Showing posts with label book club. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book club. Show all posts

(Gently) Pushing Buttons

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm used to being the OBITR (Only Black In The Room). It happens all the time. Depending on the situation, occasionally I take my position very seriously and use it to raise awareness of an issue, challenge a perception or present another way of thinking. I feel as though I've been talking about race a lot lately, but it's been all around me in posts, books I've read and discussions I've had so it's been on my mind a lot. Most recently I had to educate my book club friends a little bit. [warning: book spoiler alerts]

The last title we read for book club was The Hunger Games. In the first part of the evening while we having dinner, almost everyone was talking about the books (most went on to read the other two right away). The comments were all about how much they loved the series and were excited to hear all the casting news for the movie. After dinner we talked about the current book, The Kitchen House.

All of us loved this book, too. It's set on a tobacco plantation in the south. The story is told through two narrators. One is Lavinia, an Irish indentured servant whose parents die on the trip over from Ireland. Her brother is sold to a different owner and she lives the first years of her life on the plantation with the slaves. The other narrator, Belle, is one of the slaves on the plantation. She works in the kitchen house and her connection to the plantation owner causes problems for everyone throughout most of the book. 

As the conversation went on, someone said they typically don't like to read books with a lot of tragedy and violence in them and said she was glad the author, Kathleen Grissom, didn't get too descriptive with the treatment of the slaves because she probably wouldn't have liked the book as much. Many others agreed.

Now, if you've read The Hunger Games series, you might be shaking your head. If you haven't read them, let me explain the premise: Every year, the ruling class of a post apocalyptic dystopian society, The Capitol, hosts The Hunger Games. The games are a punishment for the lower classes' previous attempted rebellion.  The Capitol creates an outdoor arena with all types of hazards and then forces 24 children chosen at random to fight to the death in the arena on live TV.

I had to take a moment because it struck me as odd. In The Hunger Games, half the contests die at each others' hands in the first few moment's of the games. Through the rest of the book there are poisonous plants, wasps whose venom either kills or brings on hallucinations, knives to the back, rocks to the skull and death by spear. And that's only in the first half of the first book!

So, reading about teenagers killing each other or dying violently as sport for the rich is fine, but slaves being whipped, burned or hung is just too much? As OBITR, I felt I needed to (gently) point out what I saw as a hypocrisy*. I said I was glad Grissom didn't try to clean up what happened to slaves. 

"I think it's sad authors have to dumb down the type of violence blacks experienced at the hands of their owners and make it more palatable in order for people to want to educate themselves about the time period."

Yep, I went there.

I can only presume the woman who made the original statement was thinking that Hunger Games is pure fiction, whereas The Kitchen House is fiction based in factual events. For the record she also said she couldn't watch Schindler's List for the same reason. I guess I just can't imagine avoiding certain topics because of their truth. In my mind, it's the truthfulness that leads to empathy. I'm not Jewish, but the little I know about the Holocaust made me want to learn more about the difference between Judaism and Catholicism. 

In my opinion, The Kitchen House isn't overly graphic. I think the events in the book are part of the characters' truth, and the truth is they were slaves on a plantation. Bad (beyond horrible) things happened to slaves on plantations. To ignore that, to leave it out of the story wouldn't have been an accurate representation of the south during that time.

My fellow book club members' response struck me as the literary equivalent of sticking her fingers in her ears. "La, la, la, la I can't hear you." Which everyone has a right to do.

My statement was well received. Not that I care about that too much but I don't want to make book club awkward. I enjoy my time there but don't want to be "that person" who turns every conversation into controversy. I can only hope I gave everyone something to think about. Omitting details or downplaying them doesn't make them any less true.

Do you feel the same way as my club member about the books you read? Is there such a thing as too real?

*Hypocrisy is probably too strong of a word but I couldn't think of better one. Photo from Google Images

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Very Valentine | Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The amount of books I'm reading is directly proportionate to how much I ignore my site. As you can probably tell, I've been reading A LOT. I seem to have really good reading juju because it's been awhile since I've picked up a book that sucked. (and with that, I just jinxed myself)

These are the books I've read over the last three weeks:

Brava, Valentine: A NovelThe Hunger Games
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

I loved all of them!

I've read all of Adriana Trigiani's books except for her essays and young adult titles. I love her writing style, her characters and how all her books are about the importance of family. Brava, Valentine is the second book with Valentine Roncalli as the main character. The Roncalli family business is custom made shoes. How could I not like the books?

If you have not heard of the Hunger Games series, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore. I take that back. If you say you did not enjoy the Hunger Game, *then* we can't be friends. I know the premise of the books sounds bad; kids from a futuristic dystopian society forced to fight to the death; but that part of the series kind of takes a backseat to the love story, political unrest, family and friendship. At least it did for me. I cannot wait for the movie!

What are you reading? What should I add to my shelf on GoodReads?

*Amazon affiliate links used

Oprah Let Me Down

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Book Addiction' photo (c) 2010, Emily Carlin - license:
For the past few weeks I've been juggling two books. One was our December/January book club selection and the other just because. Both are really meaty books, 600+ pages. Both are on Oprah's book lists. Both of them suck! 

