Books are meant to inspire. They inform; they entertain; they awaken our emotions; they teach. Through books we become more – we experience our humanity from a new perspective. Books can consume us. We travel to new worlds, live and relive experience, and learn more about ourselves. Books are meant to be devoured and then shared. It is through the gift of sharing that our imaginations form bonds and our reading encounter becomes life experience. So grab a good book and be inspired.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Twilight Saga - Stephenie Meyer

By this point, nearly anyone who has any desire to has devoured Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. Though intended as a young adult series, Meyer’s tales have captivated young and mature, creating a frenzy rivaled only by Ms. Rowling.

Rather than echoing the countless reviews of those who have loved or despised the series, I ask the question: why? What is it about these supernatural tales that has captured our hearts and inspired all-night, breathless page-turning sessions?

My observations have led me to conclude a three-fold appeal:
  1. We all feel a little abnormal. Bella Swan’s character is insecure, fallible, and ordinary – easily relatable. But more, Bella feels that she has never quite fit in – there’s something just a little different about her. From adolescence to present I can recall feeling this same striking displacement. No matter our situation in life, we tend to think we’re just a bit unusual compared with those surrounding us. For some, this becomes a crutch, an excuse, but for most, we walk through life feeling as though we’ll never quite fit. A part of us envies Bella for finding an answer to her perceived irregularities.
  2. Teenage girls love falling in love. So do grown women. Though there is not enough money in the world to tempt me to return to the dating-phase of my life and I am a happily married woman, I recall with fondness the fresh, eager feel of new love – the never-want-to-sleep, doodle Mrs. So-and-So on every free surface, thrill of those first tingles of a blossoming relationship. It becomes an addiction for some and that same magnetism is captured in its truest form in the burgeoning romance of Edward and Bella (and at times Bella and Jacob). We can live vicariously through the pages, over and over if we so desire.
  3. We want to be loved like Edward loves Bella. Women, no matter their differences, seek a mate who will fulfill them and cherish them – a person whose world moves only for them. In our deepest heart of hearts we want this kind of all-encompassing desire. It is why we are drawn to love stories time and time again. It is why we can overlook stalker-ish behavior and paranormal ridiculousness to see the essence of Edward’s obsession for Bella for what it is: the true love we secretly crave.

Book Chick Rating: YYYYY

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

 Last night, my daughter was practicing some skills she’s been learning in kindergarten: same and different, sorting, patterns. She held up two dolls and said, “Mommy, what’s different about these two girls?” just like she was a little teacher. I glanced over from where I’d been sitting next to her, reading The Help and noticed she was holding up a Caucasian doll and an African-American doll. Here we go, I thought, our first discussion about race relations.
“Well, they have on different colored shirts,” I noted. “What do you see that’s different?”
“Very good, Mommy,” pronounced my little instructor. “What’s different is, one girl has ponies in her hair and the other has a barrette.”
I simply looked at her for a moment, stunned and proud. “But they’re both little girls, right?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s why they’re the same.”
Growing up in the south, race is something that has always been a sensitive subject for me. Fortunately, my mom felt very strongly that her children grow up color blind – we all have the same color heart. I know for her, this was not such a cut and dry concept, but I am thankful every day that she embedded in me a love for humanity and the rationality to make my own decisions.
For me, books like The Help are instrumental in making us think. I was moved by Kathryn Stockett’s multi-perspective take on 1960s Mississippi. Her bravery in giving voice to a silenced population was both effective and enlightening. There are simply no words to give justice to the heart-opening experience that this read was for me. I can only hope that we, as society, can take these lessons from our past and apply them to the present-day prejudices that we face. Stockett’s novel goes on a short list of important works that I will one day pass on to my daughter.

Book Chick Rating: ©©©©©

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hope in a Jar - Beth Harbison

While I am completely in favor of a good read-for-pleasure-not-for-thought-provocation novel, Beth Harbison’s book was more along the lines of a get-sucked-into-the-abyss-of-high-school-ridiculousness read. While I enjoyed the narrative trips back in time, the plot remained painfully predictable, while at once seeming to tackle issues a little too lofty for its capricious tone. The characters were so underdeveloped that they were unlikeable. I found myself not really caring if the heroine succeeded in her love quest since I knew little more about her than the flashbacks of a bossy and materialistic adolescent. Worse than a trip down memory lane, this book absorbed all of the absurdity of the teenage years (and the adults who are stuck there) and none of the joys.

Book Chick Rating: YY

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chasing Fire - Nora Roberts

Boy meets girl; they fight the initial attraction; they go through an intense experience together; boy and girl live happily ever after. Nora Roberts’ recipe for romance manages to work in any setting without feeling repetitive or formulaic. Here, we delve into the world of smoke jumping – an intense and fascinating environment. As Nora does best, her characters are endearing for their humanity – while we may not be able to relate to their situation, we can most definitely connect to their fallibility and their desires. Rowan’s passion, both for fire and for life, is contagious, as is Gulliver’s happy-go-lucky optimism. While the plot’s mystery is hardly a puzzle, the unique perspective and relentless action make this one of Nora Roberts’ most intensely satisfying novels yet.  

Book Chick Rating: YYYY

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Behind the Curtain - Peter Abrahams

Once again, Peter Abrahams manages to capture the suspense of a good mystery, while mastering the complex adolescent thought pattern – a mystery of its own. Ingrid’s relationships become even more of a puzzle in this second visit to charming Echo Falls: the duality of her bond with her brother, the childlike adoration, yet not quite trust in her mother, and the questioning of her previously idolized dad’s deterioration. Ingrid’s look “Behind the Curtain” of her tumultuous family parallels the realizations of the imperfections of her beloved town and even a new awareness of herself. This sequel lacked a bit of the “magic” of its predecessor, but it did not fail to entertain, nor did it squelch my desire to solve the mystery alongside Ingrid in her fallible, yet endearing, Holmsian way.

Book Chick Rating: YYYY

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Matchmaker of Kenmare - Frank Delaney

I can count on one hand the number of books that I have disliked so intently that I stopped reading. No matter how disengaged or insulted, I just can’t leave a book incomplete, but I usually come away with one of two reactions: 1) Wow, I can’t believe I just wasted part of my life on that; or 2) I’m glad I stuck with that; it was worth it. Unfortunately, Frank Delaney book was mostly the former. Sure, my World War II-buff heart pitter-pattered occasionally at the intriguing new perspective of the well-known events, but the characters bordered on unlikeable, their motivation was unclear, and the foreshadowing was so overdone that it hindered the plot’s progression. I was sorely disappointed that such an eloquently written tale could be so lacking in substance. 

Book Chick Rating: YY

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole - Peter Abrahams

Peter Abrahams is a master of three things: imagery, suspense, and the adolescent psyche. His distinctive style paints a story, rather than tells it, sucking the reader into the tale and giving them a vested interest in the outcome (and discovering the identity of the villain). Abrahams’ rich portrayal of Ingrid, along with her flaws, her complicated relationships, and unique outlook on her world, provides the YA lit world with an unrivaled heroine who is at once likeable and real. The suspense too, is very real, and I found myself afraid for Ingrid for both what she had and what she hadn’t yet figured out. 

Book Chick Rating: YYYYY