Love Poems

love poems neruda

Love Poems, by Pablo Neruda. I picked this up at the BYU store, because it was on crazy sale upstairs. Like, a couple bucks. Score. I had heard good things about Neruda from my husband, who thinks he’s just a wonderful poet. And he’s Chilean, which means I can cross Chile off of my “countries to read a book from” list.

Anyways. Love Poems is a very short collection, and fairly sweet. He’s not the best romantic poet I’ve ever read (I think Shakespeare takes the cake on that one so far), but I did enjoy most of the collection, and I’m looking forward to reading some of his less love-based poetry in the future. Because, you know. It’s not like that was the only book I bought. ♦

Broken Things to Mend

broken things to mend

I love Jeffrey R. Holland. He’s one of my favorite speakers of all time, whether the subject is religious or not. So I picked up a copy of Broken Things to Mend, which is a collection of some of his talks.

Overall, the collection is good. And by that, I mean that it seriously fell beneath my expectations—but I can’t really fault that. My expectations were unreasonably high. See, when Elder Holland gets it right, he really gets it right. He kind of pulls your heart out of your chest, squeezes it a few times, and then puts it back in there a little better than he found it. But I suppose I can’t expect him to do that every time he opens his mouth.

If you feel broken, there are a few talks in this collection that will make you weep. (Like the title sermon.) And then you’ll put yourself back together again, and be so glad to know you’re still good enough, even as broken as you feel. But then there are a lot of other talks in here that are just good, inspirational talks. Not mind-blowing. Just good.

Long story short, I recommend the book. But if you’ve got a very specific need, I would sooner recommend you just go to lds.org and search for one of Holland’s individual talks. ♥

Made for Heaven: and Why on Earth It Matters

made for heaven

I’ll keep this brief, because the book is brief.

Made for Heaven is a C.S. Lewis book for dummies. Kind of like What Christians Believe, this book collects a few essays or chapters from his other writings, puts it in an easy-to-read font and format, and allows you a glimpse into Lewis’s arguments without making you wade through a few hundred pages of high-falutin’ philosophy. This one discusses why Lewis considers human being to be inherently divine, and why we seem to yearn for something greater than this life.

It’s very good. But if you want something complex, skip it and read Lewis’s other stuff. (You’ll get everything from this book in his other stuff, anyway, since this one is just collected from those ones.) ♦

It’s That Time Again!

Time to acknowledge the truth: I read more than I blog. Way more than I blog. So instead of doing a well-thought-out review of all the books I’ve read, I’m going to do the next best thing: a two-sentence review of each. You find out which books I would recommend, and I don’t have to sit here thinking about all the blog posts I should write. Here goes.

Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us
Claude M. Steele
****
Everyone deals with different stereotypes, and sometimes the best thing to do is ignore them. Good book, but very repetitive.

The Golden Compass Series
Philip Pullman
****
Great series – I liked the first book best and the last book least, but it’s still worth reading all the way through. Fantasy steampunk science fiction, all wrapped around a non-traditional adventure story.

Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North
Philip Pullman
****
Five stars for Once Upon a Time, only three stars for Lyra’s Oxford. Both were good supplements, but Lyra’s Oxford is too short to spend money on.

The Book of Mormon
Joseph Smith, Jr. (Translator)
*****
Five stars in the “spiritual” or “doctrinal clarification” category. Not in the “gripping literary read” category.

The Great Brain
John D. Fitzgerald
***
Pretty good, pretty funny, occasionally touching. Quick, easy read about a boy growing up in Utah.

The Crucible
Arthur Miller
*****
How did I not read this in high school?! Sinister and amazing.

Elsewhere
Eliot Weinberger (Editor)
*****
Collection of international poetry. Wonderful.

Come No Further
Michael Zaccariah
*****
Local author, and you need to look him up. Decent Western for most of the book, but with a mind-blowing plot twist at the end.

Boy: Tales of Childhood
Roald Dahl
***
Roald Dahl is funny, but his fiction is funnier.

