Monday, February 20, 2012

Sea of Grass

This week I read another Conrad Richter called Sea of Grass. It's a poignant story about the settling of the Southwest. Although there are several interesting characters, the land, or "sea of grass" itself, is perhaps the most compelling. The idea of creating a character out of the landscape reminds of the the great Willa Cather novels O Pioneers and Death Comes for the Archbishop.

I highly recommend this book -- it's not long, but speaks volumes about the process of converting cattle land to farming land... a process that wasn't highly successful, at least according to this story.

I am struck by Richter's style of writing. The details that he leaves out leave much to the imagination and I find myself reflecting often on the possibilities of how the backstory might go.

I can't quite figure out how I got to be almost 50 without discovering this marvelous writer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Town

Okay, I have finished The Awakening trilogy. It is wonderful! The third book, The Town won a Pulitzer in 1951. It is significantly different than the other two, as the main character's homestead becomes a full-fledged town and she has to navigate her life and the lives of her more modern children. I loved all three of the books. Richter's writing is so interesting... I love it for all that he doesn't say as much as for the beautiful prose. There are many details about the characters and the story that you just have to imagine or wonder about, even as he writes so lovingly and completely about nature. There is a lot of inference. It's like no other writing that I've experienced. I'm in the middle of another of his books, The Sea of Grass, right now and I'm feeling the same way about it. He loves the land, the people that settle it are fascinating to him, but he doesn't pretend to have all the answers or to understand them thoroughly.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Fields

I recently finished reading The Fields by Conrad Richter. What a gem! It is the second in the trilogy entitled Awakenings and I loved it as much as I loved the first one. The writing is beautiful. It is hard for me to describe his character development -- it is very understated, yet eventually I came to understand and know the characters well. I am so excited to read the next in the trilogy -- The Town -- and I plan to read everything that Conrad Richter wrote. (David McCullough highly recommends him.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Return to Exile, by E. J. Patten

This is an interesting book for me to be writing about, since the version I read was not published. Abby should really be the one writing about it, as she read a previous version as well as the version that was finally published last fall. But I'm going to write about it anyway.

The story is that the author is in our ward. As he was writing the book, I had my aneurysm and was so sick that his wife printed out the book (it had been accepted for publication by Simon and Schusters) and brought it over for us to read. It is fantasy -- sort of like Brandon Mull and Harry Potter -- and has lots of very cool elements. It was fun to read but sometimes we got a little lost. Eric, the author, fixed those parts before it was published and it has been selling well enough that a sequel is planned for release on September 18, 2012. He has a series of six books planned.

It's very fun to know someone who is really writing books. And last week we had a book group at his house, which was so interesting. He told us all about the process of becoming published, what it's like to do the writing, where his inspiration comes from, etc. The amazing thing to me is how he keeps track of all the characters and all their character traits. He said he has a big spreadsheet. (The same thing amazes me in Harry Potter. How did she do it???)

Anyway, it's a good read for all you fantasy lovers out there -- it has an interesting plot and cool characters! I'm planning to read this version shortly before the sequel comes out this summer.

Happy reading!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Favorites of 2011

Hi all. We have let this blog slide, but I am trying to resurrect it because I really do love books, and I've read some fantastic ones this year. Here are some of my favorites:

The Trees by Conrad Richter

This is a beautiful book! I read about Conrad Richter in a book by David McCullough. He, McCullough, loves Conrad Richter. Since I am a big McCullough fan, I thought I would like Richter, too. And I certainly liked this book. It is beautifully written and it's very interesting in that Richter uses a vernacular that is very accurate to the time and place of the book.... as the very first settlers were expanding "west" and crossing out of Pennsylvania. (I think that's right.)

A Christmas Carol by Dickens

Dickens is a favorite. I read this one every year at the holidays and it doesn't get old.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

By the author of Seabiscuit, this book was just amazing. It is about a man who survives the horrors of being stranded on a liferaft for many days and then being in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during WWII. It is disturbing, but also beautiful. I learned a lot about the human spirit and the horrors of the war in the Pacific Theater. I highly recommend it.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

This book has new things to teach every time I read it! My favorite quotes this time:

"Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face."

"...having books did not prevent him from reading, being a botanist did not prevent him from being a gardener."

"It is nothing to die; it is frightful not to live."