Reading, Reviews

March Reading

Hello! How’s life? Let’s just say, things have been busy around here. Busy with good things, but still busy. But I carved out two “we-are-going-nowhere” days this week and they are just what the doctor ordered. (Seriously, we’ve been so busy, we actually ended up at the doctor’s office with ear infections and sinus infections and he said, “You’ll probably be fine if you get some rest, but here’s a prescription if you think you need it.” He’s a great doctor.) Yesterday I vacuumed, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, and played with kids, and today I finally have a chance to think.

Restless: Because You Were Made for MoreI read an all time low of three books last month. Yowch. I mean, really, that is an all. time. low. But it’s okay! I did some other worthwhile things, and one of the books was a book I really needed to ponder. It’s called Restless, by Jennie Allen.

A small group of women introduced me to Jennie Allen’s study, StuckI get chills even now when I think of how we all started with that book study focused on getting past the places where we feel like we just can’t make any progress, whether it’s anger, sadness, busyness, discontent, or feeling broken. Some of us in the group realized some places we didn’t know we were stuck. And then my awesome friend who also blogs decided to host the IF: Gathering at her place in February. It’s amazing how we all were feeling stuck in various ways, then we were ready to move on from being stuck, and the IF: Gathering was timed right then. Because the IF: Gathering was all about moving into a place where we cast of fear and realize God has put us all here on this earth for a reason and it’s time to pursue that reason. Christine Caine talked about moving from being delivered to being free. Rebekah Lyons talked about how simple the word “calling” really is. And there was so much more. It was all awesome. Now I’m almost done with the book Restless, and it has been a continuation of that theme of realizing God knit us together in such a way that we each have something unique to offer. I highly recommend it. I’m not a Jennie Allen junkie (yet), but her stuff is really honest and relevant to women today and it’s worth looking into.

Looking for MeOn the fiction side of things, I was excited to read Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I’m sorry to say, it was quite lackluster compared to her debut. Poor authors whose first books are amazing! That’s a lot of pressure. But this is an honest review, and Looking for Me seemed a little winding, wandering, and overall lacking on major themes. I’m not even sure if the main character, Teddi Overman, found herself in the end. She found a guy and bought a house, so I guess that’s something. ??? I was not a fan. But I’ll admit, I kind of checked out on searching for the deeper meaning about 3/4 of the way through when it seemed like Teddi was going in circles. I’m not against circles…as long as there’s eventually a really good ending point.

Dear Mr. KnightleyThe book that pleasantly surprised me was Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. “What in the world?” you may ask. “Why did you read another one of those Jane Austen knock offs you hate?” Despite the title, this novel is not actually a continuation or even a variation on Emma or any of Austen’s booksIt’s actually a modernization of Jean Webster’s Dear Daddy Longlegs, which is a great book if you like old-fashioned goodness. Dear Mr. Knightley is about Samantha Moore, an orphan who grew up in foster care and books. Her reading was her world for a long time, but as she enters adulthood, she finds she has to set aside the book personas she so easily dons and embrace her real life story. What I liked the most about the book (besides all the references to classic literature), was how Reay wrote a quality book with strong characters that eventually points her heroine to God, without writing the (forgive me) often predictable Christian novel. This book was predictable in ways for me because I read the classic it’s based on, but it had a gritty realness to it mixed with the change that takes place in a person when they start to understand unconditional love. I don’t know if I can make any sense in explaining it, but it was a good read. I felt empowered as a writer by reading a book that was both clever, well-written, and based on the love of God.

So that’s what I’ve been reading lately. Now I have to scramble to find some vacation reads for two trips coming up later this month and in May. Hurrah for beach reads! Please, send me your recommendations ASAP.

Reviews

Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsThough a life long Southerner, I am not a big fan of Southern Literature. But ever since reading The Secret Life of Bees, I knew I would always give any novel by Sue Monk Kidd a try. Mermaid Chair left me pretty disappointed, but I stood by my love of Bees and put myself on the library waiting list for The Invention of Wings as soon as it came out. Here’s what The Invention of Wings is about:

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. -Goodreads.com

I enjoyed the fact that this book was based on real abolitionists, the Grimke sisters. They were remarkable women in a time when women weren’t supposed to be remarked on for anything but their choice of dresses and hair styles. They were Southern Belles gone wrong, in their society’s opinion. I also appreciated how this novel portrayed a reality of slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, without being as graphic as the recent popular novel, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. Having been to Charleston countless times, it was a hard reality check to really imagine what some of those historic buildings were housing three hundred years ago. The historical element of the novel was the novel’s best point.

Where the book disappointed me was in the character development and very inwardly focused narrative. The narrative switches from the first person perspectives of Sarah and Handful. I got very sick of being in Sarah’s head especially. If Kidd wanted me to feel stuck in molasses, she made her point. Handful’s narrative was more humorous and interesting. I would have rather heard more about Sarah’s sisters, Angelina, but it turns out there’s not really a whole lot known about her. She was the one with spunk in the Grimke family. The slow moving span of 35 years that the novel covers and the misguided patience of Sarah throughout her life made me tempted to throw the book down in frustration. But it was on an e-reader, so I didn’t throw it.

Because of the slow pace and tiresome narrative from Sarah, this book is a 2.5-3 out of 5 star book for me. If you’re interested in the Southern history and the Grimke sisters, I would recommend it, but if you are simply looking for a book that is similar in style and feel to The Secret Life of Bees, I’d give Beth Hoffman’s Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt or Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March a try.

The Violets of March       Saving Ceecee Honeycutt

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