Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple 3/5
Bernadette is a genius architect who hasn't created any buildings in a long time. Her 15-year-old daughter, Bee, goes to a private school in Seattle. The other moms of kids at the school think Bernadette is eccentric, but she didn't seem that weird to me. Just kind of a recluse. Which is okay for the most part, because her husband makes lots of money working at Microsoft, and Bernadette can hire out most of her tasks to a virtual assistant in India. Bee starts planning a family cruise to Antarctica. Bernadette has some altercations with the other moms. And her husband thinks that maybe Bernadette needs to spend some time in a mental hospital.
I liked that this book made me care about Antarctica. Honestly, I didn't even know that regular people could take a cruise to Antarctica. I thought only scientists went there. I wasn't a big fan of how most of this book is told through letters, emails, faxes, and other correspondence. I don't mind that in some books, but not so much this one. (For example, there was a part where two spouses were faxing each other, and I thought that was weird. Why weren't they talking in person, or at least emailing? This book isn't set in the past when faxing was common.) Also, Bernadette was the best character, and, as you can tell from the title, she goes missing, so she wasn't even around for a big chunk of the book. I mean, Bee is the main character, not Bernadette, but Bernadette was my favorite. Anyway, it's a good story, clever, well-written. The things that bothered me meant that I just liked it, not loved it.
Black River by S. M. Hulse 3/5
For my library internship, my supervisor wanted me to attend a book discussion. I searched for one that was at a fairly close library branch, was being held at a time that I could attend, and would be discussing a book I was willing to read. Also, bonus if I could find the book on the shelf at the library where I'm interning, instead of having to request it and wait. This was the book, and I liked it. The main character is Wes Carver. He used to be a corrections officer at a prison. About 20 years ago, there was a riot at the prison and Wes was held hostage and tortured by one of the inmates. Now, Wes's wife has just passed away, so he's on his way back to their hometown of Black River, Montana, to spread her ashes. Coincidentally, this is at the same time that the inmate from the riot is up for parole, and Wes has the opportunity to speak at the parole hearing. It's not the kind of book I would have chosen on my own, and in many ways, it was very sad. But overall, very well-written and thought-provoking. I can see why it was chosen for a book discussion. Also, going to the book discussion made me like the book even more, as we examined the character relationships and certain plot points. It just got me thinking about it more than I normally would have.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld 2/5
This is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in Cincinnati, and there was a lot that annoyed me. The parts that I liked were the ones that were most true to the original book. The modernized parts didn't improve anything, and usually didn't make any sense. I didn't find much to like about Liz. She's very pushy with her family, taking charge of things that really aren't her business. For example, her parents are deep in debt, so it's clear to Liz that they need to sell their big house and downsize to something smaller. But instead of letting her parents handle it, she gets a real estate agent and starts decluttering the basement herself WITHOUT TELLING THEM. Liz doesn't even live there anymore! Why is she getting involved? And later, her actions are praised as an example of how she selflessly takes care of her family. And her family was just the worst. Only Jane was likable. I liked Liz and Darcy together, but it was hardly enough to redeem the book. Overall, I didn't think it was well-written, and the chapters were ridiculously short, often ending abruptly. I guess the 2 stars are because at least it kept my interest.