book club


who says you have to be crowded into the living room/kitchen/dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

side note to all readers: if you’ve read the book, jump in on the conversation. comment away. if you haven’t read the book, go out and buy a copy, you ninny. and then come back and comment. if you’d like to become a full time BOOK HUNGRY member, contact one of us and we’ll get you set up. no need to have a blog. we can post for you. it couldn’t be easier. and it couldn’t be more fun.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:

BEAUTY by Robin McKinley

some books are boosted by lightning fast plots. you turn the pages so quick, you’re in danger of getting a paper cut. other books are charming in a more subtle way with the characters whispering their secrets to you. certain books grip you from the first page to the very end. others require a bit more dedication and perspiration to get through. some books you love and re-read multiple times. others you’re happy to return to the library.

all of these books deserve our attention.

this book, BEAUTY, is a re-telling of a very famous tale, which i’m sure you’ve already guessed — beauty and the beast. i happen to have the lyrics of every song from that disney movie memorized (yes, it’s been decades since i first saw it. don’t judge), so you could say i had a certain preconception when i picked up this book. i was wrong. all wrong. (wait, am i ever right?) while there are no singing dishes or giggling armoires or talking tea cups, there IS magic within these pages. it takes some time to show up, but once it does, the reward is worth the wait.

as a reader, this book won’t be hitting my “favorites list”, but there were portions i really liked. (side note:  i use a post-it note as a bookmark and when i reach a part that makes me go “oooh,” i rip the post-it note and use the smaller portion to mark the passage.) in BEAUTY, i didn’t mark any passages until the third section, but then there were so many parts i enjoyed that i needed more post-it notes, however, i was on plane and didn’t have access to any, so i resorted to writing the page numbers on the small scrap i had left. i can be resourceful, no?

but it was as a writer that i truly appreciated reading BEAUTY. it’s a solid story with some amazing passages. if i hadn’t HAD to read the book, i wouldn’t have learned that a slowly paced plot is something i want to avoid in my writing, but for this book, the pacing fit. and i would have miss out on the McKinley’s third section. the magic is literally palpable. that portion was its own course in creative writing. my point being, it’s necessary to read books you LOVE and books you don’t because it’s not always easy to pick out what you like, but it is easy to figure out what you didn’t. and then once you’ve learned what you like and don’t like, you can go ahead and incorporate it (or not) into your own work.

as elizabeth ryann said, “This book is like the literary equivalent of getting into a really hot jacuzzi. You kind of ease into it slowly, going at your own pace, and each muscle relaxes as you do. You can’t just plop down and feel more relaxed. It’s the [slow paced] process that gets you where you want to end up.” the girl has a point. the beginning (and umm, middle) parts are slow going and while i didn’t love that feature, it did get me to the end, which was entirely adorable and magical and sweet and satisfying. the end result wouldn’t have felt the same if we, the readers, had gotten there faster. also, ER had another brilliant point. the book is titled BEAUTY, not beauty and the beast. this is her story. and her life is a bit dull and we need to know that so we can fully appreciate what she gains when she joins the beast and how she changes once she’s there.

my diagnosis: read this book. read it on a quiet afternoon or on a day when it’s nothing but hectic around you or on a sunny day or on a rainy day. it’s not going to cause lightning and thunder in your brain, but it will enchant you. and who doesn’t want some magic in their life?

thanks for challenging us with your choice, elizabeth. my writerly and readerly sides bow down to you.


34 thoughts on “BOOK HUNGRY: beauty”

  1. I love reading all the different takes on the same book–it gives me a broader picture to work from when I’m deciding if I’ll read a book. Thanks! :)

    1. this book was the first one that really polarized the group. i loved that it did that because it gave our discussion a bit more depth.

      it clued me into why i enjoy this group — exposure to new books AND new viewpoints. it is educational and FUN, no matter what elizabeth says. :)

  2. I agree, I also like that it divided us a bit. Gives the Club some depth, as you said. I kind of forgot this is a fairy tale and is supposed to have that sense of unbelievability.

    1. i think unbelievability is where a fairy tale should start, but at the same time, it’s the writer’s job to make us believe it’s real life, to encourage us to suspend our disbelief and live in that world. the third section did that. the first two? for me, no.

  3. I guess for me, I probably won’t read it again, but I am glad I had the opportunity to do so, because like you said, it gives you an opportunity as a writer to see what you don’t want to do.

    The pace was very slow for me, and the front story was heavy, but the magic of the castle did make up for it and I love the Beauty was not the only one who changed.

