Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

“You gotta imagine what’s never been.”

TitleSecret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Narrator: Jenna Lamia
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9781565115392
Length: 10 hours
Published:
Source: public library
Rating: 4/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: I wanted an audiobook to listen to on a 4.5 hour drive to and from my family’s cottage where I went to spend a few days for vacation. But I wanted a story that I sort of already knew, because some of the driving took concentration (I don’t like busy 6-lane highways). So I’d seen this movie and figured that, since I knew the basic premise at least, it’d be a good one to listen to. And I really enjoyed Jenna Lamia’s narration in Edenborn by Nick Sagan, so I thought I’d try another of hers.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart’s answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily’s beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of–Tiburon, South Carolina–determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily’s story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd’s debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic. –Regina Marler

My Thoughts: This story reminded me a lot of The Rain Catchers by Jean Thesman, in feeling and mood. A teenage girl being raised by a collective of women, related or otherwise, who are somehow very wise and all that. The girl had a parent die and the other parent unfit to raise her–in this instance, Lily Owens, 14, losing her mother and living with her father. (Gray, 14/15, lived with her grandmother because her dad died and mother was, opposite T Ray Owens, just too busy to deal with a kid.) Both stories have something magical about them. I loved the bits about beekeeping in this book, the little quotes/passages from non-fiction books about beekeeping–mostly these were about the Queen. Beekeeping is something that I’m guessing a lot of people don’t know much about, so giving it this mystical touch was a great move on Kidd’s part.

Thoughts on Audiobook Format: I was pleasantly surprised to discover upon checking this out from the library, that Jenna Lamia was the narrator. She narrated Penny’s portions of Edenborn by Nick Sagan and did such a great job as a disgruntled teenage girl who no one understands. So I was glad to see that she did a Southern teenage girl very well, too! She has a great voice.

Quotes/Passages I Liked:

“Remembering is everything.”

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“Regrets don’t help anything.”

Heartless by Gail Carriger

TitleHeartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: fantasy
ISBN: 9780316127196
Length: 374 pages
Published: June 28, 2011
Source: personal collection
Rating: 4/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Published in 2011 Resolution

Reason for Reading: It’s #4 of a quintet, the final installment to come out in March. And, since I like the previous books, I obviously continued on!

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this one a lot more than I did the ending of Blameless. This one is very fast paced and the story pretty much takes place in a week. We learn a bit more about Professor Lyall, Beta in the Woolsey pack, and there’s a lot of involvement with Countess Nadasdy and her Westminster hive of vampires. Oh, and Felicity–Alexia’s annoying half-sister–gains a larger role. Although it sort of seems like Carriger wanted to get her into the story, then forgot about her, and then remembered and tried to add her back in.

It’s really hard to talk about the book without giving anything away from the previous three books. To put it simply, if you liked the first three books, this one will not disappoint! 🙂

Oh, I think I originally said I might have liked the modern English language in Victorian England. But I’m not so sure anymore. It wasn’t until Alexia asked someone if they were “making a funny” that I realized I might not really like it that much. Clearly that would not have been said in Victorian England.

Thoughts on the Cover: I like the first two covers of the series. But the third and fourth (that’s this one) I haven’t liked at all. It looks really cheap. It’s obvious the person is superimposed on another digitally moderated image of a castle. Not a fan 😦

Vacation Reads

I’m leaving for vacation after work today 🙂

I have finished Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (audiobook), but haven’t had time to write up my reviews yet. They’ll be posted as soon as I get home (no internet!)

I’m taking with me: Heartless by Gail Carriger (#4 of a continuing quintet), HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Everfree by Nick Sagan. And about 14 magazines that I haven’t read through yet (4 Cosmos, 5 Peoples, and 4 Entertainment Weeklys, the last two of which I’ve had a free trial run–I would never pay that much for a weekly magazine subscription!)

There’s No Place Like Home

I’m home! As you can see from my last post, I have been gone for pretty much the last week and a half, taking my belated honeymoon in Alaska 🙂 It was amazing. Alaska is so beautiful and we were lucky to have some really nice weather while we were there. Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

mountains from Auke Bay

humpback whale

Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau

An old brothel token, good for "one screw"

Sawyer Glacier in the background (the same as the picture in the previous post)

the Seattle Public Library, right across the street from our hotel 🙂

And, as my honeymoon was a cruise, there were a few days of only cruising (they were long days). So I did have a bit of time to read.

I finished The Odyssey by Homer on the cruise. I originally read it 9 years ago–when I was 14. It was required reading for my honors English class freshman year of high school. I didn’t really hate it at the time, I just thought it was long and the way it was written, as a poem, really threw me off. It’s probably one of the reasons I also don’t care for Shakespeare. With those odd breaks in the middle of sentences, my flow of reading gets disrupted. But this time around I was older, wiser, a stronger reader, and I had it on my Kindle, written in prose form. And I enjoyed it much better (4/5 stars from me). I also read it because I want to read The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, and I thought refreshing my mind of Homer’s tale would help when I get to it.

The biggest difference between my two readings of The Odyssey was probably how I viewed Odysseus (or Ulysses, as my edition called him 😦 ). Last time I found him to be a great warrior and hero, fighting so hard to get home to his family. This time around though, I sort of found him to be a jerk. I mean, how can someone try for 20 years to get home and always be thinking about his wife and child, but still allow himself to be seduced? True, I’ve never been scorned by a great Olympian god 🙂 But it doesn’t seem like he was all that truthful.

