Thursday, January 01, 2009

Book Report

Oh, my goodness, have I ever been reading lately. And it has felt sooooooo good! I know that January is going to be utterly crazy, so I just sort of gave myself permission to lie around reading in my spare time these last two months. So I have a lot to report.

But first: why is January going to be crazy? Because I will be helping to judge the Segullah poetry contest, for one thing. Lucky, lucky us, because we got 79 entries this year!!!!! I have worked really hard on publicity (e-mailing creative writing professors all over the place, for example) and am so happy to get so many poems. And many of them are good, too! Hallelujah!

For another thing, I will be starting my poetry workshop with Kurt Brown. He is a visiting writer-in-residence at Westminster this semester and he (so very kindly) opened up his seminar to members of the community on a portfolio/acceptance basis. And I got invited to participate! (I sent “Dying Hair,” “Washing Mother,” and “Post Partum,” I believe.) He is the guy who started the Aspen Writers’ Conference. I feel like this workshop is exactly what I need for my personal development. I’ve been writing for these little LDS publications (which I love) but I’ve never submitted nationally and I don’t know where I stand in a non-Mormon market. I’ve also never had a real teacher of poetry and I’m quite scared at the possibility of discovering my limits. What if I’m incapable of improving? Then what happens to my dream of an MFA? It will be cool to meet some other local poets, though, and push myself.

And this month is the beginning of more intense classroom volunteering for me (Junior Great Books begins).

And this month we’ll be taking our oldest two on a cruise! (It was their Christmas present and a darn good deal.)

So life will get crazy. Hope my blog survives. You won’t abandon me, will you?

And now, on to the book report.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
I really enjoyed this little detective story. I’m not a big mystery reader, but the main character in this book, the detective, is a fascinating character that kept me wanting more. It takes place during the time between the two World Wars. Maisie Dobbs has moved from the lower class to the middle class by virtue of her cleverness and some opportunities she lucked into. One of the most fascinating things for me was the effect of Maisie’s instruction from a yogi. She has learned to use her body, and meditation, in helping discover things about other people. Fascinating to me. Two Thumbs Up.

Doubt by John Patrick Shanley
This is the play that the movie that just came out is based on. I actually checked this out because of a broadcast by Doug Febrezio in which he interviewed some actors and a director who put on this play a few years ago. From that interview, the play sounded fascinating. I was a little disappointed in it, feeling that it was a little slight. I was hoping that it would be another Lying Awake in the way it deals with doubt and faith. It wasn’t, but it still raises some very interesting questions. I imagine the movie will be very interesting. (Plot: a nun becomes convinced that a priest she works with is molesting at least one child. But she has no proof. The play is about how people deal with doubt.) One Thumb Up.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lucy See
This one was recommended to me, but I can’t remember by whom. I found some of the subject matter (foot binding, secret writing among Chinese women) very interesting but the story was kind of flat. Too much “I didn’t know then what horrible things would happen” and then the bad things happen and then “I didn’t know then what else would happen” etc. etc. It just kind of felt like a train slowly coming to a stop. Disappointment. One Thumb Down.

Home by Marilynne Robinson
What can I say? In heaven, I will write like Marilynne Robinson (and also have Rachel’s singing voice). She’s like a female Wallace Stegner. I just adore how she can get into people’s heads and describe subtle changes within people. My husband would HATE any of her books for that same reason (it takes 50 pages for anything to begin to happen) but I could just read and read and read Robinson, savoring each moment like a lick of frozen custard. Home is the sequel to Gilead and equally amazing, and moving, and heart-wrenching in its truthfulness. Three Thumbs Up, or more (if I had them).

Before I Wake by Joseph Wiersema
A quick read about a girl who seems to have miraculous healing abilities while she is in a coma. Although I felt the beginning was slow and the end was very hokey, the book kept me going until the end. One Thumb Up.

Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker
This was one that I kept wondering why I was still reading it but never could bring myself to stop. It’s about a girl who was raised in seclusion in the New Mexico desert but who has to leave her home and, in the process, discover the truth about her past. Just a pretty interesting plot but nothing more. No Thumbs.

Hide and Seek by Wendy Aaron
The back of this one said it was a humorous book about depression. It’s a memoir, and it describes the author’s attempts to cure herself of her depression. I didn’t find it funny at all. I found it depressing. Two Thumbs Down.

Can You Ever Forgive Me by Lee Israel
The premise was very interesting: the memoir of a literary forger and how (and why) she did it. But it turned out to be boring. One Thumb Down.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison
True stories about a safari guide. Entertaining, light reading. It took me a day, and was very enjoyable. One Thumb Up.

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli
This is a cute little middle-grade book told in verse (like Love that Dog). I enjoyed it quite a bit (takes an hour to read) and then I passed it to my 7-year-old, who couldn’t put it down and finished it that afternoon. Two Thumbs Up.

What have you read lately that’s good?


Th. said...


Oh, Plenty.

Queen K said...

Ditto on _Once Upon a Day_. I loved _Snow Flower_, though. And I'm always excited to see _Whatever You Do..._ get a mention because my agent represents the author.

Did you like McCracken's memoir?

Darlene said...


Yes, I blogged about it here.