The Secret Life of Bees book review

The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd

Race/Coming-of-Age

302 pages

 

I had to read this novel for a class, but I ended up liking I more than I thought I would. The novel is set to take place in 1964. I always think books based on this time period that deal with race relations are interesting to read and learn more about. There is a movie based on this book too, and I thought that it followed the book pretty well, but as all of you know, the movie is never as good as the book.

 

Lily Owens lives alone with her dad, her mother having died when Lily was still very young. She carries unhappiness, loneliness, and guilt with her through her 14 years. Her dad is terrible to live with and Lily doesn’t feel like her loves her or cares about her at all. She decides to run away from her dad and home with Rosaleen, a Black woman who works at her dad’s house and helps take care of her. Rosaleen gets into trouble with the law, simply because she is Black, and Lily fears for her life, so together they escape to what they hope will be freedom for both of them. They make their way to a place Lily believes her mother has been and Lily finds herself alone in a house full of Black sisters.

 

Lily is forced to grow up fast as she searches to find who she is and where she came from. She finds new friends and a new life living with August Boatwright and her two sisters. She learns about the secret life of bees and the art of beekeeping. There she encounters additional problems of race but sees them in a new light. Her dad is searching for her, and when he finds her, will she be forced to leave the life she is making for herself and return home, or be allowed to stay?

 

This wasn’t my favorite book I have ever read, but I thought that it carried with it a good message. I think that if you are interested in this time period or race relations you would enjoy this book. Or, if you have seen the movie and enjoyed it, I’m sure you would like the book better because they always are better.

The Tristan Betrayal book review

The Tristan Betrayal

Robert Ludlum

Spy/Thriller

505 pages

 

I’ve always been a Robert Ludlum fan; his books were some of the first that rekindled my love for reading. I’ve read several of his novels, some amazing, and some I didn’t really like at all. For me, this one fell in between those two extremes. For the past several years, I’ve almost started this book several time, but never quite did, so this time, I finally set out to read it and get it off my “to-read” shelf.

 

It took a long time, over 150 pages, for me to really get grabbed by this book. The story just dragged on at the beginning without an adequate amount of excitement for me. The story predominantly takes place during 1940, and is about an intricate network of spies that is determined to bring down Hitler and the Nazis. It follows Stephen Metcalfe, an undercover USA agent through various parts of Europe that he is called to work in. At the beginning of the novel, he is based in Paris, but the operation there gets exposed and destroyed, and Metcalfe is sent to an extremely sensitive and important mission to Moscow.

 

Here he finds and rekindles his love with an old flame, and secretly they set in motion plans to overthrow the Third Reich. The plan they proceed with has the potential to decide the outcome of the war, and Hitler’s fate. It accounts for the decisions that Hitler made during WWII to attempt to invade Russia. Many of Ludlum’s novels seem to revolve around these times, or Nazis, as this one did. There were times of great action and suspense in the novel, but for me, more obvious were the times of almost complacency, were not much was happening.

 

One thing I disliked about his book was some of the language. Occasionally Ludlum will, in his novels, use a lot of foreign language, as he did in this one. I don’t mind it when the words are defined afterwords, but many of them were not in this one. I feel using foreign words can lend authenticity to a novel like this, but without a translation, sometimes I was left to guess, which may or may not have been accurate.

 

There was very little crude language in this book, and no details of sex, which I found surprising because the main character was known as a wandering playboy. All in all, it wasn’t the worst Ludlum that I have read, but not close to stealing top spot as my favorite either. It was an OK story, just one that I felt dragged on and could have been better if it had been more concise. I found that I was forcing myself to just push through it once I started it. If you are unfamiliar with Ludlum’s works, I could recommend other novels that I found much better.

The Things They Carried book review

The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien

Realistic Fiction/War

233 Pages

 

The Things They Carried is a collection of war stories from the Vietnam War. O’Brien points out more than once in the book that it is a work of fiction, and not real; however, the stories certainly have a ring of truth. I’m sure that they are altered, but I would imagine that there is a lot of truth to many of the stories in this novel. It tells of O’Brien’s own experiences in the war, and over the course of the book, you get to know him and some other members of his platoon.

 

This novel begins by talking about what the soldiers carried, both by necessity and by choice. There is a lot of information and specifics here, but I found none of it boring. It was very interesting to learn about the specific weights of weapons, supplies, and other things that they carried. I imagined myself in their shoes, and thought about how hard it would be to lug everything around in the middle of a war that they were required to carry. I have never been to war, and I respect those that have. This novel brings to light some of the unimaginable things that those in war have to deal with. It shows the skills they pick up in order to cope with what becomes everyday life to them, things many of us might find savage and unable to understand.

 

O’Brien had a lot of thoughts in this book that I really liked. One thing he said was, “But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget” (33). He writes because he was there. He writes because he can’t forget and this is his way of dealing with it, almost like a therapy, it seems. He goes on to talk about war stories and they purpose they serve. “That’s what war stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night where you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story” (36). O’Brien isn’t able to forget, and he doesn’t want us to forget.

 

I can understand why this book might be hard for some to read. I imagine that for those who have been to war, this might bring back some memories that had been repressed. I imagine that for those who have been affected by relatives who have come home from war different, it could be a hard thing to read. I also think that it is an important book that could lend some understand to those of us who haven’t been to war. One other quote from the novel that I liked is this: “War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead” (76).

 

My one complaint with the novel was that the timeline was a little messy. He jumped back and forth a bit to before the war, during the war, later in the war, earlier in the war, etc. That aspect of it made parts of it harder for me to follow. However, I think that most of the chapters in the book would have worked standing alone on their own, so it wasn’t that big of a deal, I just prefer things in chronological order. I think that anyone interested in war or learning about the Vietnam War experiences in particular would like this novel. As I said, it is a work of fiction, but I wouldn’t be surprised if much of it was true, or at least derived from true events. I enjoyed reading this book, and will look at more of O’Brien’s works in the future. I wouldn’t recommend this book to younger readers, because of some of the content included. I mean, it is war, so there are going to be things disturbing inside. There is also some course language, but I felt like it was purely in context with the soldiers and lifestyles they were in. However, if it would bother you, beware, because it is in there.

Whale Talk book review

Whale Talk

Chris Crutcher

Realistic Fiction/Comedy/Drama

298 pages

 

This is both a comedy and a drama writing, in my opinion. The writing is certainly funny and amusing to read, but the story felt like a drama to me. T.J. is a guy who always stands up for what he believes in. So when he sees the resident school jock pushing around a handicapped kid, Chris, for wearing his dead brother’s letter jacket, he decides to do something about it. T.J. decides to help Chris get a varsity jacket of his own. The school and even other ex-jocks in the town take this very seriously and protest the idea that someone like Chris could be allowed to wear a jacket. They decide to do everything they can to prevent this from happening.

 

T.J. sets up his own swim team with one goal in mind:get the team of misfits jackets. With T.J.’s guidance and the help of their coach, Mr. Simet, they work hard at practice and their swim meets to try to accomplish what no one believes they can do. By doing this, T.J. sets off a chain of events that will change his life forever. He finds out that, although things are hard, he has the strength within himself to push through whatever challenges him.

 

For me, I thought this was a good story because it rang true. I knew guys like this in high school, maybe not to the extent that some of them reach in the novel, but certainly people who reminded me of the characters. It’s a story with a good message about standing up for what you believe in and about how we should help others. There was some sadness in it, but from that came hope, and the outlook to a bright future ahead. Some of the content and themes might not be suitable for younger readers, but I think it is a book that raises good issues for almost anyone to read.