Thursday, March 31, 2011

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

"Oysters are a lot like women.
It's how we survive the hurts in life
that brings us strength and gives us our beauty."

Since half of the members of our book club disliked this book, this post might be extra long so that I can say everything I wanted to point out when we met last night. Don't say I didn't warn you :)

I absolutely loved this book. I felt like I was on the verge of tears the entire time because I was sad or touched or happy or simply reflective. CeeCee is such a lovable character. She is an innocent child but also faces a more adult world than she should ever have to see. I love her resilience but also her very tender heart. I think Beth Hoffman does a wonderful job at creating a believable character in CeeCee. 

One of my favorite things about this book was the language. It was utterly beautiful. Things were said in such a romantic manner that I found myself marking down quotes every couple of pages because I felt the characters were talking directly to me. I'm going to share a bunch of those quotes (unless I specify otherwise, it's the narrator, CeeCee, talking):

"When a chapter of your Life Book is complete, your spirit knows it's time to turn the page so a new chapter can begin. Even when you're scared or think you're not ready, your spirit knows you are." - Mrs. Odell

When my fingers touched the knob of the back door, something inside me shifted--I could actually feel it. I knew Mrs. Odell was right. I felt the flutter of a page turn deep within me as a chapter of my Life Book came to a close.

Those six simple words echoed around me and filled the room with light: I’d sure love to have you...I’d sure love to have you...

She glanced over her shoulder at the house, which was now bathed in a warm tint of yellow from the sun. "Yes. Everyone needs to find the one thing that brings out her passion. It’s what we do and share with the world that matters. I believe it’s important that we leave our communities in better shape than we found them." (-Aunt Tootie)

Mrs. Odell once told me that forgiveness had a whole lot more to do with the person doing the forgiving than it did with the person in need of forgiveness. She said holding on to hurt and anger made about as much sense as hitting your head with a hammer and expecting the other person to get a headache.

"I know this is the same sky that hangs over Ohio, but the sun seems bigger here. Everything seems bigger."
She pursed her lips and thought about that for a moment. "Maybe your eyes is just more open." (-Oletta)

(After CeeCee witnessed her new black friends robbed and assaulted) I thought about all the scary stories I’d read where evil-eyed villains left me paralyzed with fear in the wee hours of the night. Yet, no matter what they did or threatened to do, I always knew I could close the book and make them go away. But the man at Tybee Island was real, and what he did had changed my view of the world. Forever.

Miz Obee’s face tensed, but Sapphire looked at her friend kindly, patted the table, and said, "Just set up the board as best you can. We’ll play with whatever we got." I thought that was one of the wisest things I’d ever heard anyone say.

As I watched this silent exchange between Sapphire and Miz Obee, it occurred to me that that’s what friends should do: cherish the good and pretend not to notice the harmless rest.

I actually have a bunch more marked, but I'm tired of typing, and you're probably tired of reading :) Bottom line, I thought this was a heartfelt book with lovable characters, written beautiful that contained countless bits of wisdom. I recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

"With a boy you can never know whether he's smitten or gagging, but with a girl you can tell in the first three seconds. Between girls there is a silent and unending flow of invisible signals, like the high-frequency wireless messages between the shore and the ships at sea, and this secret flow of dots and dashes was signaling that Mary detested me."

I read this book because it was chosen as Jamie's book club selection. I don't seem to ever make it to their discussions, but I like to read the books anyway. This one was wonderful. I hesitate to give books too good of reviews, because if people take my suggestion for a book I don't want them to be disappointed if it doesn't live up to their expectations. But I mean it--this was SUCH a fun book. The narrator is an 11-year-old girl, which makes the whole book. It would not be the same story if it weren't told from her perspective. 

I love Flavia's knowledge of chemistry and the way it shapes her outlook. I love her sarcasm and relationship with the adults in the book. I'm not going to go into specifics, because I really think you should just read this one for yourself. It's a relatively quick read, and I think Flavia is just so charming that you will instantly fall in love.

If you do decide to read it, please let me know what you think!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

"When I look at you
I see the woman I want to be
Strong and brave
Beautiful and free"

Last night after sleeping away most of the day and getting caught up on my DVR, I felt like reading, but none of the books I'm currently working on appealed to me. So I picked this one up off the shelf. I bought it online from Barnes and Noble during their after-Christmas clearance but couldn't remember what it was about. Let's just say that after a week of stress and tears, this was the wrong book selection. The author tells this story through notes between a mother and daughter, left on the refrigerator door. The notes show a typical relationship--simple store lists for the daughter to pick up after school, the daughter angry at her mom for a fight they got in about a boyfriend, plans made for a breakfast or dinner together. But the notes also reveal the mother's struggles as she finds out she has breast cancer and finds it hard to tell her daughter the truth. The book was a quick read--I easily read it in about an hour--but heart-wrenching.

*Sniff sniff* I'm grateful for reminders of how much I love my mom.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

"'ve been told and not told..."

