Simple Reviews (and an explanation)

by Donna McLaughlin Schwender

A simple review of “When the Emperor was Divine”…definitely a 5+ on a scale of 1-5. From a reader’s viewpoint, this was a great book to learn about the tragic internment of Japanese Americans during World War II (which seems like an important lesson to keep in mind, what with all of the current negative political rhetoric). From a writer’s viewpoint, this book is a perfect example of making every word defend its right to be left on the page after all of the revision work is done. It’s proof that it really is possible to be both succinct and powerful within the covers of a book. The fact that we get to witness the events from each of the main characters’ point of view just adds to the powerful impact of this story. I’ll be referring to this one often.

Otsuka Book

Yesterday I read Rebecca Brown’s collection of short stories entitled “What Keeps Me Here.” It truly was unlike anything I’ve read before. I never would have guessed that the subject of “Bread” could be written about for 25 pages in a manner that would leave the reader spellbound. Amazing…simply amazing. I’m not sure how to describe the stories in general, but I think several prior reviews summarize them well when they use terms like “Gothic lullabies…[where] the prose moves between stark realism and the shimmering surrealism of fairy tales or dreams.”

Brown Book

I started reading Book #3 of 2016 this morning…Joan Didion’s, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up at one of the many book sales I attend every year, but I’m on page 34 and I think it’s a keeper. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

Didion Book

PS – If you’re wondering about the “origins” of my current ramblings, I’m merely trying to keep things simple this year. I’m making no big demands of myself to write life-altering blog posts on a daily basis. I just want to keep showing up and sharing whatever I feel moved to on any given day. Whether it’s book reviews, food reviews, photo insights of my day or some other potentially trivial tidbit, it’s all fair game to appear here. I apologize if it comes across as boring or insignificant. And yes – it might feel like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Goodreads type “stuff,” but this is also the year where I’m trying to minimize my time spent scrolling through social media while trying to maximize my time spent writing – in whatever manner that might occur. Thank you if you decide to stick around, but I also understand if you unsubscribe and focus your attention elsewhere. Life is a rare and precious commodity…enjoy how you spend it (and might I also suggest that you keep it simple?).