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Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another book I had a hard time rating. There were things about this book that I loved, and things that I really disliked. I did enjoy reading it, but I find the things I didn’t like continuing to bug me now that I’m finished. In the end, I think it is a high 3 star rating for me.

Synopsis from the Barnes and Noble Website:

Of Bees and Mist is the tale of Meridia — raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, she spends her childhood feeling neglected and invisible. Every evening her father vanishes inside a blue mist without so much as an explanation, and her mother spends her days venomously beheading cauliflowers in the kitchen. At sixteen, desperate to escape, Meridia marries a tenderhearted young man and moves into his seemingly warm and charming family home. Little does she suspect that his parents are harboring secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden. There are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other. And there is Eva, the formidable matriarch whose grievances swarm the air like an army of bees. In this haunting story, Setiawan takes Meridia on a tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak as she struggles to keep her young family together and discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as the shocking truths about her husband’s family.

I really liked:

  • The first few chapters.  I was truly charmed as the book got started, and we met the characters, and were introduced to the mystery surrounding them.
  • The setup of the magical world.  The magic here is mostly in things that people make happen indirectly, rather than by casting spells.   People’s feelings and personality end up manifesting in interesting ways.  It was a unique magical system, and I enjoyed exploring it.
  • The bees, the mists, and the fireflies, as part of that magical world.  They helped us see what would otherwise have been hidden.
  • The main character, Meridia. She was smart and resiliant, and took action to deal with all of the things that happened to her over the course of the book.
  • Hannah. Such a helpful friend.
  • Eva. Such an evil antagonist.
  • The writing itself was beautiful when I noticed it.  I usually don’t notice.
  • The book was unusual.  I really enjoyed that about it.  I’ve never read anything else like it.

I didn’t like:

  • All of the negativity around marriage and childbirth, and around personal relationships in general. Yes, they are hard, but not THAT hard. People do survive them.
  • How we saw so much more of the bad than the good in so many characters.  Flaws make characters interesting, but in moderation.
  • Most of the secondary characters. They were either flat or changed in ways that were not believable to me.

If you are looking for a magical book, that isn’t quite like anything else you’ve read, consider picking up this book.  Otherwise, look at my comments, and see what you think.

I read this book through the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club.  I want to give them a big Thank You for my copy of the book and for the opportunity to participate in the on-line discussion.

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Posted by on June 23, 2009 in books, reviews

 

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Monday reading

I decided to try a weekly reading summary/forward look.   Of course, the week I decided this, I didn’t have much time for reading. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Last week

I finished two books: one paper, one audio:

Old World Daughter, New World Mother: An Education in Love and F... by Maria Laurino Old World Daughter, New World Mother: An Education in Love and Freedom by Maria Laurino was my physical book for the week.  It is my first book I received for review.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite come together as a whole for me, even though I found much of the content interesting and thought provoking.

True Colors (Hardcover) by Kristin Hannah True Colors by Kristin Hannah was what I listened to last week. I should have my review up in a few days. I downloaded this to listen to after reading a positive review of another book by the same author, since I’ve never read anything she’s written. Unfortunately, I was largely disappointed in this book. Whereas OWDNWM was a very high 3 star rating, and caused me to consider 4 stars, this book was a low to middle 3 stars for me.

This week

I’m still reading Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan for the Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club.  There is a recommended reading schedule of 9-10 chapters a week, and I’m sticking to that, so I’ll be finishing this for the final week of discussion on 6/22.  I’m enjoying it so far, although I don’t like the second section as well as the first, which I really liked.

I’m reading Beach Trip: A Novel by Cathy Holton for the Books on The Brain Summer Reading Series on 6/16.

If I finish that, I’ll probably start The Crying Tree: A Novel by Naseem Rakha or The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel by Shannon Hale if I need something lighter.

Next up on audio will probably be Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, on the recommendation of @yondalla.  If I decide to go for something different, I’ve also downloaded Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt on the recomendation of Bermuda Onion.

reading benchThis is my daughter’s last week of school, and it is busy!  I don’t know how much reading time I’ll end up with this summer.  Since my daughter also loves reading, I suspect we’ll end up blowing off other activities to read :-).

What are you reading? Will summer make a difference to your reading time?

(Check out J. Kay’s Blog for other Monday reading summaries.)

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2009 in books, Me, summary

 

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June preview: scheduled reads

I don’t think I had this much reading scheduled since I was in school! I’m looking forward to each of these books.

Scheduled Reads

Of Bees and Mist: A Novel (Hardcover) by Erick SetiawanOf Bees and Mist: A Novel by Erick Setiawan

This is the Barnes & Noble First Look Book for June. This is my first time participating in this program, and I’m looking forward to discussing this book on-line throughout the month. Thank you to B & N for sending the book my way.

From the description: Of Bees and Mist takes place in a nameless town during a timeless era, where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, ghosts and clairvoyance — both real and imagined — are an everyday reality. Setiawan skillfully blends the real and the fantastical as he follows our heroine over a 30-year time span in which her love, courage, and sanity are tested to the limit.

Beach Trip: A Novel by Cathy HoltonBeach Trip: A Novel by Cathy Holton

is the June Read for the Books on The Brain Summer Reading Series on 6/16. Thank you to Lisa Munley (of Books on the Brain) for arranging for my copy of the book. I may need to schedule some time at the beach to read this one!

From the description on Amazon.com:
Mel, Sara, Annie, and Lola have traveled distinct and diverse paths since their years together at a small Southern liberal arts college during the early 1980s. […] Now the friends, all in their forties, converge on Lola’s lavish North Carolina beach house in an attempt to relive the carefree days of their college years. But as the week wears on and each woman’s hidden story is gradually revealed, these four friends learn that they must inevitably confront their shared past: a failed love affair, a discarded suitor, a betrayal, and a secret that threatens to change their bond, and their lives, forever. Darkly comic and deeply poignant, Beach Trip is an unforgettable tale of lifelong friendship, heartbreak, and happiness.

Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee CarrellInterred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

is Book Club L’s June read,  date not yet set– probably mid to late month.  I discovered this book at Book Group Expo last year.  I’m looking forward to it as a fun read, and I hope there will also be enough to discuss as well.

From the GoodReads.com description: Jennifer Lee Carrell’s highly acclaimed debut novel is a brilliant, breathlessly paced literary adventure. […] From London to Harvard to the American West, Kate races to evade a killer and solve a tantalizing string of clues hidden in the words of Shakespeare, which may unlock one of history’s greatest secrets.

The Black Dahlia (Paperback) by James EllroyThe Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

is Book Club M’s book for our July 6 meeting.  I probably won’t get to it in June, but I’ll go ahead and list it here in case I decide to read ahead.  One of our members found this on a list of top 25 novels in the past 25 years, and nominated it.  I don’t know much about it.

From The Great Book List: With this novel, Ellroy invented neo-noir crime fiction and elevated himself from genre novelist to serious writer of literature. The Black Dahlia is the first book in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, a cycle of novels set in 1940s and 1950s Hollywood. The Quartet continued with The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. Based on the true story of the murder of Elizabeth Short, the novel follows two fictional detectives as they try to solve the crime and as they do, they reveal a city of corruption and depravity.

In another message, I describe the other books I want/need to read in June.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2009 in Book Club, books, L, M

 

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