Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading Roundup: Eclectic set of fiction

October is here in full force, and it's already been a busy one! I spent six days in Nashville, wrote a paper for class, sped through my book club book, and celebrated my birthday—all in the past ten days! Thus, a reading roundup is necessary to get myself caught up and let you guys know what I've been reading!

I checked out Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt from the library and downloaded to my eReader for a day at the beach day back during Labor Day weekend (so long ago!). In case you don't recall, it got quite a bit of buzz in the blogosphere back in the Spring of last year. Well, I finally got around to reading it! It was perfect for a beach read, because I read the whole thing in about 5 hours sitting in the sun.

Twelve-year-old CeeCee has a big burden on her shoulders, and that burden is her mother. With a distant father that's always traveling for work, CeeCee has become the main caretaker of her crazy mother—a woman who thinks she's winning a Georgia beauty pageant in 1951, even though it's 1967 and they're in Ohio. After tragedy strikes, CeeCee finds herself living in Savannah with a great-aunt where she can finally be the one looked after, instead of doing the looking after. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is sort of a coming-of-age tale for CeeCee as she adjusts to her new life in a new part of the country, new social issues, new relationships, and finally has room to discover herself.

The cast of characters was amusing and diverse in scope, and this was an enjoyable read—great for the beach. And...just that. I bet it was a big book club choice for 40-something Southern women. Similar to The Help in that it has a real easy writing style, reflects that Southern vibe, and sorta touches on social issues but not in a really gritty, intense, profound literary way. In that way, it makes both these books and any similar seem kinda formulaic. But I mean, I still enjoyed it.


The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy was a book that I've been wanting to read for months (maybe even a couple years?) and just never got around to it. Finally after one book club meeting, I decided to buy it on a wine-influenced whim (is that why wine is served at our meetings?). I read Dundy's other novel, The Old Man and Me, last year, and supposedly The Dud Avocado is the better one (though they both have their cult following). In Dud, Sally Jay is an American that's headed to Paris in the 1950s to live as one of those "lost youth" so prevalent in literature at the time. She's witty and charming and sometimes a little crazy like any good young ingenue. 

Well, here's the thing. I read this so long ago, and this whole time I've struggled on what to write about it. I had the same issue with The Old Man and Me. And because the writing is just so full of subtle wit and a highly developed (in terms of writing) and complex character, I feel I can't do it justice by just reading it once. So I'm not going to say much more about it, except this: The Dud Avocado and Dundy's works require more than a single light reading, and I hope to give them some point.


My hiatus from the Penderwicks didn't last long, because I picked up the most recent in the series the last time I was at the library. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is the third in the series by Jeanne Birdsall that follows the adventures of the Penderwick sisters and their friend Jeffrey. This time, Daddy is on his honeymoon in England, Rosalind is vacationing at the beach with a friend, and the rest of the Penderwicks (and Jeffrey) have headed to Maine with Aunt Claire. 

I liked this better than the last one, and I appreciated the details that made it a small departure from the previous two. Skye's character was developed and came into her own as she performed the role as the Oldest Available Penderwick; Jane experienced her first real disappointment with love and a more grown-up world; Jeffrey was finally a leading man rather than just supporting cast as he got his own unique storyline; and the girls all had learning, growing experience when Daddy wasn't there to fix everything. 

I don't think the Penderwicks series has quite as much depth as some of my other childhood favorites, like Anne of Green Gables or Betsy-Tacy, and part of that may be due to its ensemble cast as opposed to a single main character. But, Birdsall has created characters and stories that are fun to follow and are pretty timeless experiences of childhood and adolescence.

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