We’re taking Donald’s Beehive Book Club and shaking it up a bit. Since we’ve got several book lovers on staff here and we have wildly varying tastes, we thought we’d jump on his bandwagon and share some of our recent notable reads too. And we want to hear about what you’re reading, so feel free to tell us in the comments section.
Bethany: The “Game of Thrones” series by George R.R. Martin.
The Game of Thrones book series has completely sucked me in. I just finished the third book, A Storm of Swords, and downloaded the next one immediately to my Kindle.
The series, officially called “a Song of Ice and Fire,” centers around the Stark family and its six kids. The family is scattered across a fictional land similar to Old England, dealing with war, dragons, murder, arranged marriages, and a growing threat from something supernatural in the north. Or as a friend of mine calls the series, “bad things happening to good people.”
It’s getting to the point where I’m ditching TV to read because frankly, the heroes in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” have nothing on pre-teen Arya Stark’s adventures with her pint-sized sword, Needle.
I’m not usually a fantasy fan and I don’t have much patience for big books (the last one was 1,177 pages), but I’m so attached to this family now I have to see what happens. The author has a tendency to get a bit wordy at times, but he also takes the character you used to hate and turns him into a multifaceted person you find yourself rooting for.The Game of Thrones TV show is about to start its third season. That’s been a fun tie-in because I can talk about the series with friends who aren’t readers but watch the show.
Donald: “On Beauty” by Zadie Smith.
I fell for the British writer Zadie Smith with her sparkling novel “White Teeth,” and I continued the happy relationship with her grand, sardonic and beautifully written “On Beauty.” In it she slyly positions herself on the front line of the culture wars as she brings us two deeply flawed university professors on opposing sides of the battleground. Howard Belsey, a postmodern art historian so stuffy and left-leaning he refuses to allow representational art in his home, is currently on a crusade against Rembrandt, whom he derides as a mere “competent painter.” His arch academic nemesis, Monty Kipps, wields his conservative political and social philosophy like a battering ram, shaking up Howard’s department as he rants about affirmative action, gay rights and the advantages of unbridled capitalism.
Smith has a writing style that often sneaks up on you at times with its gorgeous lyricism, but her voice is light enough not to overwhelm the sharp and often comic narrative. Behind each of the men are two dysfunctional and hugely interesting families, with long-suffering wives and headstrong children tossing up all sorts of complications. Race is an ever-present factor — Monty and his wife, Carlene, are black, while Howard is white and married to the black Kiki — but is just one of a number of themes that include the obtuseness of higher education and the great economic divide between rich and poor, along with some good ol’ marital infidelity, always a plot thickener.
There are times, in fact, when the situations Smith spins for her characters become so intense that I couldn’t take the book in prolonged doses. But I always came back. It’s one of those books that efficiently inserts you into a world so effectively that the stakes seem as high as if you were standing right there in the Belsey kitchen.
Josh: “Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone.”
If you didn’t know the Ramones, here’s a quick introduction of the band. Tommy was the normal one (comparatively), DeeDee was the addict. Joey was the introvert (and possible obsessive-compulsive). And Johnny was the raging A-hole, the kind of guy who liked to punch people (even his band mates) in the face and steal purses from old ladies and generally be a … well, punk. To his credit, he’s honest about it. In fact, the first parts of his autobiography are what you would expect from a guy who became an icon in the “punk” movement. The book was written during Johnny’s battle with cancer (which eventually took his life) and if you are looking for some end-of-life reflection, you’re out of luck. The book pulls no punches, and Johnny makes no qualms (or apologies. Seriously, not a one) about how he lived his life.
The Ramones were never going to be the biggest band in the world, even if Johnny thought it might. What’s surprising is how he handled it when the grim reality finally hit. He did what he would have done if he had been working on some factory line. He sucked it up, put his head down and did his job. Rock and roll was Johnny’s job (one he loved, for sure) and he approached it like the hard-working white-collar all-American boy he was. That’s probably the true story of Johnny Ramone.
For Ramones fans, “Commando” is good, quick read and might give some new perspective on the band (much like the 2003 documentary “End of the Century.” The prose is stilted at times, the narrative gets a bit jumpy, and, at times, Johnny comes off like an angry teenager who grew into an angry adult and died an angry old man. Bottom line: It’s refreshing, actually, to read a book that doesn’t make an icon of an icon.
Kathy: “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
I recently finished the first two books in the “Beautiful Creatures” series. I’m a fan of young adult books and have raved about a few like the “The Hunger Games” in past book club posts, so when I read Rick Bentley’s movie review and the story he did with the book’s authors, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, I was intrigued.
The books, told from a teenage boy’s perspective, are supposed to be a twist on the typical young adult romance-fantasy formula (average girl is saved by super hunk with supernatural powers). The biggest change is the story is told from the boy’s (Ethan Wate) perspective. The girl (Lena Duchannes) has magical powers and faces a dark family legacy. Ethan and Lena fall for each other despite their family differences. It’s a fun story that moves along at a fairly good pace, though there are times when bog down with school angst. On the down side, it is filled with typical teen cliches: bitchy cheerleaders and studly athletes, cliques, teens who can’t, or won’t, think for themselves and kids with deep insecurities. But it also creates an interesting second world beneath the surface of a small southern town and weaves in historical and literary tidbits that make the book feel a bit smarter.
There are four books in the series. After two, I decided to take a break. But I’ll eventually go back and read the ending to the story. These are fun beach, pool and vacation reads, especially for fans of young adult, magical and romance books.
What are you reading?