“The Secret Life of Bees” Book Review and July Selection! 

It’s the best part of the month—book club time! I’ve been having such a good time reading along with Libby and Stephanie, and you if you’d like to join. If you’ve ever read this book (even if it wasn’t this month) I’d love for you to join in the discussion in the comment section! Our club has been all over the place in the last three months. Paranormal, then sci-fi, and now a touching civil rights-era story set in the South.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is one of those books that I’d always heard buzz about (yes, I just went there) but I literally had no idea what it was about or when it was published. We democratically decided that it sounded like a good choice, and I zipped over to the used book store and grabbed my copy without so much as looking at the back. So, that’s how I blindly jumped into this month’s read! I was not prepared to be so inspired! As the main character, Lily, runs away from an abusive father and discovers her new, empowered, free, self in the home of three strong, loving women, I was inspired to be the person (like the Calendar Sisters) reaching out and raising up those younger than me in need. I work with college students and I am always trying to encourage them to think about their career goals when faced with dumb and mundane college-related decisions. I also try to encourage students to be their independent, best selves. Hopefully my reassuring words have stuck with a couple of them!

The rest of the review contains spoilers and a couple of them are a bit depressing, but I think I found the light at the end of the tunnel: 

One thing I noticed when reading was that I was always holding my breath waiting for something big and bad to happen. This gave me an uneasy sense of suspense for most of the book, instead of soaking in the warmth of the Calendar Sisters and the pink house. This should not have been a “suspense” novel! Honestly I want to reread this soon so that I can savor it more the second time, since I now know what is coming and when. May’s suicide and the arrest of Zach definitely qualify as “big, bad” things, but I’d psyched myself out so much, expecting the worst (I pictured Zach getting beaten to death for spending so much time with a white girl) that the bad things that actually did happen in the book didn’t really shake me. And I think this is a commentary on the extremism of books and movies, and media for that matter:

Devastating things happen in TV and books, and in real life on a regular basis—so regular in fact that some of them have a hard time registering as a blip on the radar. (Oh, only a couple people died? Not 20?) This reminds me of May, who felt everything so deeply that she had to take it to the wailing wall. I find myself somewhere in between praying the common prayer, “break my heart for what breaks yours,” and frequently shutting down so I don’t get overwhelmed with the state of the world. Hate crimes, terrorism, poverty, and the like are so prevalent and with the internet we have an unending source to read more and more about terrible things. Like an IV of tragedy. At some point it needs to be shut off before we, like May, can’t take anymore.

I think that is where supportive groups of people come in. I don’t strictly mean “support groups” although that is one form of important community—but any close circle of friends where you can get “real” without feeling like you are going to freak people out. This can be a church or social group, online community, family, or it can take another form. In the book this took the form of the eclectic, lovely Daughters of Mary. What I learned from the Daughters of Mary is that community can help pull us through whatever the world may have for us, whether it’s something that affects us directly, or if it’s general despair and helplessness about current events.

Oh, and during the part where August tells Lily everything she’s been dreaming of hearing about her mother? The good and the bad? Cut to me silently weeping next to a stranger on an airplane. And when the women stand up for Lily so that she can stay at the pink house? I was beside myself. I’m so glad that the book ended on an “up” note and not on a “down” note. Sometimes we really need those happy endings in life.


Virtual Book Club

Shakespeare and Company

Next month we have selected a really short one: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Despite the low page count I am sure there will be lots to unpack during the last week of August. Please join in!

* In order to work incrementally towards my start-up, I have decided to start using Amazon Affiliate links in some of my posts. Thanks for understanding. *

“Ready Player One” Book Review & June Selection!

YES! I haven’t read a book that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages like this since The Hunger Games. Now, I realize that is a bold statement to make, so I’ll work on backing it up without giving too much away.

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There are a few things that I love in books that are all present in Ready Player One, including:

  • Friendship amongst youngsters
  • Taking place in the future
  • Adventure and strategy
  • David vs Goliath themes

Ready Player One

So, the premise of the book is that the world of the future is such a horrible place that everybody spends the majority of their time in a free-to-access virtual reality world called OASIS. This VR world began as a gaming console then expanded to include socializing, school, and shopping. As a result of this, the inventor of the system became the richest man in the world– and also an eccentric hermit. When he dies, he reveals that there is an “easter egg” in the OASIS that will reward the first finder with the whole inheritance. To find the easter egg, it’s like a scavenger hunt with 80s pop culture as the clues. Oh yeah, and video game battles.