I usually stick with a book. No matter how awful it is, I'll keep plugging away, especially if the book is something tons of other people talk about and love. Well, not this time. I waved the white book mark, threw in the proverbial towel. I took Freedom back to the library yesterday after about 250 pages. 

I didn't like the characters. I didn't like Franzen's writing style. I didn't care about the story. It was a giant snooze. I feel like a quitter but I have about 50 books in my 'to be read' and most of them look so good. I'd walk past them all on my way to bed knowing that one of them was going to knock my socks off and then open Freedom. I couldn't take it anymore. 

Then there's Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True. I'm about 360 pages into it. I was really looking forward to it because both Deb and Mary loved it. But it's soooooo depressing! Not that depressing is bad. I've read books with heavy themes before and still enjoyed them. But this? Whoa.

We already had our book club meeting so I know the ending. This one I'm going to stick with (I think) but only because I want to see how certain plot lines play out. I will say I enjoy the writing in this book much better than Freedom. I haven't read too may of Oprah's book club selections but I've liked all the titles I've read. Until now.

What books have you waved the white book mark on? Have you read Freedom or I Know This Much is True? What did you think?

2011 Reading List

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm not always good at updating these lists, but for the most part they're pretty complete. I have lists for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Holly's Inbox and Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City - (Holly Denham) Both of these are true chick lit. They are told entirely through the email exchanges between Holly, her friends and family. Every book set in Britain is compared to Bridget Jones in some way and this series is no exception. But I liked them both and they're totally quick reads.

Bloodroot - (Amy Greene) This was great! I don't know where I get my fascination with books set in the South. The characters are great and the setting is perfect.

I wrote more about Denham and Greene's books here.

Brava, Valentine - (Adriana Trigiani) I've said before how much I love her books and this was no exception. Just as good, if not better, than Very Valentine.

The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay - (Suzanne Collins) Holy wow, I loved this series! There are very few books I will race out and buy in hardback but I did for the second two books. I read all three within a week. Now I'm getting caught up in all the movie news too. I can't wait until next year when it comes out! The series is marketed young adult but, like Harry Potter, adults are reading it too. So good!

The Kitchen House Another love. It's hard reading books about slavery and the south but it's enlightening as well. This one definitely had parts that were hard to read, but the story wouldn't ring true if those elements were left out. I heard criticism of The Help because it didn't "go there." The Kitchen House definitely does. This was for book club.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - (Rebecca Skloot) I almost don't know what to say other than I loved it. I can't call it a 'story' because it's all fact. Skloot does an excellent job telling the Lacks family history, what happened to Henrietta and how Henrietta's cancer cells have become one of the most important aspects of modern medicine. It's a fascinating read.

While I'm Falling The Rest of Her Life- (Laura Moriarty) The first book I read by Moriarty was The Center of Everything. I love her writing style. Some of her sentences are so beautiful. I finished Falling and went straight to the library for Life. I rarely read an author back to back unless I'm totally captivated. Both these books are really good.

Star Island - (Carl Hiaasen) I really like his books. His agenda is pretty obvious (conservation, protecting wildlife) but it's such a subplot it's not obnoxious. His books are funny and silly. This one is about an actress who is hired as a stand in for a pop star. There's kidnapping and paparazzi. Hiaasen has great one liners. All his books are fast reads.

I love the HBO series True Blood so it seemed obvious I should start reading the books the series is based on. They are just different enough from the series to keep both interesting. In the past two weeks I've read the first three books: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas and Club Dead and last night I almost finished Dead to the World. So far I love them all. (Charlaine Harris)

Room - (Emma Donoghue) Oh man, I loved this book! I read it in two days. I had only heard good things about the book and skipped reading a synopsis or review. The way it was written, I had no idea what was happening until it was revealed. Once the twist of the book was revealed, it seemed even more brilliant. I don't want to say too much and spoil it. You won't regret this one.

The rest of the Sookie Stackhouse series - I'm currently reading book 10, Dead in the Family, I have A Touch of Dead in the wings and book 11 on hold at the library. These are the literary equivalent of eye candy.

What She Wants - (Kathy Kelly) So far, all the books I've read from Kelly I have liked and this one followed the same path.

Backseat Saints - (Joshilyn Jackson) Oh how I love Jackson! I've read all of her books and each one was fantastic. She's one of the few authors I recommend to everyone.

A Discovery of Witches - (Deborah Harkness) Wow. I picked this up because I remember seeing a great review in Entertainment Weekly. It did not disappoint. It's a big book, but it was an easy read. If you like historical fiction, this is for you.

I wrote a little more about these three books here

I Know This Much is True - (Wally Lamb) ZZZzzzzz. I put this down. I said in my review I might pick it up again to see how some plot lines evolved, but I never did.

Freedom - (Johnathan Franzen) Another dull, boring book. For something that hefty, it was a complete let down.

Lessons in Heartbreak - (Cathy Kelly) I liked this book, but I didn't like the subject matter. Extramarital affairs are a touchy subject. I think Kelly handled it well, but I was angry with the main character for the whole book. Still, it was a good read.

