Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daughter, Mormon, Death Cure, French Kiss, and Alice

Daughter of the Forest  (Sevenwaters, #1)Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had three different friends recommend this book to me within the space of about a week, so I couldn't resist. It turned out to be the perfect Kindle indulgence, too. I didn't feel bad about using my Amazon Christmas gift certificate from Jeremy on a book that was only eight bucks and many hundreds of pages long. I definitely got my money's worth.

However, while I am giving this book five stars, it's not without reservations. I have to wonder if an editor ever took a look at Daughter of the Forest. If so, why did s/he not tell the author to cut the length down to about 2/3 of its current state? The first fourth of the book is incredibly slow-moving and the prose throughout is overwrought enough that it could have been trimmed down without losing any of the story. Also, there were a few weird parts while I was reading where, if this book were a person, I would have backed away slowly while smiling and nodding.

Really, it's the last 3/4 of the book that is engrossing and inventive enough to deserve five stars. I could hardly put it down. Be sure to have some Loreena McKennitt music ready to have on in the background while you read, mmkay?

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American FaithThe Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith by Joanna Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Mormon Girl is half hilarious, half heartbreaking. Joanna Brooks is almost exactly ten years older than me, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find that her childhood brand of Mormonism resonated so strongly with my own. Some of the things she mentioned about growing up Mormon rang so true to me and brought up memories I hadn't thought about in YEARS (like searching for the root beer among the Cokes at birthday parties, seriously!). She, too, endured a regional dance festival, bizarre hair/makeup/clothing advice, and campy church videos, although her favorite was Man's Search For Happiness, while my Primary class (and siblings) preferred The Pump. She even quotes Saturday's Warrior lyrics (don't be alarmed, it's done facetiously).

The second half of the book was less familiar to me, more haunting. Her BYU of the late 80s/early 90s was a very different place than the one I got to know in 1999. And my heart aches for any Mormon living in California during the 2008 election. But even though I didn't identify with her exact struggles, her feelings about her church and the way she worked through her doubts really resonated with me.

This is a book about Mormonism, but it's cultural Mormonism, not doctrinal. I think Mormons may appreciate it more than non-Mormons, but it's not at all one big inside joke. Reading this book will show you that there are as many different kinds of Mormons as there are individuals; as she puts it: "This is a church of tenderness and arrogance, of sparkling differences and human failings. There is no unmixing the two." Lovely.

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)The Death Cure by James Dashner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would say I found The Death Cure disappointing, except that I was warned to lower my expectations, so it ended up being exactly what I thought it would be. So I don't think it was technically "disappointing." However, the bizarre, crazy, unresolved questions are always, always more interesting than the answers (see, for example, LOST). This book was all about those answers so it was a bit lame.

Still, I maintain that this series is a great ride and I would definitely read all three books again someday.

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Someday I will be embarrassed to have a book called Anna and the French Kiss on my "read" list. However, today is not that day. Not quite. It was good, and I enjoyed it, but that's all. There wasn't enough going on beyond the (admittedly well drawn) central characters to make it a really memorable book.

A Town Like AliceA Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very, very good, almost excellent. It wasn't quite what I thought it would be, though, and I bet it isn't what you think it is, either. If you think it's a WW2 POW story, you're wrong. If you think it's a love story, you're wrong. If you think it's a story about Australia, you're wrong. If you think it's some strange, unlikely mix of all three...well, now you're getting somewhere. There are some truly hilarious quainticisms (admit it, that SHOULD be a word) that come shining through in the love story, reminding you of the time period in which this book was written, but it really is a gem of a book.


Liz Johnson said...

I'm sure you already saw this on goodreads, but I also loved "The Book of Mormon Girl." :)

Matthew said...

Joanna Brooks is an active panel member on the Mormon Matters podcast, which I enjoy greatly.


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