The Lottery and Other Stories
Shirley Jackson
**
This short story collection would have made a lot more sense if I had known the legend of Jamie Harris before beginning. I didn’t, and it was just weird.

Way to Be!: 9 Rules For Living the Good Life
Gordon B. Hinckley
*****
Great religious inspiration for teenagers. Not just for teenagers, though – it got me out of a pretty foul mood.

Strengths Finder 2.0
Tom Rath
*
Pretty useless if you don’t have the CD. I didn’t have the CD.

The Map of Time
Félix J. Palma
***
Steampunk, time-traveling, sci-fi, steamy romance. Very well-written, but Ethan had already spoiled all the plot twists for me.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Alvin Schwartz
***
Super corny scary stories. Absolutely terrifying illustrations.

The Illustrated Man
Ray Bradbury
****
One of the better Bradbury short story collections I’ve read. Great sci-fi, good horror.

The Words of Desmond Tutu
Naomi Tutu
****
The only thing this book was missing was more Desmond Tutu. Good inspirational collection, but very short.

The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson
*****
Possibly the best haunted house story out there. Starts a little slow, but picks up with a vengeance.

The Secret in the Old Attic (Nancy Drew #21)
Carolyn Keene
**
Classic Nancy Drew. Outlandish mysteries, illegal sleuthing methods, attack-spiders, secret drawers, pretty dresses, and unreasonably-priced antiques.

Wringer
Jerry Spinelli
******
Very good story, raising social and moral questions in a kid-friendly conflict. I’m giving this six stars.

The Word of Wisdom
Steven C. Harper
****
Explores questions about Mormon dietary practices. Well-researched, and taught me a lot of new things.

Island of the Blue Dolphins
Scott O’Dell
****
An old classic from my childhood. Survival-adventure with a strong girl I always thought was awesome.

Mormons and Polygamy
Jessie L. Embry
**
Raised a lot of excellent questions, then kind of shrugged and said, “I don’t know – I just have faith!” I expected much better research conclusions from this.

Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster
Berkeley Breathed
*****
The creator of Opus the Penguin tells a hilarious adventure story featuring a breathtakingly beautiful dachshund and his human girl. Ethan doesn’t understand why I think it’s so funny, but the pictures alone are enough to make me giggle.

There! I did it! So now you know, everybody. My personal recommendations. I’m sure you’ve been waiting for this moment. And just in time for Christmas shopping, too.

Books, by the way, are an excellent Christmas gift. ♦

19 Varieties of Gazelle

19 Varieties of Gazelle

I found 19 Varieties of Gazelle, by Naomi Shihab Nye, just sitting on the new arrivals table at Pioneer Book. Just sitting there. All alone. No friends. Poor poetry book. I’ll give you a home.

This is a beautiful collection of poetry about life as an Arab – in America, in the Middle East, from America visiting the Middle East – as well as some poems about the seeming inability for Israelis and Arabs to get along, despite their shared humanity. It is thought-provoking without being unnecessarily edgy, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some good poetry or human understanding, especially older children or teenagers.

As always, I’ll provide a sample poem:

Trenches and Moats and Mounds of Dirt

An ancient world thick as fleece and layered grapes,
stones stacked into walls on hillsides,
the neat lineage of orchards…
even now in shuttered rooms
silver needles pulling thread till
a bird rises from the cloth
to fly in circles
over a scene she does not
recognize.

Where is her nesting place,
the safe slot between branches?

There is a language
between two languages
called Mean but who will admit
they are speaking it?

“Let’s change places,” the teenagers said.
“For a week, I’ll be you and you be me.”
Knowing if they did, they could never fight again.

Listen to them. ◊

14 Two-Sentence Book Reviews

Okay. I didn’t want to have to do this. But the new year is coming, and I kind of ignored my blog for a while, and I’m 14 books behind. And while a lot of these books totally deserve more attention than this, it’s just not going to happen. So here’s the crash-course spark-notes end-of-year-cram version of the books I’ve read:

F for Effort: More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Answers – Richard Benson
Kids are bad at math. Sometimes they’re still clever, though.