I have to say that this book had enormous potential, and now that I've finished it I feel such a letdown.

When Miss Lucy goes off on page 81 and tells the students that no one is being honest with them about the future, that they've been told and not told, I thought how clever! The author was telling the reader something directly through a character's dialogue. I was so impressed. The entire book had been guesswork for the reader up to that point. You were given just enough information to form some assumptions about the subject of the book, and your assumptions (well, my assumptions at least) end up being correct. But your process through the book is exactly the same as the students' throughout their time at Hailsham. They learn about things before they can actually understand what they mean. The reader is the same way. In that regard, I loved how SMART this book was.

But I also hated how dumb the book was at times. For instance, the feelings between Kathy and Tommy are not believeable. I think you want Tommy and Kathy to fall in love, but all the sudden Ruth tells them they're meant to be together, they're having sex and searching for Madame. I just didn't buy it. It didn't feel sincere and it was almost insulting that the author expected their relationship (as it was developed in the book) to be enough for the reader.

I think this book had enormous potential as commentary on the moral dilemmas posed by the possibility of cloning or even lesser scientific advancements. But it fell short, and I was disappointed.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Emma by Jane Austen

"...this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults..."

It has been a goal of mine for a long time to read a Jane Austen book, so I was extremely happy when Kimmy chose it as our February Book Club selection. I bought it and started reading right away. It was much more accessible than I expected. I've tried reading Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion before and never made it far in either. But I was immediately caught up in Emma. Then school got busy and I was reading a book a week it seemed just to keep up with homework. Needless to say, I didn't finish in time for Book Club; I was so upset with myself. To be truthful, I rarely finish our group selections. I guess I have a mental block against doing what I'm told. However, I was completely set on finishing this time. As punishment to myself (but also because I didn’t want to hear the ending) I stayed home from Book Club last night and resolved to finish. And I did!

In general, I very much enjoyed this book. I was excited to see the change in Emma as the story progressed. I found her a very interesting character from the start but didn’t like her very much, as a person. However, I was immediately a fan of her relationship with Mr. Knightley. I loved how he kept her in check, not afraid to tell her when she was being difficult or out-of-line. Yet he also sincerely cared about her. So I guess you could say that I guessed the end from the beginning in that regard. The same is true of Jane Fairfax having a secret past with Frank Churchill and Hannah continuing to have feelings for Mr. Martin. Perhaps these things were obvious to everyone from the start; I don’t know. So while I can’t say I found this book particularly suspenseful or surprising, I think it speaks volumes for both the quality of writing and the story that I stayed so invested.

I loved Mr. Woodhouse and all his eccentricities. I loathed Mrs. Eaton. She’s a conceited little beast. Miss Bates was thoroughly entertaining to me, and I loved that she was the cause of the biggest change in Emma’s character. Following Emma’s behavior at Box Hill, I felt so bad for Miss Bates. I loved that Mr. Knightley called Emma out on it. I also loved that Mr. Knightley’s disapproval of the situation had such an effect on her. Emma successfully swallowed her pride (which she rarely had to do), and Miss Bates was as forgiving as I hoped. I was entertained by how well-developed all of the characters were. They felt real to me–I almost felt like I could guess some of their behavior beforehand because I understood them so well. I think that’s rare to find in books.

Needless to say, I loved it. I want my own Mr. Knightley but feel very much as Emma did about marriage throughout most of the book.

Some passages that jumped out at me:
"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find other people charming–one other person at least."

"As for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about . . . and though my attachment to none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is warmer and blinder. My nephews and nieces!"

"But where little minds belong to rich people in authority, I think they have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite as unmanageable as great ones."

"What is right to be done cannot be done too soon."

And my favorite:
"He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery."

Another Blog?

I can hear you groaning right now. As if my self-indulgent Life in Limbo blog weren't enough, I started the joint efforts of a So We Think We Know Dance blog (that Jessica and I used for all of 2 minutes) and a Book Club blog (that I'm pretty sure no one in the group looks at but me). And now here's a fourth? To be entirely honest, this blog is more for me than for you. A few years ago, I bought a Book Lust journal to keep track of all the books I read and my thoughts on  them. It's still empty. Yet I've been relatively good at updating Goodreads and my blog with what books I finish and when. I was adding Never Let Me Go to my Currently-reading Shelf on Goodreads when I saw the poll on their website asking whether or not I kept a book blog. At first I thought of our Book Club blog and almost marked yes. Then I thought--I should keep a blog of the books I read personally. So here I am. I intend to write about the books I'm reading and have read and my thoughts on them. Most posts will probably contain spoilers, so you should avoid reading unless you've already finished the book I'm talking about or have no intention of doing so.

So, we'll see how this goes. PLEASE comment with your thoughts. If you've read the books I talk about, let me know! If you have suggestions of similar books I might like, I'd love to hear them. Happy reading!