Books, Kindle

Books #12-14, especially “Sugar”

Sugar  In the past few weeks I've read three books. I'm behind where I hoped to be this year, but hope to pick up speed in April to regain a five book per month average. 

Book #12 — Voodoo Histories:The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, by David Aaronovitch — An interesting book with a bit of a British slant since the author is British. I enjoyed the chapter about the deaths of famous people and the theories people apply to those deaths, especially since it included Princess Diana (an object of fascination for me back in the day). 

Book #13 — The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan — This is the first in the Percy Jackson series. It was great light reading for me in a busy season. We saw the movie first when we went to the theatre on a rainy afternoon and couldn't get into the IMAX to see Alice in Wonderland. I liked it and enjoyed the book, too. It was very inexpensive to buy for my Kindle, the price of a trade paperback. I expect I will read more of them!

Book #14 — Sugar, by Bernice L. McFadden — After I reviewed "The Help," I got a very nice email from the author of Sugar, asking if I would accept a copy of the book and share my thoughts about it with my blog friends. I agreed, so this is a review of a book given to me by the author. (I also bought it on my Kindle, because authors should sell books!) Ms. McFadden hopes to put before a wider audience an alternative view of African-American life in the pre-Civil Rights Era South, a view formed by an African-American person. 

I think I mentioned when I wrote about "The Help" that although I grew up in a home where my primary weekday caregiver was an African-American woman beloved by me and, I think, the rest of my family, I would never think that I could tell her story for her. My parents may have been nicer or more just than other possible employers, but the world was still screwed up and my hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia, existed under social rules not unlike those in Apartheid. 

"Sugar" explores the lives of two women in Bigelow, Arkansas, Pearl, who has lived a conventional life marked by the tragic loss of her daughter, and Sugar, who was dropped off by her mother as an infant to be raised by three sisters who run a brothel. When Sugar moves in next door to Pearl and her husband, and the whole town is talking about "who is this slutty woman," Pearl finds her captivating and reaches out to her, tentatively.

I don't want to tell you more of the plot, except to say it's engaging and sad and even funny at times. McFadden explores themes such as abandonment and love and abuse and sexuality and faith and redemption. But she does more than that. She gives the 21st century reader (in my case a white, middle-aged, formerly Southern, educated woman) an eye into the lives of African-American people in the mid-20th century. The characters are fully realized and I venture to say authentic, though I make that judgment as a reader and as a writer myself, not as a witness.

Now, let me tell you how much the book gripped me. I have a Rule of Three, and I apply it to movies and cable TV shows and books, too. The Three are Sex, Violence and Language, and the Rule is I can handle two but not three at the same time. I choose my entertainment based on avoiding the Three at once. Oh, sure, occasionally I go to a movie that is more violent than I expected, but I look away!!! You can't look away from a book, so I simply don't read violent books. "Sugar" contains all three of the Three, right from the beginning, but the writing held me. I wanted to keep going (although I'll admit to putting it down and coming back a few days later), and by the second half of the book, I couldn't put it down. I cared enough about Pearl and Sugar that I wanted to go with them to the end of the story.

I highly recommend "Sugar."

Books, Kindle, TheOOZE

Vacation Reading

One of the great things about summer vacation is reading novels without apology. Last week I read four books, two of which were re-reads, two of which were new to me.

#35 and #36 — After seeing the new Harry Potter movie and realizing how poorly I remembered details from the book, I decided to re-read both Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. LP laughed when she heard that I read them between Saturday morning and Monday morning. I pointed out that I was on vacation!!! But of course she remembers weekends in past summers that included this kind of possibly obsessive reading when sermons were also written and preached. This weekend just had more sleeping.

I enjoyed reading both of them. There are certainly things I would have done differently in the writing of them, but no one asked me!

#37 — I bought Where Angels Fear to Tread for my Kindle thinking it would be part of my Forster re-read, but once I started reading it I realized I knew it only from seeing the movie, as images of Helen Mirren danced in my head. In fact, I had a rather mistaken impression of the story. I loved the idea that the Englishwoman living in Italy realized she had more freedom at home. And I loved the relationship between her brother-in-law and her friend, and I loved the earthiness of the story, the details of life — the baby who needed a bath, the sweaty soprano on the train, the unpredictability of carriages and baskets and the general riskiness of simply being alive. Fools rush in…

#38 — KathyR recommended On Beauty, by Zadie Smith, as a companion to my Forster festival, since its author wrote it with Howards End in mind. The dichotomy between the two families is more about the political and religious spectrum than the jock-nerd continuum of the Wilcoxes and Schlegels, but the comparison works, and I appreciated the connections between the two plots, which were evocative and familiar rather than slavish. I highly recommend the book.

While we were away, I also started re-reading C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle. Years ago, Pure Luck read Tolkien to me, and I read Lewis to him, but we never made it through the last book. On our trip, we got started again, and we'll hope to finish before he goes away next month.

Next up: Diana Butler Bass and A People's History of Christianity, one of the books I will review for TheOOZE, and on my Kindle, Forster's A Passage to India.

Books, Kindle

Dating Jesus: Book # 30

Campbell-datingjesus_new_022 My dear friend, Jayne, recommended a book to me recently. In fact, she *so* wanted me to read it that she sent me an Amazon Gift card, which I used to order it for my Kindle!

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl lived up to her recommendation. Susan Campbell, who writes for the Hartford Courant (and appears to have a blog here), tells of her girlhood in the church (small "c") of Christ, and suggests that she could still "throw down" in a Bible Bowl with pastors of any tradition and win. I think that's true, after reading her book. She lives a life informed by scripture, even though her life…well, I don't want to tell her story, except to say that as a woman of a similar age who also grew up in a time and place where women's opportunities seemed to me limited, I could identify with her hopes and her disappointments, even if the particulars of our childhoods were very different.

Funny, well-researched and fully-lived, this memoir goes further to provide context for the developments in American Protestantism as well as Feminism. Any preacher will appreciate her chapter about being asked to speak at a Congregational church. I hope we can add this one to the RevGalBlogPals discussion list, and I highly recommend it for your summer reading list!