The Creation Plan: A Seven Day Approach to Guilt Free Homemaking – Betty Meyers
A perfect 60s homemaker tells you how to stop feeling guilty for having personal hobbies. This is accomplished by making the home your new hobby.

A Night in the Lonesome October – Roger Zelazny
A weird and wonderful Halloween story about a supernatural game to keep the monsters out (or bring them in). Told by Jack the Ripper’s dog.

The Saints vs. The Saints – Dean L. Rasmussen
Mormons argue a lot. Sometimes they argue over doctrine.

A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume 1 – B.H. Roberts
I feel like this one’s self-explanatory. Volumes 2-6 still in progress.

Inspired: A Community Poetry Writing Experience – Trish Hopkinson and the Rock Canyon Poets
A collection of well-polished poems from the local Utah County poetry group. Quite enjoyable.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
Read about a strong, independent African woman being a strong, independent African woman. Instead of this, I would recommend Wangari Maathai’s Unbowed.

M is for Monster – ed. Michael Kelahan
A collection of old-timey, classic horror stories. I had only read one already, and quite a few were delightfully bone-chilling!

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories – James Finn Garner
Wolves and womyn duke it out while Snow White gets mad at Prince Charming for eyeing her while she was in a coma. Well-meaning but prejudiced characters get their comeuppance.

Believing Christ – Stephen E. Robinson
Mormons believe in Christ – but we need to believe Christ when He tells us He will save us. Mormons, stop trying to save yourselves.

The Idle Parent – Tom Hodgkinson
A father tells you how it will help your kids to stop worrying about them. He also drinks a lot of beer.

Jesus the Christ – James E. Talmage
A comprehensive and incredibly detailed account of the life of Christ. Talmage didn’t like Catholics (which is clear in the last few chapters,) but aside from that, it’s a magnificent book, and one of my favorites.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope – Ian Doescher
George Lucas. In iambic pentameter.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett
A young White woman teams up with a group of Black women to protest the horrible treatment of Blacks in the South. Set in the 60s, this will make you cry, laugh, and rethink everything.

Go Set a Watchman

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There’s been some controversy over Harper Lee’s new book. From what I understand, most of the controversy has been over Atticus Finch: in To Kill a Mockingbird, people found a character to idolize. In Go Set a Watchman, they found a hypocrite – and nobody wants to watch their childhood hero fall crashing down before them.

Ironically, though, that’s what the book is about. As Jean Louise (“Scout” to childhood friends) discovers her father’s involvement with segregationists and the Ku Klux Klan, she watches her childhood idol shatter before her eyes. She has built Atticus up to be a god, and as Atticus himself argues, this isn’t fair to her, and it’s certainly not fair to him. No human being can live up to that kind of adoration.

This book is something of a first draft. When Lee brought the manuscript to her publisher, she was asked to go write more about Scout’s childhood, and the result was To Kill a Mockingbird. The manuscript, recently rediscovered, was published as-is, as far as I can tell. And there are a few points where that’s clear; all in all, though, Lee’s rough drafts are better than my final drafts. This is still one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I also think it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read, for the same reason some people don’t like it. Our society believes that all sins should be forgiven, except for two: hypocrisy and the refusal to forgive sins. And we’ve had forty or fifty years to build up Atticus Finch as some kind of merciful god who stands against the hypocrisy of his day, without ever being tainted or affected by it. In Go Set a Watchman, Atticus himself asserts that hypocrites have just as much right to live on this planet as any other human being. Harper Lee beautifully shows how even a man as level-headed as Atticus Finch can be affected by the constant stream of hatred around him, and even suggests that some of his reasons might have nothing to do with hatred at all. And while Jean Louise still disagrees with him, she has to learn to let him stand there and think what he will. I think that we, along with Jean Louise, need to remember that people have the right to be wrong. We need to watch our idols fall once in a while so we can be reminded to let them be human. We don’t expect perfection of ourselves; we need to forgive imperfections in others. ♦