Archive for ‘Writings’

March 16th, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Author: Beth Hoffman

Published: January 12th, 2010 by Penguin Group (USA)

Number of Pages: 320

Rating: 3/5

Review Sent to Penguin Group*:

Coming Soon. (I’ll edit this post and stick it in later.)

Review:

Confession: I spent last evening writing a paper for a book report I’m doing on Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and, as my blog has been in sore need of a new post, I thought I’d kill two slugs with one stone (notice I didn’t say “birds” because birds are darling and amazing while slugs are disgusting little turds). I’m simply going to post the book report here. It’s a bit longer than a normal review, but I really haven’t had time to review anything else.

SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT BY BETH HOFFMAN

Book Report

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman is simply a spin on the Southern, coming-of-age plotline – a spin I wasn’t particularly fond of. I prefer the spins that leave you dizzy yet irrationally anxious for more. All books are retellings of one or more basic storylines thought up the moment human beings were placed on this earth and granted the gift of an imagination. This particular retelling begins with CeeCee Honeycutt, a girl whose mother has been dropping marbles (or pearls – her mom would have thought them more classy) on her way to Goodwill for years. After her mother’s tragic and ironic death, CeeCee is shipped off to Savannah, Georgia to live with her Great Aunt Tootie. Once there, her world of simple pleasures and more dramatic displeasures is flung this way and that by the rich, warm, and yummy atmosphere of Georgia in the 1960’s.

A focal point of the novel is CeeCee’s ever-present worry that she will become more like her mother as she grows older – not in looks or tone, but in mental health. Often little things would entice her to think that her sanity was diminishing, that her mind would soon reach its demise and turn inside out. It’s quite evident that the author’s goal was to relate the message that children are not black and white, identical versions of their parents. They’re not clones or robots. Children are people with free agency and that grants them the ability to stretch their limbs in any direction they’d like, to become anything they’d like. CeeCee struggles to believe this truth. Our independent natures and personalities are what make us us, and those aren’t hereditary traits handed down from one generation to the next.

CeeCee lives in a town where everyone knows she’s the crazy lady’s daughter. That’s what she grows up knowing. That’s what she knows people are thinking at the supermarket. That’s her – to nearly everyone else, at least. CeeCee’s mother, Camille Sugarbaker Honeycutt, is far down the road to a padded cell. She’s absolutely certain that she’s still a young lady, the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen, and must dress accordingly. Daily, she struts down to the local Goodwill in a prom dress and red stilettos to buy more of the same. CeeCee deals with her mom on her own, occasionally finding solace at her neighbor Ms. Odell’s house. Her father travels for business incessantly, although CeeCee has a hunch that he’s not too lonely on these trips. One sunny Ohio morning, Camille Honeycutt is run over by the Happy Cow Ice Cream truck on her trip to Goodwill. She dies happily in a prom dress and heels. She dies thinking she’s the Onion Queen. Shortly after the tragedy, Aunt Tootie convinces CeeCee’s father to send her to Georgia. It’s then that CeeCee’s life really begins. We follow CeeCee’s story as she acclimates to the change and becomes a true Georgian, just as her mother was. But different.

The setting (1960’s Georgia) was my favorite part of the book. You can’t overlook the feeling that Rhett Butler’s name might appear on the next page. You can’t get the idea that Scarlet is drinking whiskey right around the corner from CeeCee out of your head. Quite honestly, Georgia is nearly my favorite book setting of all time. The sticky sweetness of the air (in your imagination), the colossal size of the bugs (in your imagination), the cotton plantations that you imagine once stood wherever you may be (in your imagination), all create such a picturesque literary scene that you can’t possibly help but fall in love with the atmosphere. I appreciated Beth Hoffman’s evident love for her setting as well, which brought a descriptive integrity to the novel. The shock which CeeCee feels as she discovers the secrets and decodes the whispering of the southern winds emanates through the reader’s body. The change from Ohio (another favorite setting) to Georgia is astronomical. The setting was fantastically described. As I reader, I felt that I was there, trying to keep from sweating my eyebrows off.