The Secret of Joy - (Melissa Senate) I really liked this. This is the first book of hers I've read. The main character finds out she has a half sister at the same time she starts a new relationship.

Greetings from Somewhere Else - (Monica McInerney) In the same way Cathy Kelly sets her books in Ireland, all of McInerney's books are set in Australia (I hear my friend Tonya's voice when I'm reading them). I liked this book. I've always wanted a sister, so books about the relationship between female siblings interest me. I've read four others of her books and this was just as good.

Bossypants -  (Tina Fey) If I could only use one word to describe this book it would be hysterical. I'm so glad I chose Bossypants as my first audio book. It's read by Fey herself and she does an excellent job. Had I chosen the print version, this would be the book that would have had me spitting coffee out of my nose in Starbucks. I hope she writes more.

2010 Reading List

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I didn't do such a great job at keeping up with my reading list last year. I'd like to do better this year because it is nice to be able to look back and see what books impacted me and in what ways. I'll move this over to the sidebar shortly along with the lists for 2008 and 2009. (all links are Amazon affiliate)

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else - (Michael Gates Gill) This wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. Still, it was interesting to read about and "old, white guy" losing his status and privilege but finding meaning and happiness in working for others.

Love and Other Natural Disasters - (Holly Shumas) Loved it! A good, fast read about infidelity in a marriage. I've felt an emotional affair would be much harder to overcome than a physical one and this book confirms that.

Never Change - (Elizabeth Berg) I said before in last year's reading list that she's one of my new favorites and this book didn't disappoint.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing -  (Melissa Bank) Loved it! I really like her writing style and some of her sentences were beautiful. Very fast read.

U is for Undertow (Kinsey Millhone Mystery) - (Sue Grafton) Not as good as some of her other alphabet series but still enjoyable and super fast.

The Help  - (Kathryn Stockett) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I can't stop telling people about this book. I read it in a few days. It's a different take on white privilege, racism and class. I was skeptical of a book on those themes written by a white woman but Stockett did a great job.

Someone Like You - (Cathy Kelly) I really like her books. I've thought before they are a little longer than they need to be and had the same feeling with this one. The ending was predictable but it was still a good, light read.

The Friday Night Knitting Club - (Kate Jacobs) I've been wanting to read this for awhile. I like books about female friendships and bonding. This was a little cliche at times with the mother/daughter rebellious pre-teen relationship, but I liked and appreciated the way she handled the mixed couple and bi-racial daughter. An easy, quick read.

Little Earthquakes - (Jennifer Weiner) I've read all of her books, my favorites being Good in Bed and In Her Shoes. Typical me, they're light, fast easy reads.

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel - (Audrey Niffenegger) I loved The Time Traveler's Wife so much I feel the bar was set super high for her second book. It started slow but I kept at it. I ended up really enjoying it.

A Reliable Wife - (Robert Goolrick) Loved! Even though it felt a little slow at times it was really, really good. How this man could know what he knows but still love his wife anyway is amazing! I can't say much without ruining it but the twist at the end blindsided me.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder - (Rebecca Wells) I read all the Ya Ya books and loved them. This one didn't read the same and I didn't like it as much, but it's still a good story overall. Read my full review here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -  (Steig Larsson) I'd heard such great things about this book I expected to be blown away. I had a really hard time getting into it. Because of the raves I stuck with it but it didn't really start to hold my interest until about page 130. That's a loooonggg time for a book to be only 'OK'. But, it picked up after that I ended up enjoying it. I'll probably get the next book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, but definitely not a new copy.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (Tony Hsieh) I really liked this. The Zappos CEO is a good storyteller and the from the ground up history of Zappos is fascinating. Read the full review here.

Very Valentine - (Adriana Trigiani) Loved. I started reading her with the Big Stone Gap series and I've been a fan ever since. I'm looking forward to the next in this series.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  - (Jamie Ford) I loved this book. It was recommended to me by someone with a connection to the real hotel featured in the book. It's a fast read and a great love story. Read my full review.

Goodbye, Jimmy Choo - (Annie Sanders) Of course I picked the book up because of the shoes. The story is about two women who are different but end up becoming friends and starting a business together. I didn't love it, but I liked it a lot better than I thought I would.

Belong to Me: A Novel - (Marissa de los Santos) I loved it. I read her other book, Love Walked In, and knew I'd enjoy her second book. I like stories of complicated family relationships and this one didn't disappoint.

The Kommandant's Girl - (Pam Jenoff) I like this book. It deals with the Nazi occupation of Poland but it's not as depressing as that sounds. I think the ending was a little abrupt but otherwise it was good.

The Girl Who Played with Fire - (Steig Larsson) The second in the trilogy. I definitely liked this better than Dragon Tattoo. It started off better and the pace was good. I think it only took me three days.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - (Steig Larsson) This is the last in the trilogy. I loved it. I read it in two days. All the plots come together nicely. I'm sad that it's over and hope the rumors of another novel are true.
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