    1. kelly, you nailed it! (tee hee) “i love that Beauty was not the only one who changed.” brilliant. that, in a nutshell, is what’s charming about this story. McKinley has turned this well known fairy tale into a transformation of two characters, not just one. she’s made it her own story and that’s all you can ask for.

      ok, now i’m liking this story more the more we talk about it. ha.

  4. i don’t think i’ll be reading this book, but you make a great point about the importance (especially for writers) of reading all kinds of books, because you can learn a lot from all of them: about what you love and what works and what doesn’t work and what to avoid. of course the challenge is not so much figuring out if you like something or not, but WHY you like it, why it works or doesn’t :)

    what are you reading next?

    1. it’s just like what they tell you when you break up with someone — “there’s a lesson to be learned there.” and so goes it with reading books you don’t like. there’s a lesson to be learned there and as a writer, it’s your job to find it. like a detective sniffing out that last missing piece of evidence.

      yeah, just like that.

      and, i just heard — our next selection is All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. want to read it with us?

  5. Honestly, I don’t think I’d read this book again, but really the “re-Read” distinction is rare in my library. It has to be FIERCE and AWESOME for me to take the time to go through it again when there are so many new books coming out every day :) That said, I too am glad Elizabeth had us read it. I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise, and while I didn’t love it, BEAUTY was a solid read.

  6. I always love your thoughtful thoughts, Abby! This one really is totally sneaky enchantment. And I’ve only come to appreciate it more when I look at it through my writing goggles. There’s a lot to unpack afterwards, that you don’t even realize you’re getting at the time since it seems so straightforward. But it’s the bits of magic that really do stay with me, like the library full of all the books that will ever be written…and the animals. :)

    1. The more I think about it, the more I realize how successful this book was. Sure, it’s not my favorite but you can tell that each word McKinley chose was deliberate and necessary. She purposefully kept the pacing slow, giving her characters time to grow and learn. And allowing us to be educated in the process. ShaZam.

      And lastly, Greatheart fangirls unite!

      1. Exactly! And honestly, I can totally see why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But as a writer, I find it really interesting. It’s kind of like shopping for antiques, when you can clearly see the craftsmanship that went into an item, and it just feels very much like a product from another time.

        Of course, that’s a theoretical shopping trip. I usually encounter junk at antique stores.

      2. so with this analogy, your total comes to 45 spot on descriptions of this book, reading this book, and/or how to decipher McKinley’s writing.

        i want to keep this discussion going just to see what you’ll come up with next. reading as a horse race. writing as knitting a sweater. your move, E.

    1. they’re like a rushing river. you can’t stop them. and the best part is that they really are inspired and make sense and are generally, awesome. maybe you should think about a career in writing? :)

    1. a match made in decadence, indeed. i wonder what you would have done if i said i took payments in play dough and iphones.

      1. i don’t doubt YOUR googling skills, i doubt mine. (seriously.) so i forget that what seems impossible to me is a mere clickity clack for someone else.

        i bow down to your skills.

    1. apparently word press doesn’t accept payments in $100 bills or chocolate, so it put you in spam jail. fortunately, i’m in good with the jailer, so i paid your bail with the advance you just left me.

      what goes around comes around.

      1. Look, just don’t get arrested, because I just paid you (and paid you again with another picture that looks like it got eaten up as spam), so I’m low on funds for bail.

      2. i’m not the one who was in spam jail, YOU were.

        in other news, i’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for inflating my blog page views for today. i’m at 64 views for the day and i’m pretty sure you account for at least half. :)

        but then again, these are some scintillating conversations we’ve got going on in the comments section.

  7. Haha, well, YOU SAID what goes around comes around, and I was just pointing out that I couldn’t repay the favor at the moment.

    And, yeah, you bet! Thanks for being willing to have a conversation. So few people are. I mean, I get why people don’t check back at my blog to see what I’ve said to them, but I don’t really get people who aren’t interested in responding back on their own blogs.

    1. i guess i tangled myself into a blonde moment and i got confused as to what was going around and what was coming around. chocolate and dollars, oh my.

      re: conversations — i always hope my blog will start a conversation in the comments. i think people are beginning to notice that i always respond to their comments and check back. you’re just a rock star at responding back to the response. holla!

  8. I enjoy your entries. Keep it up. I don’t seem to have time for many novels. I am reading on almost must read book on the global conflict between Islam and Christianity. “The Tenth Parallel” by Eliza Griswold. she’s the daughter of the former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. i recommend it.

    1. It sounds like our tastes in books very greatly, but perhaps I will try to make some time for THE TENTH PARALLEL. thanks for suggesting it!

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