Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Book Review Club (November 2011)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means, it's time for The Book Review Club! Hello and welcome! The reviewers have done an awesome job, so please scoll down. You won't be sorry. See the photo of the woman on the left? That's Kelly Hayes, my critique partner. It's always a treat to read a review by Kelly, and I'm happy to report I managed to talk her into reviewing a book for us this month. Take it away, Kelly!

THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST by Anna Jean Mayhew

It’s 1954 in Charlotte, NC, and 13-year-old Jubie Watts hasn’t yet made the transition from child to young adult. But all that is about to change. Jubie’s mother packs Jubie, her three siblings, and the family’s black maid, Mary in to the car for a road trip to visit family in Florida. For reasons only guessed at by Jubie, her father is not coming with them.


As they drive the sweltering southern roads, Jubie recalls her family’s past and the recent events that have led to the disintegration of her parents’ marriage. Her father’s physical abuse of her and her mother, his roving eye, and his deep-seeded racism all begin to come to light in Jubie’s mind. She tries to reconcile all this with the image of her beloved daddy, but she just can’t see him with a child’s eye anymore.

While staying with her uncle, Jubie develops a profound crush on a fifteen-year-old black boy. Her mind begins to open further and she starts to see the everyday racism all around her. The brunt of it falls on Mary, who has been for Jubie the kind, nurturing presence that her emotionally cold mother could never be. As the family travels deeper into the South, Jubie witnesses people treating Mary as little more than a talking animal. None of this fits with the intelligent, vibrant woman she knows Mary to be and Jubie begins to confront her own inherited prejudices.

Violence simmers beneath the surface of Anna Jean Mayhew’s southern setting. The centerpiece of the story is a violent act that rocks the foundations of Jubie’s narrow world. How she comes to terms with it is what makes this book so moving and heartfelt. Jubie reminds us that rebellion is at the heart of every revolution, be it political or personal. And that we have to stand for what we know in our hearts is right, not matter what society tells us.
The Dry Grass of August invites comparisons because of its setting, protagonist, and subject matter. The Help, The Secret Life of Bees, and of course, To Kill a Mocking Bird all portray coming of age in the segregated South, and they do it well. Anna Jean Mayhew’s book, however, takes an unflinching and personal look at a dark time in our country’s recent history through the eyes of a young white girl on her way to becoming a free-thinking adult. And much like Scout, Jubie will live in the reader’s mind for a long time to come.

Thanks, Kelly, for the thoughtful review. You've convinced me to read this book. And, now, scroll down for links to all the reviews. It's certainly an interesting lot this month!


PICTURE-BOOK REVIEW

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: RED SLED by Lita Judge


MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Jody Feldman: FLOORS by Patrick Carman (Middle Grade)

Staci of Life in the Thumb: THE ATMOIC WEIGHT OF SECRETS by Eden Unger Bowditch (Middle Grade, Fantasy)

Beth Yarnall: ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake (Young Adult, Paranormal)

Sarah Laurence: JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta (Young Adult)

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson (Young Adult)


ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Stacy of The Cat's Meow: A SUMMER IN EUROPE by Marilyn Brant (women's fiction)

Scott Parker: THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman (fantasy)

Kathy Holmes: THE GOD'S WIFE by Lynn Voedisch (paranormal historical)

Patti Abbott NEMESIS by Philip Roth

Linda McLaughlin: 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne (science fiction)

Kaye of the Road Goes Ever Ever On: PRAYERS FOR SALE by Sandra Dalls

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova


GRAPHIC NOVEL

Stacy Nyikos: BAD ISLAND by Doug TenNapel


Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. I've been especially disorganized this month! Thank you so much for your reviews!

20 comments:

Beth said...

A thank you to Kelly - I have a particular fondness for books set in the South.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

This sounds like a good pick for my Bumble Book Club.

Jenn Jilks said...

Good work, Barrie. Thanks for the fun of participating.

Linda McLaughlin said...

My thanks to Kelly, too. This sounds like an excellent book. I remember traveling through the South in the late 1950's & early 1960's. It was a period to challenge a lot of one's preconceptions.

Thanks for organizing us again, Barrie. :)

Bee said...

I wonder why some people become (negatively) aware of the racist attitudes of those around them, while others never do -- or choose not to? I'm teaching To Kill a Mockingbird later on this year. I'd like to read this book and see if it could be used as a paired text.

Hi Barrie! I hope that I can get back to book posting next month. x

A.J. said...

Kelly, thanks for your insightful and beautifully written review of my book. I'm particularly impressed with your understanding of Jubie's inherent racism; children are often infected by a parent's prejudices, even when the child senses that the parent is wrong. And I love your description of Mary. I still cannot read page 223 without tears (I won't risk a spoiler by mentioning details). Thanks to you and Barrie for a fine blog. Because your blog is listed as Tween/Teen Author and Website, I wondered if you knew that my book has been recommended for young adults...hope a URL will come through: http://www.voya.com/2011/08/03/this-week-in-reviews-august-1-2011/

Again, my deep thanks for your fine review.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

This one sounds like a riveting, emotional read. Great review!

Ellen Booraem said...

Sounds like a stunner of a book--thanks for an insightful review, Kelly.

And thanks as always for organizing us, Barrie! (I finally got my review posted. Can't get out of my own way today.)

Kelly Hayes said...

A.J., I'm honored that you read and liked my review of your book. You just made my day!

I also lead a bookclub at the library where I work and am planning on discussing your book in the new year. I think it will be an excellent book club choice.

Thank you for your comment.

And thank you to everyone else for the kind words.

AbaGayleb said...

I'm glad I came and checked my email, and I saw this.
This sounds really interesting!(:

Barrie said...

A.J.! Thank you so much for visiting. You are our guest of honor!

Sarah Laurence said...

Barrie, thanks for hosting!

Kelly, fabulous review - I'm hooked. It does sound very much like The Secret Lives of Bees, one of my favorite books. I'll add this to my to read list.

Barrie said...

Beth: I like book set in the south. Even more, I pretty much always go with Kelly's suggestons. ;)

Green Girl: I think it's a great book for a book club. Did your book club do The Help?

Jenn: A pleasure, as always!

Barrie said...

Linda: I love it when Kelly has enough time to review for us.

Bee: Would absolutely love to see you next month. BUT I know you're crazy busy. Thanks for visiting the reviews!

Alyssa: Agreed! I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Barrie said...

Ellen: Read your review and loved it! Thanks for joining in.

AbaGayle: Ah....the surprises found in an inbox!

Sarah: I think this book sounds right up your alley! Oh, and you're welcome re the hosting thing. Did you see how I did the button link all on my own! :)

David Cranmer said...

A couple titles here jumped right into my next Amazon order. Thanks, Barrie.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Even though the Canadian prairies are a long way from the racism of the deep south, we have lots of ugly racism in our cold north.

This sounds like the kind of book I love to read. Thanks
for the review.

Barrie said...

David, I suspect amazon is happy with both of us. :)

Barrie said...

Gabe: Good to see you!

Ellen Booraem said...

Gabe!!! *tackle hug*