Monday, August 25, 2014

The Secret Life of Bees

Novels set in the south in times past are one of my favorite types of novels to read.  The Secret Life of Bees is just that.  Lily Owens is a motherless child.  She has foggy memories of the late afternoon her mother was killed.  Who she is and what her life is about is shaped by viewing that tragic end to her mother's life.  She is left with a father who is steeped in bitterness and cannot let go of the past.  Lily's story takes place in South Carolina in 1964.  Racial tension abounds with integration having been recently legislated, but not accepted in Sylvan, North Carolina; as in most of the South.  Lily's father has a black female employee whom he has handed over Lily's daily care to.  She insults the most racist man in Sylvan and is thrown in jail.  Lily decides that she and Rosaleen must escape.  She plots Rosaleen's escape from the hospital after being beaten by the man she insulted.  They run to Tiburon, S.C.  There is where Lily finds her mother's history and is taken in by an eccentric family of female beekeepers.  She lives and works with them and they employ Rosaleen as well.  Sue Monk Kidd is the author of this tale and she spins it well.  It seems just like the type of thing that could have happened and she writes is with a grace and beauty that make this book a good read.  The author does a good job of describing the interaction between characters as well as their surroundings.  Describing Lily's thought she writes "Sunset is the saddest light there is.  We rode a long time in the glow of it, everything silent except for the crickets and the frogs who were revving up for twilight.  I stared through the windshield as the burned lights took over the sky."   I can imagine being in that scene.  This book is a good escape but still has an absorbing story line.  If you haven't read it, pick it up and do so.  I recently took this on vacation to read and it was an excellent choice.  Five stars for The Secret Life of Bees.  FYI, this has been made into a movie also, so you can read and then watch, or vice versa, whichever you like.

Stay tuned for my next review on the newest release from Lisa Wingate, The Story Keeper.  See you soon!

Monday, August 18, 2014

With Every Breath

With Every Breath will leave you breathless!  That is no exaggeration.  From the cover, this book looks like a mild romance-not that the cover isn’t beautiful.  It is.  However, it belies the intrigue, mystery and passion that are between the pages of this book.  Simply put, I loved it!  Kate Livingston is a government worker in Washington D.C. and she is hoping that she can someday do work that fits her intelligence and talent.  Never able to attend college, she helps out at her parent’s boarding house when not working her day job at a government census bureau.  She accepts a job working for her old high school rival whom she had hoped to never see again.  He has become a doctor and she cannot turn down the opportunity to do important work helping him find a cure for tuberculosis.  Need I say more?!  I will leave you to watch this story unfold.  A word to the wise; set aside a few uninterrupted days to read this.  Seriously!  I finished it in three days and that was because I could only put it down to sleep-and barely that!  Ms. Camden writes with a style that makes reading an easy enjoyable journey while at the same time having the ability to write complications to the plot that are a natural outcome of the characters’ personalities and quirks.  The story fits the characters that she draws-she knows her story, fits her characters to that story and transports the reader to that time and place.  This was my first time to read a novel by this author but it will not be my last.   Well done, Ms. Camden!  I give With Every Breath five stars!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review.  These words are my opinion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hawaii by James Michener

Yes, this is an oldie but goodie.  More accurately Hawaii is a contemporary classic.  Published in 1959 it was a New York Times #1 Bestseller.  It is grand in scope and sweeping in historic detail.  Beginning with the very formation of the islands by volcanic activity, said to be millions of years ago and ending with Election Day 1954, Mr. Michener writes of the people and the land as is if he lived through all of it. This is the mark of an expert storyteller.  Michener is also one that can fill your eyes with an immense amount of detail and still keep you turning the pages.  He tells us of the lengthy trip of the first inhabitants of Hawaii, the natives from Bora Bora who left their home looking for a new place to settle where they would not be under the wrath of the gods.  His description of the strict New England missionary who brought Christianity to Hawaii aptly describes the starched collar mentality of the New England Congregationalism, learned at Yale in the early 1820’s.  The author takes us through all of the life happenings, grief and joy of the native Hawaiians as they lived it.  He allows us to feel the struggle against the church teachings brought by Abner Hale, the struggle to keep their culture, some of which was inhumanely barbaric in its quest to appease the gods.  His descriptions of the discovery of the rich volcanic soil which allowed many varieties of plants and fruits to grow which could not be grown anywhere else are beautiful.  This novel is abounding with life and all that goes with it.  If I were to tell you all the good reading contained between the pages of this book, I would be writing way longer than you want to read this blog.  I will instead, tell you that it is more than worth picking up and getting involved in.  It can be checked out at your local library, or picked up at a discount bookstore.  You can probably even run across a copy of this book when you are out and about on a garage sale day.  I took it off my bookshelf where I have had it for several years and been trying to read for a long time.  On a scale of my usual one to five stars, I give Hawaii six stars!
Thanks so much for being here.  Come back next week for my review of Elizabeth Camden’s newest offering With Every Breath.  It will have you holding your breath with anticipation of the outcome.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Trail

The Trail is about finding God’s will for you and the trail you “hike” to get to that place.  Ed Underwood has written a small, short gem with good scripture references to go along with this journey.  Though written as a novel, it presents principles that are part of the method he is teaching in the story.  He takes us with Sam, an old “mountain man firefighter” turned pastor and Matt and Brenda, a couple who is facing a big decision and each using a different thought process to arrive at that decision.  Close friends send them on a trip with Sam into the High Sierras where he teaches them eight scriptural principals that keep them centered on God and focused on finding His will.  I liked this book.  I did find it sometimes difficult to keep up with the details of the hike itself and the directions that Sam was giving to Matt and Brenda, which were integral to the process.  It was not a really easy read but it was worth sticking with it for the end.  The added issue of the old man working through one of his personal relationship problems at the same time he was teaching Matt and Brenda, was a distraction I could have done without.  It did add an element of humanity to the character of Sam, lest we think he has it all wrapped up in a pretty package!  As I read this I was thinking I would need to go back and find each principle and write it down with the scripture reference.  But, when I got to the end of the book, the list of principles and scripture references was recapped there, making it an easy reference.  This book also includes a discussion guide which lends itself to small groups or Bible study groups.  The outdoor theme is a refreshing change.  This is a book that you can keep on your shelf and refer back to from time to time when you feel challenged to discern God’s guidance in a situation you may face.  It would also be a good gift book for a graduate or young married couple.  I give The Trail four stars!

I received a complementary review copy of The Trail from the publisher, Tyndale, in exchange for my honest review.  These words are my opinion.