Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #21: Fabookulous June 27, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Book description:

Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around one devastating, blurred memory- the afternoon her mother was killed when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted, and sometimes just fierce, black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her “stand-in mother.”

When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it’s time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina- a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.

There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.

The Secret Life of Bees has a rare wisdom about life- about mothers and daughters and the women in our lives who become our true mothers. A remarkable story about the divine power of women and the transforming power of love, this is a stunning debut whose rich, assured, irresistible voice gathers us up and doesn’t let go, not for a moment. It is the kind of novel that women share with each other and that mothers will hand down to their daughters for years to come.

This book was suggested to me by a few of my friends after they heard how much I loved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. Another southern fiction novel, I found this to be excellent summer reading! I took my time with it as my summer schedule has been out of control thus far. It seems like I haven’t had much time to sit and read, but I did take this book with me when I traveled (just in case there WAS an extra minute or two).

Sue Monk Kidd’s storytelling is so rich that the reader is constantly enticed and interested. Not once did I find myself trying to figure out what would happen, rather I let Kidd tell the story and I enjoyed every word. I loved the diversity in the relationships Lily shares with all the characters (her rough and unrelenting father, T. Ray, her loving friend and mother figure Rosaleen, the caretaker relationship with August, the forbidden and complicated attraction to Zach). There are two other Boatwright sisters: May, the troubled sister who keeps a wailing wall outside the house to release her anguish and June, the hardheaded, skeptical sister.

There’s something about a southern fiction story that is so comforting. Maybe it’s the southern charm, the hospitality, or the history that comes with the surroundings. Whatever it is, it makes me want to sit on a porch with some sweet tea and share lunch with new friends. The way these three Boatwright sisters take in Lily and Rosaleen is inspiring and endearing. Lily is a strong minded teenage girl who longs to be loved and feel wanted and protected. It’s easy to root for her and sympathize with her throughout her journey. I applaud Sue Monk Kidd for the complex and intriguing character development!

This debut novel charmed the pants off of my expectations. I am looking forward to seeing the movie this week as some girlfriends and I already have a movie date lined up! It will be interesting to see the interpretation of the story once Hollywood got a hold of it 🙂

If you haven’t already read this novel (or seen the movie) I encourage you to pick it up. And as a side bonus, you’ll learn trivia about honeybees and the beekeeping world. 🙂

5/5 stars.

Happy Summer Reading,
Fabookulous

The queen, for her part, is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness. ~ Man and Insects (The Secret Life of Bees, Chapter 1)

Advertisements
 

Book #30: LibraryLove June 2, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Book description~

South Carolina in 1964 is a place and time of seething racial divides. When violence explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is desperate, not only to save Rosaleen, but to flee a life she can no longer endure. Calling upon her colorful wits and uncommon daring, she breaks Rosaleen out of jail and the two of them take off, runaway-fugitives conjoined in an escape that quickly turns into Lily’s quest for the truth about her mother’s life. Following a trail left ten years earlier, Lily and Rosaleen end up in the home of three bee-keeping sisters. No ordinary women, the sisters revere a Black Madonna and tend a unique brand of female spirituality that reaches back to the time of slavery. As Lily’s life becomes deeply entwined with theirs, she is irrevocably altered. In a mesmerizing world of bees and honey, amid the strength and power of wise women, Lily journeys through painful secrets and shattering betrayals, finding her way to the single thing her heart longs for most.

From the sweet purple nectar of elderberry honey to the wide-brimmed hats of the neighborhood women, this unexpectedly profound coming-of-age tale is dripping with sweet southern charm, spirituality and unity between an unlikely group of women. Set on in the mid 1960s in South Carolina, author Sue Monk Kidd does a prolific job crafting the story line, creating a subtle rise in both plot and character development AND includes a satisfying plot twist in one of my favorite novels. I just finished  listening to the audiobook after reading the hardcover a few years ago. Narrator Jenna Lamia brought Lily Owen’s story to life like no other. Between Kidd’s writing and Lamia’s reading, the imagery is some of the best I’ve ever read. I was right there feeling Lily’s pain as she was forced to kneel on piles of grits father T-Ray inflicted upon her as punishment. I felt the silky spiderweb veil across Lily’s face when she and Zachary were in the woods before their first kiss. The subtle nuances in Lamia’s annunciation were a conduit for Lily’s profound hardships and naiveté. Lily was forced to navigate her new sense of self with guidance from Rosaleen, pseudo-mother on their pilgrimage away from T-Ray to escape the racial divides of South Carolina racial divide. In my typical effort not to spoil the novel’s plot twists, I will keep it vague by just saying that Lily and Rosaleen ‘break away’ from their awful situation and embark on a search to find the origin of the Black Madonna honey that Lily’s late mother loved. They encounter the Boatwright “Calendar Sisters”, August, May, June and their beekeeping business. The Boatwright sisters live in a pink house, keep bees, revere a black Madonna, and open their hearts and souls to taking Lily and Rosaleen under their wing. The relationship that grows between she and her first love, Zachary Lincoln Taylor, is one of my favorite fictional relationships. Lily’s transformation coming into her own was so satisfying to watch. Kidd lets us in to Lily’s inner thoughts, hopes and dreams. Lily comes into her own in such a beautiful way. We see her strong independence rise to the surface. I wanted to cheer for her when she read aloud the letter to T-Ray that “looked like it was written in branding irons”, which was one of the highlights of the novel for me.

