Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Between the Tan Lines

Upon rereading my title I figured maybe it might sound a little naughty, but its not, so shame on you! This week over on Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the darling blog The Broke and the Bookish) our topic is Top Ten Books I’d Recommend as Beach Reads. Now I am in Central Alberta, Canada and contrary to popular belief we don’t have beaches and palm trees and movie stars everywhere. We do however have beautiful roasting summer days that are perfect for sitting out on the patio or by the lake, and what better to do while tanning your self then picking up a good book and wafting away?

Now for something to be a good Beach/Summer read it needs to be two things; 1. Easy to tote around/the cover is no so incredilbly embarassing your afraid of people seeing your read it in public*, 2. The story is easy enough to pick up and put down multiple times (cause its the summer and heck if I’m going to spend all of it sitting) but still keeps your interest. So I will go with those two qualifiers and be on my way!
*Obviously if you are lucky enough to own an e-reader of some sort this may not be an issue, but I am personally afraid to bring my Touch Screen Kobo any where near sand and water.

Rose Daughter – Robin McKinley: Two Tuesdays in a row and its far from coincidence. Robin McKinley is a favourite author with a splendid imagination. Her second retelling of Beauty and the Beast is less childish and more complex, but just as beautiful and elegant as you remember. The good points? Its a story that’s familiar to about 99% of us, so we can go and come back and still have a good idea of who the characters are and the general idea of what is going on. Also the cover is rather non-descriptive so your safe from hecklers. Bad points? It starts off a little slow, so don’t give up if it doesn’t grab you in the first 50 pages.

The Story of Beautiful Girl – Rachel Simon: If you checked out my EOG Book Club review from April you will know just  how much I loved this book. The characters are beautifully written and the author well researched. The story follows Lynnie and Homan and their dash to freedom from their terrible treatment in the School for the Incurable and Feeble minded. Lynnie is recaptured and sent back, Homan is feared lost in a flooded river, and Lynnie’s baby being cared for by the elderly widow Martha. Good points? The chapters focus on one character at a time at a specific moment in time, it doesn’t jump all over the place willy nilly so following the story even after leaving it for a week is rather easy. You also have your choice of covers, all of which are well put together. Bad points? I cant even think of any, this book is perfect.

World War Z – Max Brooks: Not going to lie, I have learned to love Zombie novels! Zombie movies not so much, because they are far too gory. In a book I can choose to jump a gory part, or since its my imagination limit the blood and off screen the gore. A friend turned me onto this book, and after reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth Series (a teen zombie series) which I loved, I was game. Good points? There are enough thrills and chills to keep you coming back for more, but it written as episodic stories of peoples experiencing the Zombie war so its pretty impossible to get lost. Bad points? I personally hate my cover, more cause its ugly then anything. Also if your a wimp like me the chapter in which you meet the first case may terrify you.

The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury: This one is a little heart breaking as we lost Mr. Bradbury last week. He was an amazing writer with an imagination like no other. I remember my first experience with his work in grade 10, we were reading short stories and we had to read a creepy short by him called The Veldt. The story stuck with me and I spent the next 7 years (oh man I feel old now) trying to find a copy of the story.  Two years ago I was searching Veldt on the bookstore computer (a habit I ritually do with 2 authors and a number of out of print titles) and got a hit! The whole collection quickly became a favorite. Good points? Each story is self contained and doesn’t require any previous knowledge of his work to understand. The stories while dense, are  on average 10 pages or less. Bad points? If you don’t like classic science fiction this is not the book for you. I personally find reading 1950’s science fiction in a modern world fascinating. (Was super hard to find the same cover as the one I have, I personally like this cover infinitely more then the modern artsy covers, this is classic sci-fi dang it. Hand drawn is key!)

The Princess Series – Jim C. Hines: If you want a series of fantastic adventure written for grown women, that’s easy to read without being childish, and will make you laugh, yell and cheer I highly recommend this series. It follows the adventures of Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in the years after Cinderella’s marriage to the Prince. Cliché you say? You couldn’t be more wrong! Hines mixes our Disney girls with the original Grimm tales and a good helping of his own brilliance to make 3  lead female characters you cant help but love and root for! Good points? Its action, adventure and fantasy for women. It doesn’t talk down to you, but is light enough to be enjoyable. Bad points? I really don’t like the covers, especially of the first one, it makes it look like its all cotton candy and bubble gum which its not. Not so embarrassing I wont take it to public (this series and I were inseparable)  but if I had had the option of an e-reader I probably would have gone that way.

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The Story Of Beautiful Girl

For all I know this book is a book club phenomenon that has been love and adored by millions. But that is not how I found it, or grew to fall in love with it. I was simply racked for time to pick a Historical Fiction for The EOG Book Club, and couldn’t muster the energy to blow through a Jane Austen novel in a little over two weeks. This lead to me frantically wandering the newly created book section of my mothers local Wal-Mart. (There is only one very tiny book store in town that keeps bankers hours.)

I was about to give up after seeing nothing that peaked my interest, regency royal scandals are not my cup of tea, when I saw this beautiful little blue cover glowing brightly on the top shelf. I thought to myself, it will be too good to be true if this turns out to be historical fiction, but low and behold it was and I was very happy.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon is set in the early 70’s and leads right up to current day, taking place at the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, an institution where the disabled and mentally handicapped are dumped and taken care of only in the most basic way, and rarely even that.

The story follows 3 main characters:
Lynnie – a woman with developmental delays who is housed at the school who runs away with Homan after becoming pregnant due to the abuse of of the the grounds keepers.
Homan  – An African American deaf-mute man sent to the School simply because no one is able to communicate with him. He falls in love with Lynnie, and after finding out about her pregnancy promises to free her from the school.
Martha – A little old woman with no children of her own living on her farm after the death of her husband. Lynnie and Homan turn up on her door step one night and trust her with hiding and caring for the new born baby after Lynnie is apprehended and Homan is lost to the night.

I was incredibly impressed with the writing style and how well the author was able to put across the thoughts and emotions of all the characters. She masterfully delves into the mind and speech of an African American man who grew up in the 50’s, and surmounts the awesome challenge of him having to describe words and people he has never heard of. She also delves into the mind and feelings of Lynnie with such delicacy and insight I wasn’t at all surprised when the author turned out to have grown up with a sister who had a disability.

Without giving too much away I want to say that this book is really amazing, a lot of really important themes were explored in interesting and engaging ways. All the characters were well fleshed out and believable, well all but one but we can gloss over her. And the setting was almost 3 dimensional. I would recommend this read to absolutely anyone, the themes are universal and there is not so much romance that it would turn a guy off reading it.

My only critique was the ending, I felt that it could have been handled way better then it was. It felt a little rushed, and really the only part of the book that didn’t feel believable to me. There are so many ways that the writer could have resolved the story and brought Lynnie’s daughter to the realization of who her family was, it may have made the book a few chapters longer but would have been well worth the extra time. Luckily the story seems to resolve its self before we get to this disconnected feeling last chapter, so it was easy to disregard it and let it end a chapter earlier.