I’m not a “gamer”in the way that actual gamers would give me the title, but I’ve had my toe in geek culture enough to really get into this book. I know enough people that have been into D&D and WoW that I get the concept, and I’ve played a fair amount of Final Fantasy in my day. This said, I don’t think that the heavy amount of geek culture and 80s references will come as a roadblock to anyone who tries to read this book—it is accessible even if you don’t get all the “secret language.”

The most compelling part of the plot, and I think many would agree with me, is that the main character, Wade, and his VR best friends (who he’d never met in real life) are essentially racing against a giant corporation whose sole purpose is to find the egg so they can control—and begin charging subscription fees to—OASIS. Especially considering the current political landscape of, well, the world, this theme really grabbed me. As the race to find the egg ramped up, so did my impatience to finish the novel and I stayed up late on many nights to finish it. The themes of us little people vs. large companies, and that of close friends that have never met in the real world, are ones I think a lot of us can connect with in this age where we spend so much time online. Perhaps the OASIS is not as far-fetched as it sounded at first…

I would LOVE to read your reaction. Libby and Stephanie will be posting their reactions too so make sure to find out what they thought! Have you read this or are you planning to? Please leave a comment!


Now, I can announce the June book choice—The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This has been on must-read lists for over a decade… Libby and Stephanie and I were talking about how none of us had ever read it. So, by the end of June, I’m sure we’ll all be able to cross it off of our reading list! Please read with us? Join our little club?

“Her Fearful Symmetry” Book Review & May Selection!

book-club

April’s book was a strange, strange read, for me. I was caught up in it, I read it at a nice speed… but perhaps we should have kicked off our book club with something a little more… normal?

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Have you ever tried cooking something that sounded like it would come out great? Like, all of the ingredients, when listed together, seem like they could make something really delicious? But… when you plate up the dish, something is just off? Honestly, that is how I feel about Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. The topics: London, Coming-of-age, Romance, Sisters, Ghosts, these are all things I can get behind, and sound like they’d come together to make something great. But, for some reason the book didn’t grab me the way I thought it would have.

I knew I had to finish the book by the 25th because Libby and I agreed upon today to post our reactions. After the three-quarters mark I was kind of reading the way that you’d watch a scary movie, like with one eye shut and kind of through your fingers. I had my hunches on what was about to happen, and wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out if my hunch was correct or not. Is that the way Audrey wanted us to read it? I suppose when ghosts are involved, there’s always the chance that uneasy feeling was intentional.

Each of the characters were interesting in their own way, but I found myself more pulled to the supporting characters and less involved in the main characters, the twins. I suppose considering the twins were the focus of the book I found them a little underdeveloped. I think my favorite story arc was that of the OCD neighbor Martin and his personal trials. Maybe we connect ourselves to the characters we can relate with the most? I do not have OCD, but I can relate to irrational things preventing me from taking risks or even causing me to procrastinate on everyday things.

One of the major themes I saw emerge, which I liked, was the concept of one becoming two, and/or two becoming one. You saw this in the romance aspect, the life and death aspect, and the twin aspect– the fact that the girls’ mother was one of an estranged pair of twins, and that the daughters were a very close pair of twins threw that into stark contrast. The romantic involvement with Robert– him separating himself from Elspeth and getting involved with Valentina made me think about how hard it is to be single after being in a long-term relationship, and how your body and soul crave a new connection after the first one was cut off.

The ending seemed dragged out but abrupt at the same time. Is that possible? I’m not sure I have an opinion on the way things turned out. I’m glad I finished. If I wasn’t committed to reading this as part of the book club I may have fallen off and not finished. So, I feel satisfied with that. Maybe that’s the best part about leading being part of a book club anyway!

I’m not going to tell anyone that they “must read” this book, but I’m glad I was a part of reading along with Libby and I’m looking forward to hearing what you thought about it, if you read along with us.  Please write a little something in the comment area or paste a link to your thoughts on your blog or to your goodreads review or something. I think since it was such a strange and possibly polarizing book it will make for better discussion!


The great news is that I can announce our May book choice — Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’ve been seeing this book pop up time and time again lately, especially since it was announced that a movie is in production with Steven Spielberg directing … so I placed a request on it at the library. I think it’s going to be more fast-paced, it’s described as a “thriller,” and it has to do with virtual reality and video games, so I am totally in.

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I love futuristic dystopias like 1984, Minority Report, The Hunger Games, as well as the movie Tron, so I hope this lives up to my ideals in the genre. Please, join us reading Ready Player One this month and come back at the end of May for another discussion!