A quick word about the movie—sure it was cute, and I absolutely LOVE the way the film was cast. However, the richness and artistry of the author’s writing ability is lost. Feel free to check out this great post from fellow blogger, Jennifer Hart (aka Book Club Girl), who interviewed Sue Monk Kidd about the novel’s film adaptation back in 2008.

What else I found so heartwarming about this book is how perfect the title, Secret Life of Bees is in crafting the perfect metaphor for Lily’s story. It’s the private life Lily, Rosaleen and the Boatwright sisters share within each other- the ups, downs, struggles, victories- are all for the good of the colony. Everyone has a role to play in the big picture and I loved having the opportunity to glimpse into the colony for a bit. Now that June is here, help celebrate National Audiobook Month by checking out your local free resources and download and audiobook today to listen to in traffic, poolside, or at the beach this summer. Speaking of summer, there’s still one week left in our free Summer Giveaway! Click here to enter.

If you like Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and/or The Help, I can almost guarantee you will adore this novel. I feel like Skeeter is an older version of  CeeCee and Lily all rolled into one.

5/5 stars

30 down, 22 to go!

In progress- Orange is the New Black

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


PS- here are some fun facts about bees, courtesy of the Utah Beekeeper’s Association:

  • The queen may lay 600-800 or even 1,500 eggs each day during her 3 or 4 year lifetime. This daily egg production may equal her own weight. She is constantly fed and groomed by attendant worker bees.
  • Honey bees fly at 15 miles per hour.
  • Honey bees’ wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
  • Honeybees are the only insect that produce food for humans.
  • Honeybees will usually travel approximately 3 miles from their hive.
  • Honeybees are the only bees that die after they sting.
  • Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approx 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.
  • Honeybees have five eyes, 3 small ones on top of the head and two big ones in front.  They also have hair on their eyes!
  • Bees communicate with each other by dancing and by using pheromones (scents).
  • Honeybees never sleep!
 

Book #28: LibraryLove May 24, 2010

Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Taylor Kidd

Book description~ Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann traveled together to sacred sites throughout Greece and France. Sue, feeling her years and longing to reconnect with her daughter, struggles to find the wherewithal to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel, that will become her bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and facing her future, grapples with a painful depression.

I’ve recently read a number of novels that flip back and forth from one character, in first person, to the next. It’s an interesting literary choice done EXTREMELY well by authors like Jodi Picoult (think My Sister’s Keeper, House Rules) and Jennifer Weiner (think Little Earthquakes). This book is the first memoir I’ve read where, as the reader, we hear both first-hand accounts of the two main characters. Usually, authors select to write one character in first-person narrative and the rest in third-person.
This memoir tells the story of a very tumultuous time for mother and daughter, Sue & Ann. Both ladies allow us direct access into the eye of their most vulnerable storms. The mother and daughter pair venture on a fantastic trip to Greece and through Europe after Ann’s graduation. We are introduced to Sue who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose, now that her daughter is graduating. Sue feels all alone. Then we are introduced to her daughter, Ann, who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose now that she is graduating and moving on in her life. Dramatic irony- most certainly! 😉 In the beginning, Ann is very silent about her depression. She doesn’t get accepted to the Graduate school she wanted to and is sent into a tailspin to figure out what direction her life should go in.

She eventually decides she has such a passion for writing that she cannot deny. Sue struggles to find the inspiration she needs for her idea to write a novel about bees. I was initially drawn to this book because of my enjoyment of her bestselling novel, The Secret Life of Bees. I saw this was a memoir and was curious to learn about Sue’s impetus behind writing that novel, which was written as a result of this life-changing and inspiring trip Sue took with Ann back in 1998. The parts of this book that I enjoyed the most were about how Sue’s creative process grew so organically, to form one of my all time favorite pieces of southern fiction.

Along their journey through Greece and Europe, Sue and Ann discover a new found appreciation for each other. They confide in each other and draw strength from the other’s struggle.

“At times it seemed beyond weird that we’d lived in the same house during those years- I’d known so little about what she’d struggled with inside. There had been hints- bits of conversation, or the piles of feminist theology books that were suddenly in the house. But mostly I knew her as my mother- the one who stayed up to decorate my Raggedy Ann birthday cake, who helped me pick out my cotillion dress, who taught me how to parallel park. I glimpsed her, for the first time, as a woman, like one of those beautiful Caryatids she’s standing with now,”~ Ann, speaking of her mother, Sue.

“For one elongated minute we sit there and listen to rain pelt the roof. The closeness we discovered in Greece seemed to solidify during the fall. We talked endlessly about the experiences we’d had, pored over our trip photographs, and picked up the conversations we started over there,”~ Sue, speaking of her daughter, Ann.

