Mini Book Reviews, Joe Hill-type Lists, and ROW80

Here I thought I was going overboard, because I make To Do lists all the time, and have an Excel sheet for agents, and save all my emails and so on. Well, look at this:

Joe Hill keeps more lists than I do!

I don't watch enough movies to make that worth documenting, and I hardly exercise (I just walk a lot and try to take the stairs). Also, I like things tidy, and the more I use a notebook, the messier it's likely to get. Once I've completed half the tasks on a To Do list, I love trashing it and starting over with a fresh clean list - even if I copy over half the same items.

One of the random items on my list is a time capsule letter I have to write. By hand. My nephew just celebrated his first birthday, and my sister is asking family and friends to write him a letter. She's going to save them all for when he's older, maybe graduating from high school or turning 21.

I'm supposed to be a writer, no? I have no idea what to put in the letter!

Does anyone have suggestions for advice or topics of interest?

As for the sort of writing I can do, edits on Druid's Moon haven't moved much since the weekend, because of the new - and wonderful! - reading-during-the-week schedule. I already feel much more relaxed, and inspired. I shared a snip as part of our February Exercise on the Forum, if anyone would like to look.

I'm going to take a leaf out of Zan Marie's book and share some mini-reviews!

Mary Ann Alice by Brian Doyle

"Mary Ann Alice McCrank was named for the pretty church bell in the steeple of St. Martin's Church in Martindale. She has the soul of a poet, and Mickey McGuire Jr. is in love with her. Mary Ann Alice is passionately interested in many things, especially the geology of her part of the world -- the Gatineau River country near Ottawa. Her teacher, Patchy Drizzle, shares her enthusiasm for rocks and fossils, many of which can be found along the river and in caves in the famous Paugan Falls. But a new project to dam the river at nearby Low places the rocks, fossils, and falls -- as well as many farms -- in danger. But the dam must go ahead -- and, as with much technological change, it will bring both benefits and hardships to the community."

That Amazon description doesn't do justice to how sweet this story is, and what a strong voice Mary Ann Alice has. I wish there was more than one sequel to this story! Doyle does have many other books set in the same Ontario neighbourhood, though, and I'm looking forward to reading them.

Stephen King

I reread two short stories by Stephen King, The Man Who Loved Flowers and Night Surf, mainly because I didn't like them the first time I read them many years ago. The first one is well-written, just inordinately sad. But Night Surf is... unfinished. Or at least that's how it feels. It's short, and there's hardly time to care for the characters before the story abruptly ends, without much of a resolution. But given that it's set sort of within the world of the beginning of The Stand, perhaps that's exactly what King intended.

One of King's newer novels, on the other hand, 11/22/63, is absolutely brilliant. I'd recommend it to everyone!

When Summer Comes by Brenda Novak

This one's a sweet romance, and I like the setting of Whiskey Creek. It's always fun to catch up on characters from other books in a series, when they appear as secondary characters in a new novel. The ending felt sort of rushed, though, especially because the conflict from the beginning was resolved off-stage and the conflict at the end not only resolved off-stage but told as a flashback!

All My Life Before Me, the diary of C. S. Lewis from 1922-27
(while he was still at university, and ending just at the moment where he met J. R. R. Tolkien)

Finally! After 15 years! Yes, it took me that long to read this book. I kept starting, and putting it aside, and never sat down to read it in one sitting. Not that it's not interesting. No, I think part of the reason I read it in bits and pieces at odd snatches of time is the longing it evokes. I want so badly to live in the UK in the 1920s that it hurts sometimes.

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

I read the Folio Society version of Brat Farrar, and The Franchise Affair:


"At four o'clock on a spring afternoon, Robert Blair is thinking of going home. The last post has gone and for a lawyer in a small market town, the chances of further requests for wills, conveyancing or investment advice are remote. But when the telephone rings, Blair's life changes irrevocably. Marion Sharpe and her mother, two eminently respectable ladies who live at the Franchise, a large isolated house on the outskirts of town, stand accused of the abduction and imprisonment of a 15-year-old girl, and are asking Blair to defend them – a difficult task when the evidence against the women seems compelling. What is Blair to believe? Is the girl fabricating the whole affair? Or are the Sharpe women not quite as innocent as they maintain?
The Franchise Affair was based on a real case – the abduction of Elizabeth Canning in the 18th century-but given a modern setting. Tey's masterful and chilling mystery first appeared in this Folio edition in 2001."

Linked to Tey, Polly Adams, Douglas Adams' daughter, is hosting a Culture Coach on tumblr!

What is Culture Coach?: "I've never seen those films that everyone has seen. Is that classic artist you're talking about more Van Halen or Van Gogh? My list of 'things I mean to get around to reading' is so offensively long that it needs to be on the list itself. I’ll do that at some point, I say. About EVERYTHING. Including jogging.
'If only I had a personal trainer. I would be motivated to do everything if I had a personal trainer. I need a personal trainer. I need a personal trainer for culture... I need a Culture Coach!'"

Only a few days ago, Neil Gaiman offered suggestions for the latest Culture Coach, and happened to recommend Tey! So you don't have to take only my word for how wonderful she is.

And finally... if you haven't already visited the Cabinet of Curiosities, you're missing out on some great short stories! I loved The Cake Made Out of Teeth by Claire Legrand!

Which books would you recommend?


Trisha F said…
Love the idea of a time capsule letter! Maybe I will suggest that to my brother/SIL for my niece's 1st b'day this year :)

Maybe just write about what you're doing with your life and what you think of your nephew. I dunno... :)
J.L. Murphey said…
I loved "All Roads Before Me." It's great. Surprised it took you that long to read. I've reread it four times already.
No idea on the time capsule letter. There are two blogfests coming up with a similar theme and I don't know what I'm doing for those either.
LR said…
That's a nice idea with the letter. :)

I wrote myself one when I was nine (I think to be opened at 25 or so). It was hilarious to read it. For your nephew you could
-talk about what he's like now
-give some sage advice from your experience
amy kennedy said…
Love the time-capsule idea. I would write your thoughts on the first time you saw him after he was born.

I adore Joe Hill and lists!
Susan Fields said…
The Franchise Affair looks great! I'm going to look for that. I don't have any books to recommend that I've read just lately, but I read Please Ignore Vera Dietz a while ago and it still sticks out in my mind as one of the awesome-est books I've read in a while.
Carol Riggs said…
You are just like me! I make lists, cross out stuff as I finish, and copy the lists over when they look too messy. :) Interesting about the time capsule letter! MARY ANN ALICE looks interesting, and Stephen King always thinks of such clever plotlines. Quite a variety of books here that you've listed--very fun.
Nice! I have Stephen King's 11/22/63. I should read it.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks for the advice everyone!

Oh, and Jo, I have no idea why it took me so long. I've read and reread every other Lewis book so quickly!
Writing fiction and nonfiction are two different beasts. I'd have a hard time with that assignment too.

The book set in Canada sounds good. I'm looking it up! I've read a few middle grades I've liked lately, but nothing adult in a while. I'm about to re-read Ordinary People by Judith Guest. I loved this book when when I was younger. After doing a critique on some chapters that had a suicide, it brought me back to this novel.
Which book do I read first in the Mary Ann Alice series?
Deniz Bevan said…
I don't know Theresa, I wish I did! I don't think the series is about her actually, it's just that most of Doyle's books seem to centre on the same time frame and location. I read Boy O'Boy last week and it was just as good, but with a completely new set of characters. That one was a tad darker, though I like the way he doesn't flinch from difficult topics in any of the books. I want more!

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