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Book Challenge Update: 6 Down, 18 to Go

The 24 in 20-10 Book Challenge is going well! Right now, I’m reading Der Vorleser, Catch-22, and I’ll start Dancing on My Ashes (and here) tomorrow, hopefully with the workbook. (I’m reading three right now mostly because Der Vorleser will take me longer since it’s in German. I don’t want to get behind.) Here’s my latest update.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I remember the day in American History when I learned what American settlers did to the Native Americans, the sick I felt in my stomach. I remember the day that an 8th-grade Beth, Danica, and Linden recorded a documentary / play about Dachau for the History Day competition, how it really hit me what the Nazis did to the Jews, the homosexuals, the gypsies, the list goes on.

But understanding slavery, the Antebellum South, black struggles in the 20th century, civil rights 60s, even the racism still strong in my lifetime, it did not happen in a flash like those other times. We still sugar coat it. But white people have pretended for years that we were better than black people because of our skin color. That one obvious difference made our ancestors feel like black people were not as smart, carried diseases, were not real humans. White people today still use that pigmentation as an excuse for prejudice.

This saddens me to the point of tears. If you choose to hate someone because their skin color is different from yours, you might as well hate someone who’s eye color is different from yours. The difference is about as significant.

All that to say that The Help is an excellent book. I felt the pain of the house help and hated the arrogant, simple-minded, racist white women. It’s honest, heart-breaking, and inspiring.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Let’s shift gears.

This was a nice, easy, quick read, and I enjoyed it. Keep that in mind while you read my criticism. :)

Dead Until Dark makes Twilight look good. As much as I complained about Meyer’s writing, Harris’s is worse.  Here’s my favorite quote.

“JB du Rone[‘s . . .] sleeveless shirt showed muscle definition that might have been chiseled with a—well, with a chisel” (283).

Really? Fire that editor. Teach Harris proofreading. That sentence is perfectly fine in a rough draft; Anne Lamott would agree. But you gotta edit that shit out!

It’s full of illogical shifts. Even after I re-read a confusing paragraph, I still couldn’t figure out the train of thought.

Dead Until Dark is a pretty standard Whodunnit. There’s a crime. First, the evidence points to that character. Then you think it’s that one. Finally, you’re sure it must be that guy. Turns out it was a marginal character you never suspected because it wasn’t foreshadowed at all. Hmm, okay.

There are some sexual encounters in the book, but man, disappointing. I thought the sexual tension in Twilight was better, and as I recall, there is never an actual sex scene in the Twilight Saga, just Bella wanting it and Edward controlling himself. Even on their honeymoon, the sex is never depicted but only referred to. And it still beats Sookie and Bill’s romps in the hay.

I didn’t hate the book, though; I really enjoyed the metaphysical ideas Harris toys with. Sookie, the main character, can read minds, but not every mind is like a newspaper. Sometimes, she just gets flashes or moods or images. I liked this so much because—here goes—I’m exploring some similar concepts in the book I’m working on. There, I said it. It’s still in the “Shitty First Draft” stage though, so don’t start asking for copies quite yet.

Twitter-ready Summary: When you need to escape into an easy drama, pick up Dead Until Dark, but don’t expect Dracula.

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