Unfortunately, I found myself wanting to rush through many of Sue’s chapters because she insisted upon including numerous Greek mythological tangents. I found the self-indulgence unnecessary to the story, lecture-ish and along the lines of a historical textbook, not a memoir. Sue’s writing style in this particular selection didn’t keep my interest as much. It was harder for me to relate to a menopausal woman’s struggles, something I’ve yet to experience, whereas Ann’s story I really enjoyed, as she is closer to my age.  I enjoyed the beautiful imagery of Greece and to hear the development of The Secret Life of Bees’ plotline. It’s also a nice reminder that we should be kinder, sweeter, and more understanding of the silent struggles we, our friends, and our mothers face on a daily basis. It is a good reminder to maybe check in with the women in your life in a different way- refocus conversations to real matters of the heart rather than just getting caught up in the minutiae of daily life. For Ann especially, their trip to Europe was a gift- the opportunity to re-acquaint herself with the person who baked her birthday cakes and sewed her buttons back on…

3/5 stars

28 down, 24 to go!

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Spotlight:: When Worlds Collide:: Sue Monk Kidd & Jenna Lamia:: May 18, 2010

Did you know June is National Audiobook Month? The other day, while perusing the “just added section” of my library’s iPod audiobook catalog, loading up my wish list for next month, I stumbled upon a gem: The Secret Life of Bees!! Just when it couldn’t get any better, I see under the title, read by Jenna Lamia!!!!!!!!

Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees left a lasting impression on me when I first picked it up a few years ago after a recommendation from one of my besties. I absolutely adored it; I laughed, I cried and I felt like Lily was my little sister who I wanted to just take under my wing. I wanted Lily to know she would overcome the horrible turn her young life took and comfort her. Watching the movie was just “so-so”, as I’ve found are 99.9% of movies adapted from novels. Knowing Lamia was the voice of Lily, I made a beeline and downloaded Bees immediately. Kidd’s other books have been on my TBR list for a while now. I was recently re-inspired when Traveling With Pomegranates became available from my local library, Kidd’s dual memoir with daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Mermaid Chair is also on its way to me through Paperbackswap.com. Unfortunately, Kidd’s author event in my area falls on what seems to be THE busiest weekend of the year and I won’t be in town. If Fabookulous can make it, I will anxiously await her gushing afterward!

Jenna Lamia, my FAVORITE voice-over artist, in addition to narrating Secret Life of Bees, has cropped up in some of my other favorite audiobooks (go figure)! I just love when worlds collide and simply had to blog about it. I plan to follow her career, as Fabookulous would say, “like white on rice”! After a quick IMDB search, Lamia has also appeared in numerous films as an actress, but carved out a perfect niche in the voice-over universe. Lamia read the voice of Skeeter in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, a book that will remain in my Top 10 best reads. In addition to narrating the entire audiobook for Bees, Lamia also narrated the audiobook for friend and YOTBWZ2010 supporter, Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Interestingly enough, I found many similarities between the three books’ main characters- Skeeter, Lily and CeeCee. If I were a college student again, I’d write a character analysis paper comparing/contrasting these three young women. I think it’d be fascinating to analyze these three books in relation to one another’s main characters. Lamia’s voice is the perfect tie to bind them and I thank the “voice over powers that be” for “casting” the audiobook just right. Lamia’s voice so perfectly springs these authors’ words from the page and into life with such feeling and intensity. Her timing is right on point.

If you’re new to the audiobook realm, I highly recommend you just give it a try and observe June’s National Audiobook Month in a few weeks. Take a listen to Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, The Help and/or Secret Life of Bees and come back here to let me know your thoughts, feelings, reactions! You will be hooked. Audiobooks make my commute, housework, and summer roadtrips much more enjoyable and are widely accessible from your local library’s digital download section or in CD format. When all else fails, head over to iTunes and download the audiobooks from there.

“Jenna Lamia brings a fresh, captivating voice to the audiobook world, and with only a few audiobooks under her belt, she has had amazing success. Her performance of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES was a 2003 Audie Award Finalist in the prestigious category of Best Female Narrator. Director Paul Ruben shared his excitement about their work on the audiobook, saying, “Only good actors make good directors, and she’s one of them. A natural.” GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING was her first audiobook, and an Earphones Award Winner. We celebrate HOPE WAS HERE with another Earphones. She has an attentive ear for the nuances of speech patterns and regional inflections, yet makes an effort not to overprepare. “I let the characters grow and take care not to be too knowing,” she says. “I come to the story as the listener does, allowing it to unfold.” Jenna’s success is not just in audiobooks; a big break came with her 1998 performance in Ah, Wilderness on Broadway, and recently she starred in Bed Bound Off Broadway. She’s now in Los Angeles where she had a role in HBO’s Oz. Movies on the way include Audrey Tautou’s Nowhere to Go But Up. Jenna’s interest in audiobooks will likely keep open some time for narration in the coming months”.–2003 Narrator Yearbook.

Look for my review of Secret Life of Bees coming soon!

Happy reading,

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove