Alright… so I know that it’s slightly ridiculous for me to review books that aren’t exactly new on the shelves, but I’m gonna do it. Here are some of the benefits of this plan.
Benefits to me:
- I like reading, so it’s fun for me to write about books.
- I don’t have to spend forever coming up with new ideas for blog topics. I’ll have a new one every time I read a book.
- I will feel more pressure to read, which is actually a good thing.
- Writing about books aids my understanding of what I’ve taken from reading any particular book.
Benefits to you:
- You can read along with me for a book-clublike experience.
Interruption: When I was writing this, I got a text from my sister. Here’s how our text conversation went:
Sis: Watcha doin’?
Me: Blogging. You?
Sis: Sitting at the hospital. Wanna come sit w/ me?
It’s an understatement to say that my family hasn’t been in the best of health for the past year or so. Therefore, I FREAKED out. My guess was that a nephew had broken an arm, but I also considered the possibility that brother-in-law Larry had been injured on the job (cop) or maybe Dad had another heart attack. Who knew?
Me: Yes. Which hospital?
At this time, I jumped off the bed & got dressed. Not knowing what the situation was, I thought it wise to grab some snacks & drinks (for the sis – nonalcoholic… people don’t generally think to hydrate when in emergency mode) & games (for the nephews & niece). Also, I had gotten no response from my sister, so I was throwing STRESSED out energy into packing a million things I wouldn’t need.
Me: Also, do you need me to bring anything?
Me: On my way.
I threw myself into the car assuming that I wasn’t getting a response because she was probably talking to the doctor or in one of the parts of the hospital where cell phones are banned.
Sis (realizing that I was in a panic & trying to catch up with my rapid-fire texts): NW. We won’t actually be here too long.
Sis: No. It’s not a big deal. Larry’s just having a procedure. It should only take an hour or so. Don’t stress out.
You might think that the final text would have helped me to calm down, but it didn’t. My family doesn’t always very rarely communicates about emergencies accurately. It wasn’t until I arrived in the hospital cafeteria & saw my sister & my niece splitting a monster-sized hot dog that I believed things were okay… and they really were okay. 🙂
Back to the book review…
Benefit number 2: You know the reviewer, so there’s a decent chance that you’ll be able accurately gauge the book.
3. You won’t have to waste your time reading things that aren’t good. I’ll let you know that they aren’t good so that you can avoid them.
THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB by Karen Joy Fowler
About a year ago, friend Melissa & I rented the first good decent movie we’ve probably ever rented. We can spend HOURS in Blockbuster searching for the right movie, and I admit that I’m the problem. I nearly always want to find a movie that no one in the whole history of the world has ever seen. Therefore, I will be equipped to regularly save the day by coming up with just the right recommendations for entertainment.
Friend in need: Man. I really want to watch a movie tonight but I can’t think of anything.
Me: REALLY? Because I just saw [insert obscure title here] and it was amazing.
Friend: [Obscure title]? What’s that about?
Me: You just have to see it. It’s this great story about…
Several days later…
Friend: Golly Katie, I watched [obscure title], and you were right on! It was amazing! How do you know EVERYTHING? You’re such a great friend.
Okay, that was super exaggerated, but you get the point.
If I remember correctly, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB didn’t seem particularly well-known, but it did have quite a few actresses we liked, so we got it. Melissa slept through some of it, but I fell in love with the only major male character, Grigg. Other than that, the only thing that REALLY got my attention in the movie was Prudie’s (high school French teacher) INAPPROPRIATE relationship with a student. There isn’t any sex between them, but it’s inappropriate nonetheless, and it hurt my heart as a high school teacher who cares about young people.
Although the book is different from the movie in a lot of ways (Prudie & the student don’t go quite so far into the depths of immorality), the overall impression I got was the same: several inappropriate parts (although I do admit that these parts generally served a purpose – mostly characterization… there wasn’t gratuitous sex or violence), with Grigg as the highlight. I’d probably classify it as Chick-lit striving to be literary fiction (but not quite getting there).
Here is a little taste of the writing that coincidentally illustrates the cute-meet of my dreams (sort of). Also, know that when I read this, I had no idea there was anything in the book about conventions. I was reading purely for the Jane Austen appeal.
On the same weekend in the same hotel was a science fiction convention known as the Westernessecon. In the lower-level conference rooms, science fiction fans were gathering to talk about books and mourn dead or dying tv shows. There were panels on “Why We Once Loved Buffy,” “The Final Frontier: Manifest Destiny Goes Intergalactic,” and “Santa Claus: God or Fiend?”
Jocelyn was taking the elevator from the lobby to her room on the seventeenth floor when a man got on. He wasn’t young, but he was considerably younger than Jocelyn; that was a rapidly growing category. There was nothing to draw Jocelyn’s attention to him, and she paid him no further notice.
A trio of young women came on behind him. All three had chains in their noses, spikes on their wrists. They wore cuffs on their ears as if Fish and Wildlife had tagged and then released them. Their faces were powdered the color of chalk and their arms were crossed over their breasts, wrist spikes on top. The man hit the button for the twelfth floor and one of the women for the eighth.
The elevator stopped again and more people entered. Just as the door was shutting, someone outside clapped it open and more people pushed in. Jocelyn found herself crushed against the back of the elevator. The spikes on one young woman’s bracelet caught on Jocelyn’s sweater and left a snag. Someone stepped on her foot and didn’t seem to realize it; Jocelyn had to wriggle out from under and still there was no apology. The elevator stopped again. “No room!” someone at the front said loudly, and the door closed.
The chalk-faced woman to Jocelyn’s right was wearing the same red dog collar that Sahara sported on dressy occasions. “I have a collar just like that,” Jocelyn told her. She intended it as a friendly gesture, a hand across the waters. She was trying not to mind being trapped at the back of the elevator. Jocelyn didn’t normally suffer from claustrophobia, but she was seldom this squeezed and her breath came fast and shallow.
The woman made no response. Jocelyn waited for one, and then a brief, inconsequential humiliation came over her. What had been her crime? Her age? He clothes? Her “Dog is my copilot” name tag? Everyone except Jocelyn and the not-young-but-younger-than-Jocelyn man got off at the eighth floor. Jocelyn moved forward, picking at the snag in her sweater, trying to pull it inside, where it wouldn’t show. The elevator resumed its assent.
“She was invisible,” the man said.
Jocelyn turned. “Excuse me?”
He appeared to be a normal, agreeable man. Lovely, heavy lashes, but otherwise, quite ordinary. “It’s a game. They’re vampires, and when you see one of them holding her arms crossed like that” – the man demonstrated- “then you should pretend you don’t see her. She’s invisible. That’s why she didn’t answer you. Nothing personal.”
This made it sound as if it were all Jocelyn’s fault. “Being a vampire is no excuse for being rude,” Jocelyn told him… (Fowler, 127-128).
Exactly (well, not exactly) the kind of man I need. Attends conventions, willing to read Jane Austen… if only he loved Jesus & was nonfictional. 🙂
Recommendation: If you are a woman, read THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, but borrow, don’t buy – unless you get a sweet deal ($4 or less). I’m going to take mine to Bookmen’s in a couple of hours.