Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Reviews

So, I finally finished The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I started it way back at the end of October, I think, so it's about damned time. I liked it from the beginning, but I got sidetracked by having to read a different book for my book club (that review a bit later) right in the middle of it. Also, I only read right before bed, and I had been going to bed long after MonkeyPants was asleep, and it bothers her to have the lamp on, and I haven't yet found a book light that's worth a shit. So, I spent several weeks not reading anything at all and just playing Bejeweled before bed. What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't take my tardiness in finishing the book to mean that I didn't enjoy it.

Because I did. Like, a lot. So much so, in fact, that I put up with a shitty book light the last several nights just so I could keep reading. I was actually holding the book in one hand and the light in the other, shining down the page as I read because no position allowed by the clip-on feature lit the whole page at once. I might as well have been using a flashlight. But you make accommodations for things you love, and so I did.

If you haven't read it, it's about a white girl whose mother dies when she is young and who grows up being mistreated by her father. After springing her black nanny from jail, the two flee their home and go in search of answers about the girl's mother. They end up staying with three black beekeeping women in a pink house. The story is told against a backdrop of 1964 civil rights struggles in the south and ends up being a story about the feminine divine, the power of sisterhood, and the healing power of love. Which sounds like it came right off the book jacket, but it didn't. I think it came from inside the book somewhere.

Anyway, Sue Monk Kidd is the kind of writer I enjoy. She is inventive with the language, she fully fleshes out her characters, and she believably tells a story from a specific voice - in this case, the voice of a fourteen-year-old girl who she admits is not much like herself at all. The longing and the aching in the book were palpable. I felt that character. I identified with that character despite growing up in the 80s in the white midwest with two great parents. That's how expertly crafted the book was. Two thumbs, way up.

Contrast this with that fucking book I had to read for the book club, which, unfortunately, ended up being The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Now, I admit I'm no fan of the romance genre, so I was not excited about the book from the start. Also, I'm not a fan of books that become movies featuring James Garner. Just as a general rule. So The Notebook was going to have to work very hard to win me over.

But, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, it didn't. The story itself was okay for the most part, except that it was a sappy romance with an unbelievable subplot about true love conquering Alzheimer's. It's just that the writing was so different from pretty much anyting else I've read. And by different, I mean horrible. Absolutely uninventive, no creativity, no sophisitication. He did this. Then she did that. Then they went there. Then she said something. Then there was an awkwardly written sex scene. Then they cried. Then she got Alzheimer's. Then he saved her. I think I vomited syrup.

But as bad as the book was, I thought the movie was worse. And here's the weird thing - I was irritated that the movie was so different from the book, and I hated the book! Isn't it a sign of a shitty book when the story has to be changed so significantly to still end up being a shitty movie? Of course, I couldn't say any of this to my book clubbers (all two of them) because the announcement of The Notebook as our selection is what got them there in the first place. No, instead I said things like how different it was from most things I read, how I didn't really enjoy the writing all that much - fairly benign stuff. I didn't want to shit on a book they really liked and risk them not coming back again. My hope is that we can get a group of six or eight so there might be someone else who can shit on a book they really liked so I don't have to do it. And if someone decides not to come back, it will be no big deal. But for this first meeting, I played nicey nice and only sort of gave the book a thumbs down. In reality, it deserved about four thumbs down. But that's just my opinion.

Our next selection is The Devil Wears Prada, which I hope draws a bigger crowd. At least I know I already like the movie. White-haired Meryl Streep. 'Nuff said.

And while I'm reading that, I'm also going to start one of the books we got from Mama MonkeyPants for the holiday. Wanna help me pick? The choices are A Thousand Spendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire.

Also, anyone know of a good brand of book light?


jwolfe3232 said...

I am glad you liked The Secret Life of Bees. I read it a couple of years ago and really liked it too.

Since you were talking about books to movies, did you see that there has been a movie made from The Kite Runner? That should be interesting - either really, really good, or really, really bad. I am hoping for good. It was a wonderful book.

Here's to Prada! At least you are getting a few to read! What a wonderful thing!!!

CrazyBunnyLady said...

Happy New Year!!

Kore said...

Ooo, my vote is for Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister...then if you like it, I'll read it too.

Miss you guys a lot!

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