel like I want to read more.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

After reading the first book in this series, I was eagerly looking forward to the second. Although it took a bit to remember all the different characters and to get back into the world created by Novik, this book did not disappoint. The only problem is that now I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the triology.

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