Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book of Mormon Girl

Joanna Brooks' The Book of Mormon Girl:  A Memoir of an American Faith, is an interesting and easy-to-read look at life growing up Mormon. 

Brooks begins her memoir with her childhood, in which she describes drawing comfort from the routine, practices, and even the rigidity of her faith.  For example, she recalls often being singled out in school and community as the only kid to drink decaffeinated beverages, or worse, labeled the anti-Christ by some Evangelicals.  But nonetheless finds solace that she has a unique and well-knit support system who shares her values.  One particularly humorous chapter, entitled "Marie Osmond's Guide to Beauty, Health & Style" (named after an actual book written by Marie Osmond), demonstrates the depth of this support system:  even as a popular American cultural icon, the Osmond's, Brooks felt, spoke directly to her and other Mormons, in subtle ways only Mormon believers would understand. 

Eventually, however, Brooks grows into adulthood and, while attending BYU, begins to wrestle with many of the social positions of the church, including its stance on the rights of women and homosexuals.  She witnesses, first-hand, the excommunication and firing of many of her female professors.  And admirably, Brooks, herself, eventually returns her diploma to BYU in protest. 

Brooks' writing is solid, even if it does wax poetic, at times.  Nonetheless, her work includes some fascinating historical points, and is appropriate for any individual who's ever struggled with faith, Mormon or otherwise.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Best Fiction of 2012

This week, Kirkus Reviews released its 2012 Best of Fiction list.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Glamour + Camping

Okay.  I'm not a camper.  But I love cute, vintage, domestic type stuff.  So, when I was at the Country Living Fair this year, I was giddy to tour a series of "glampers" (glamorously decorated 50s and 60s style campers).  I decided that not only do I want one of these things, but I'd be content to put it up in my back yard and use as a child would a playhouse.  They're just so darn adorable.

If you're not familiar with the term, it's called "Glamping" (a combination of "glamour" and "camping").  And the creator of the magazine MaryJane's Farm has written a book all about the newish and increasingly popular hobby, entitled Glamping With MaryJane.  Of course, the book has all of the vintage photos and camper re-dos you'd expect.  But it's also very useful--providing suggestions for purchasing, renovating, and using your vintage camper trailer.  A must-read for the domestic diva in all of us.

And while you're waiting to borrow a copy from your library, check out these fun glamping blogs and sites:

International Glamping Weekend

Glamping Hub

Glamping Blog

Vintage Trailer Supply

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Say Nice Things About Detroit...Or Else

Say Nice Things About Detroit isn’t a book that will foster much buzz, even though it’s received solid reviews from critics.  It’s simply not popular fiction.  What it is, rather, is smart, spare, prose, about very real characters living in a very gritty Detroit, Michigan. 

Say Nice Things… centers around David Halpert, who returns to Detroit after the death of his son, and the failure of his marriage.  David proves to be a rather successful attorney and good citizen, and is dismayed by the perpetual economic and social decline of his hometown (the very reasons he left in the first place).  These feelings are compounded by the murder of Natalie, his highschool girlfriend, and her black half-brother, Dirk, a retired FBI agent.  But something within keeps David rooted.  He purchases Dirk’s old home in a mostly black neighborhood, and befriends a young man who it turns out may have been responsible for Dirk and Natalie’s murder. 

Along the way, Lasser paints a clear portrait of the city and streets in which these characters live, which serves as a backdrop to the crime, poverty and racial tensions that seem to pervade.  Gritty, yes, with some realistic moments of tension; but also hopeful, revealing glimmers of humanity in unsuspecting places.  Well worth reading.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Paris Wife

I've always loved fiction and poetry which gives voice to interesting, often voiceless, historical characters and imagines their most private lives.  So it's no surprise that I enjoyed Paula McLain's The Paris Wife:  a story told from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife.  Though written as fiction, the author does her research and mostly accurately traces the lives of this couple from their first meeting, through their time in Paris, and long after their divorce.  There's a lot here that's spot on, and that makes the fictional intricacies of their story all the more believable.  McLain imagines all that we may not glean from biographies, letters and interviews:  the interior monologues, the feelings, the juxtaposition of a solid, supportive woman living in Paris with a man as temperamental and eccentric as Ernest Hemingway.  Enjoyable and engaging, even for those who know nothing of the great American author.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fall Fiction Preview

Kirkus Reviews recently revealed its 2012 Fall Fiction Preview

Beautiful Ruins

Beach reading doesn't get much better than Jess Walter's playful literary genius.  And his newest novel, Beautiful Ruins, serves to feed the escapist, gossip, and dreamer in all of us.

The story begins in 1962 in a resort town along the Italian Rivera. Young hotel entrepreneur, Pasquale, hosts a beautiful American actress named Dee on hiatus from her filming of Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  As it turns out, Dee is pregnant with Burton's baby, and one Hollywood agent, Michael Deane, tries his best to keep that fact hidden from the world.  From this point onward, the novel moves seamlessly between the past and present day, weaving together the stories of these (and other) characters as they progress through their lives and their art.  Walter's writing is sharp, and his storytelling original.  Highly recommended.

Monday, July 23, 2012

NPR's Critics' Lists

Whatever your reading interests, you'll find something on National Public Radio's (NPR) Critics' Lists: Summer 2012.


Paced, subtle and thought-provoking, Richard Ford's newest epic novel, Canada, easily positions itself as a Pulitzer contender. 

The novel opens by revealing what appears to be the narrative climax:  the committing of a robbery, followed by a multiple murder.  In this sense, Ford sets up the story as a mystery, the details of which the novel slowly unfolds.  But what distinguishes this story from a traditional mystery is that our narrator, Dell, is ever-present as an innocent victim in both crimes.  Further, the initial robbery, committed by Dell's parents, serves as a catalyst for the circumstantial events that thereafter define his life--transforming this work into a sort of character autobiography.  Dell, a well-functioning adult, gathers the pieces of his memory, his mother's prison journals, and his own curiosity to recount the events from his childhood which ultimately lead to his tormented self-actualization.

Ignore the quiet, unassuming cover; Ford's storytelling, and his narrator's philosophizing, will stick with you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oprah's Reveal...

Oprah recently posted her list of 2012 beach reads:

O Summer Reading:  6 New Beach Reads to Blaze Through