Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Help by Kathyrn Stockett

I'm a slow learner, that's for certain.  The lessons I need to learn need to be repeated multiple times in order to sink into my thick skull. 

I had to have a copy of The Help.  I tricked my sister into buying if for me for Christmas.  I desperately wanted to be included in a new book club.  I had to have it.  No, I didn't. 

The Help tells the story of black versus white in Mississippi in the 1960's.  The black maids, Aibileen and Minny are wonderful characters with much depth.  They tell their side of the story with great emotion and honesty.  Miss Skeeter befriends them in her quest for employment as a writer.  She painstakingly documents the stories of the maids.  She thinks by changing their names she has protected them from their employers.  She hasn't.  She's pretty stupid about alot of things in life.
Miss Skeeter and the rest of her white friends lacked any character, not just in their role in the story but as the author created them.  Writing in the first person is not my favorite.  Each character told the story from their own point of view for a few chapters before switching to the next character.  I was too confused most of the time as to who I was listening to.  The plot was difficult to follow.
Once Miss Skeeter's book was published the impact in the town was just too confusing.  And Miss Skeeter landed her dream job in New York.  So she got what she wanted leaving everyone else to their own devices.  I was let down with a thud. 
I rate The Help as 3 out of 5 books.  OK but not a have to have. 

I originally promised to send this book to my sister after I finished it.  She called to say she already got a copy from a friend.  She thought it was only OK too.  So I'm not sure what to do with it.  Maybe I'll send it off to Joan, Richard's first wife.  She loves to read and I haven't sent anything her way lately.  It makes me feel good to spread books around. 

The Power of the Written Word

Yesterday I returned from a family vacation in Barbados.  We gathered to celebrated the 70th birthday of my husband's brother, Bob, also known as Rex to the grandkids.   Each family of children and grandchildren prepared surprises and special events in Bob's honor.

The most special treat was created by all of us.  Bob's wife, Kathy asked each member of the family to write a story for Bob.  She took the stories and added pictures, headings and dates.  The end result was a beautifully bound book of Bob's life titled,  A Ride With Rex.   It's the story of Rex's life as a train ride with each of us hopping on board at different points along the way.

A Ride With Rex was the most read book in Barbados last week.  A best seller without ever making it to the shelf of the bookstore.  Fifteen of us each got our own autographed copy.  I read mine over and over, crying and laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy all over each time I did.  Each story evoked a different emotion from his brother, to his wife of 46 years, through his sons, their wives  and five grandchildren.  Lucie, the youngest at three, wrote a few special lines just for Rex, that are sure to keep her young in our hearts forever. 

What did I learn in my quest?  Books tell stories.  Books take us to far away places and then bring us home again.  Books are the map that lead us to treasures.  Books fuel the train that takes us on our journey through life.  

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Sorry Sucker

As a friend of mine, commented, some sorry sucker picked up The Lace Reader on Paperback Swap in less than an hour after I posted it.  Obviously she hadn't read my review.  Obviously she too was tempted by the intriguing cover and the words, 'best seller'.

Another reader commented that I should set a limit for myself on the number of pages I'll read before giving up.  She voted for 100 pages.  What do you think? 

Have you counted the unread books on your shelf yet??  In the name of research I'm waiting for your comments.  I had a friendly conversation with a stranger I ran into at a writing conference.  She looked at me like I had ten heads when I said I had 76 unread books.  As we talked more, the truth eventually came out.  I watched her go through her bookshelves in her head and I believe she stopped counting at about 10.  She knew where she was headed but didn't want to admit it.  

I'm finding that readers are strange and mysterious creatures, all unique in their approach but all the same in their attraction to the written word.  My research continues... 

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Like I said in the last post, be careful what you wish for.  I had to rush out to buy The Lace Reader since it was the monthly selection for a book club I'd been invited to join.  An excuse I felt justified to feed my book buying habit.  Boy, was I wrong.

I started out thinking The Lace Reader had great potential.  The plot line had an aura of mystery combined with Salem witches and lots of psychic readings of lace.  Right up my alley.  But then it started to slog along.  Was Eva dead or wasn't she?  What made Lyndley commit suicide? And why the heck would Sophya change her name to Towner when Sophya is so beautiful a name?

I kept reading even though many of my friends told me to stop.  "If it's dull, give it up.  There are plenty more interesting books to choose from,"  they said.  Normally I would have taken their advice but in the name of my greater cause I felt I had to keep reading.  The author took too long to answer all my questions.  And when she did, they weren't answered in a satisfying manner.  For those of you who still want to keep reading I won't give anything away.  The characters should have all been committed to the mental institution for good.  They had issues far beyond any human capability to understand.  The setting was the only real thing in the story.  The Lace Reader left me cold, and unsatisfied with the outcome. 

I rate this book 2 out of 5.  I think I'll post it on Paperback Swap.  It ought to be snapped up in a hurry since it's a best seller after all.  As for the new book club, I couldn't go.  I was lying in bed watching the room spin suffering from a bout of vertigo. It must have been brought on by the book with characters and plot lines weaving faster than the lace in the story.  I'm learning not to be seduced by the words 'Best Seller' or a cover so captivating I can't resist and to be careful what I wish for. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Lesson Learned

I have no new book review for you this week.  I'm slogging through The Lace Reader.  I know what you're thinking.  It's a book I had to have so I could fit in to a new book club.   I just can't get into it however.  I'm already at page 110 and I still haven't been hooked.  I'll let you know if that changes.

The book I had been reading before The Lace Reader took over, called The Cave is also a slog.  I love the story but being that it's translated from Portuguese makes reading it a bit slower.  Now I'm stuck between two difficult stories.  I'm committed to reading all the books on my shelf.  Passing it along before I finish is not an option in this project.  I must finish what I start. 

A part of following the 12 steps on my road to overcome my book addiction, is that I have to take the good with the bad, the easy with the hard.  But I won't give up.  At night when I read in bed I just get to turn the light out a little sooner, Ginger doesn't have to wait so long for her evening biscuits and I get in a few more winks. 

Maybe that's another lesson learned.  I need more sleep.  Or is it be careful what you wish for when in the bookstore.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Back in the Confessional

Some days I think I subconsciously started this blog to confess my sins, not for the loftier goal of expanding my readers minds through books.  I've been bad.  I admit it.  Here's what I've done lately.

I've been invited to join a new book club.  I only know one person in the club and she admits she never reads the book, but goes for the socializing.  They meet each month at a different restaurant for dinner and discussion.  The February selection is 'The Lace Reader' so I had to get a copy didn't I?  I like to discuss books AND socialize.

Saturday, I attended a writing conference and in typical conference fashion, they had a book store and book signings.  Need I say more.  I did limit myself to one reference book titled 'How to be a Selling Fiction Writer'.   I'm showing some restraint, aren't I?  I didn't walk out with an arm load.

After seeing a stage rendition on 'South Pacific' at the local theater, I felt I should add some Michener to my reading list.  In this case however I ordered it from Paperback Swap.  I got it for free.  I have used this service in the past to trade books I've finished.  It is a wonderful way to recycle and spread the joy of books.  I didn't actually go out into the world and 'buy' a new book.  It's been well read.

My list is getting longer, not shorter.  I seem to be in the mode of taking two steps forward then three steps back.  In the name of research, I also picked up a book about women and addiction when I was in the book store.  Confessing is cleansing and every time I fall down, I have to pick myself back up again.  I hope you've noticed that I haven't moved myself past step 2 until I get a better handle on what is fueling my obsession.  My bookshelf has become and still is, unmanageable.  I'm just beginning to understand the reasons why. 

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...