On the plane home, I also finished listening to Push by Sapphire (or Precious as it might more commonly be known, after the movie). I LOVED IT! (5/5 from me!) I am so glad that I listened to it on audiobook, especially with Bahni Turpin as the narrator. While I love reading books written in dialect, I think the fact that Precious had the dialect and a strong African American female voice made the story that much more real.

Now, if you don’t like bluntness and a direct approach to a story focusing a lot on incest and abuse, this might not be the book for you. But I loved it. It gave Precious such a strong voice as a character, even if some might find it weakened her as a person. She had to say/write much of her thoughts in order to make sense of them, which might be seen as a weakness. But I felt it made her character strong in the story.

This story made me feel very lucky to have had the advantages I did and to have the basic necessities I had, such as a loving family, growing up. I feel sad that there are people out there who have lives similar to that of Precious and I hope that someday there is a better way to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks like that.

me and my hubby (Nick) at the Mendenhall Glacier

GOING ON VACATION :o)

ALASKA, HERE I COME!!

I’m leaving for an Alaskan cruise tomorrow afternoon 🙂

It’s my husband’s and my delayed honeymoon–we got married this past December.

We’ll be gone for about a week, so I won’t be blogging much. But I’ll be reading on some downtime 😀

summer 2010 vacation, take two

I have already had my annual family summer vacation at our cottage this year, about a month ago. However, this year, I’m lucky and get to go on a second summer vacation this year–and to new places! I leave very early tomorrow morning to go to the UP of Michigan and, after half the week, I’ll be going south to Tennessee.

Since I’ll only be gone a week, I’m only taking a couple of books with me: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

I will have the internet while away, but I try to not spend vacation time on the internet–I have plenty of time for that when I’m not on vacation. So I’ll update when I get back 🙂

Home-from-Vacation Update

I am officially home from vacation 🙂 I did a lot of reading while I was away, because it was a little cooler than normal summers. However, as much reading as I did, I only finished 1 book completely and read about half of another, which I just finished today.

One thing that I realized when I couldn’t write on this blog was that, given I have the time, I like to write about my reactions to my books as I read them and not just sum everything up at the end of the novel. I realize that this means I will include spoilers, but I will give fair warning, if that is the case.

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The book I read while on vacation was called Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. I will post what I physically wrote on vacation in this post, but create a separate post for my review/summary of it.

June 28, 2010
I’m really liking this so far! I’m about 1/4 into it, and we still haven’t gotten to the slave revolution in Haiti. From the description on the book jacket, I’d thought this revolution would make up a major part. It could still be, since I’m not that far into it.

Nevertheless, I’m still enjoying how it is being built up! Haiti seems exotic, but the slavery really isn’t different from what it would be if it had been set in the American colonies. One part that particularly interested me is Eugenia. ~*~SPOILER~*~ She is the wife of a French plantation owner and she is , essentially, demented. She reminds me of Radcliffe’s wife in Jane Eyre, except her husband doesn’t hide her–he just ignores she exists. He thinks it’s his responsibility to put up with her and not place her somewhere. ~*~END SPOILER~*~ Eugenia also believes deeply in the voodoo that the slaves practice, and I think it’s very interesting how that voodoo works.

Another interesting occurrence so far into this book is a conversation about whether or not Africans are human. The plantation owner, obviously, feels they are less than human, while someone he knows feels the opposite. Here is the owner’s rationale: “Blacks have the constitution for heavy work, they feel less pain and fatigue, their brain power is limited, they do not know how to make choices, they are violent, disorderly, lazy, and they lack ambition and noble sentiments.” (p81) It makes me sad as a human being to know that people for the longest time believed this was true…and some still do, to an extent.

June 29, 2010
I’ve finally reached the point in the novel when the revolution started. Now that I think about it, Allende didn’t spend too much time building up to it. Now that it has happened, she skips right ahead to the life for Valmorain (plantation owner) and Tete (slave, narrator for some chapters) and the children after they flee Saint Domnigue (Haiti). This surprised me, as I figured the whole novel would be more historical than fiction and I’m starting to wonder if it can be historical fiction.

While discussing the revolts and rebellion, Allende brought up something I hadn’t thought of before. She wrote: “The [white] women were converted into slaves and concubines, just as black women had been on the plantations.” I suppose I didn’t think about it because we didn’t have major slave revolts in the US.

~*~SPOILER~*~ The overseer of Valmorain’s plantation, Prosper Cambray, found it cowardly that Valmorain would flee when the slaves marched en masse toward his house. Cambray later kills himself because slaves were too close to capturing him. Contradictory? I think so. ~*~END SPOILER~*~

I was a little disappointed in something Allende did. She did something I think was very predictable. ~*~SPOILER~*~ She killed off Relais! The army officer. She alluded to Relais and Violette (his wife) having seen each other for the last time. So either of them could’ve died. I had hoped she might kill Violette as it wasn’t as probable as Relais dying, because it would be less predictable (not that I wanted either to die). ~*~END SPOILER~*~

You might wonder, why even write something if it’s got a lot of spoilers in it. But I think it’s important to keep all thoughts together. This way if someone who has read the book as well wants to, they can easily respond to it. And for those who might be interested and want a peek of the book, the spoilers can get them interested 😀