February 2017 books

HeartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Haphazard and dark. If I were a big fan of all things Alice in Wonderland, I think I would have loved this book. As a non-fan (almost to the point of anti-fan), it was still a decent read. That shows that Meyer has really created her own version of the story, rather than relying entirely on nods and winks and homages.

My favorite character was the Edgar Allen Poe-style Raven.

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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone RollingJoseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second full reading. The first time I read this book in full, twelve years ago, I would have described it in a word with "unflinching."

This time, I found more flinching. I still think Bushman's treatment of Joseph Smith's story is absolutely masterful, but I also think he looked the other way a few times. Sometimes it was to advance the narrative (lest the book bloat to more than its 600+ pages), but sometimes it was at uncomfortable moments when I really would have liked to know more. There is a shadow book here about the role of Emma and other women in the early years of Mormonism, and I found myself wishing to read more of it between these pages, or at least by Bushman's hand.

Because Bushman does this so well - he puts things into context, something that is often lost in official church materials, especially those packaged for time-limited lessons in Sunday School. Early 19th-century America was a different world, and Bushman is not afraid to get into it. Take the example of the fact that Joseph Smith launched a campaign to be President of the United States in 1844. This is sometimes treated as trivia (I literally remember giggling about it in seminary class), but when you really learn about it (like in this book), it is so much more interesting than that. It involves walking up to the White House and knocking on the door! It involves actually being admitted to chat with the current President! It involves Whigs! Just because you're American (not a given, I know), just because you're Mormon - it does not mean you understand these things. You need a historical, cultural, and religious interpreter as much as the reader who is not American and not Mormon. Bushman IS that interpreter.

I agree with my friend Shannon, whose review recommends that if you are going to read this book, that you read it all the way through. That is hard to do - it's long, of course, but it is also, as I said, (mostly) unflinching. There are times when you will dearly want to look away. But if you can bear it, keep reading. It's better if you can absorb this story as a whole. Do Joseph Smith the favor of comprehending what he was never able to for himself: examining his life from beginning to end and observing its arc, scope, and influence.

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If I Can't Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her ChildrenIf I Can't Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children by Gregg Olsen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know, are you allowed to write true crime books if the case hasn't been resolved at all? I'm not sure it's allowed. In any case, you're probably better off reading a few in-depth newspaper articles about this story rather than wading through this overlong book. It wasn't especially well written and was tedious to read - like running into your gossipy neighbor at the grocery store when you're in a hurry.

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Laskiaispulla

Laskiaispulla

Stockholm 2.0: The Swedening

Stockholm 2.0: The Swedening