I felt that Beth Hoffman applied favoritism to her characters; certain ones where very deep and interesting, while others seemed slightly underdeveloped. Oletta, for example, embodied a past, present and future. She seemed real because she had a history, as well as a future that I, as a reader, enjoyed predicting. Characters of her sort are the ones you delve into, body and soul, and come out of with a deep understanding of an actual person, which is one thing that makes reading remarkable. Other characters had promise, but were minor and not spoken of much, and others simply weren’t interesting enough to divert your attention from the plot or from the more fascinating characters. CeeCee was nearly one of these. I did not see much special about her. Her voice seemed like it was coming through a paper she had written, not her thoughts, and the two are so drastically different that it’s noticeable. One of the characters I wished I knew more about (yet it was the fact that not every facet of his personality was described that made him so interesting) was CeeCee’s father, who didn’t seem like much of a great guy, but whose actions were just as contradictory, his motives just as foggily hidden from others’ eyes, as real people’s are, and that made him a character that I’d read an entire book about. Aunt Tootie was sweet and clearly accustomed to living comfortably – as in not troubled by much. You became fond of her, but she was not someone outstanding. Miz Goodpepper I loved for her quirkiness and strong, odd beliefs. Oletta was one of my favorite characters because I enjoy reading about sassy, strong, warm-hearted women like her. They seem to symbolize what women should be – loving and proud of what they are.

Ultimately, I enjoyed aspects of the book, but not the book. The ending was far too ideal for everyone’s circumstances. I mentally stamped “And they all lived happily ever after” onto the final page, a warning that this book lacked one of my favorite things – the bittersweet quality. It seemed as though the tragic happenings all occurred at the beginning of the book for the sole purpose of allowing happier things to happen throughout. I’m eager to read more by Beth and really do believe she will publish something I’m bound to love. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is the perfect book for someone who needs to be emotionally uplifted a bit – not plowed down by dreariness – and a great book for someone who can’t get over the mystique of Georgia. I, personally, found that I did not enjoy reading many of the key factors of the book, which ate up the majority of it, and that fact has kept me from singing its praises from the rooftops.

Of course, if you want sugary sweet, read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

~~~~~~

Alright, that was easy!

I really do hope to post a review for The Lotus Eaters this week. I fear that March just may be a bad blogging month. This Wordbird’s got her hands full!

Speaking of this month: Next week is my Spring Break, and I intend to put my spare time to good use. My goal over Spring Break is to write 30,000 words, which would ideally be 5,000 words everyday for six days. Not only has this week been poor for blogging, but for writing as well, and I desperately want to make substantial progress.

Happy Tuesday!

(Oh, and did I mention that I’m heading out to pick up River Secrets by Shannon Hale from the library and buy Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith from Borders? Yahoo!)

*Thanks for the ARC!

March 8th, 2010

Dear Writers, Respect YA

by Madeleine Rex

I recently wrote a guest post for Steph Bowe’s blog, Hey! Teenager of the Year. I thought I’d cross-post it so that the folks who haven’t seen it yet can take a peek. I decided to write primarily on two topics: the Young Adult genre and the necessity of characters.

Young Adult fiction has become a dominant force, invading the shelves of people of every age. An enormous amount of space at my local Borders has been turned into a sort of YA theme park. School libraries are streaming with kids, some of whom have been readers since they were munchkins and some on whom it’s suddenly dawned “Hey! I like reading this stuff! Who would’ve thunk it?” Whatever their story may be, they head for the YA shelves like bees to a particularly nectar-filled blossom. It appears YA is at its prime.

There’s a catch, though. A con to all these pros. There are authors lurking in the shadows who write these books because they know (just like everyone else) that YA is “hot.” If you’re going to write YA, you have to respect it; work with the genre as you’d collaborate with a valued coworker. After all, who wants to work with someone who doesn’t respect them? It’s imperative that the YA authors of the day have a respect and an evident, underlying love for their genre.

So what makes YA novels beautiful in your eyes? What are you looking for?

I look for a combination of things, little details and intricacies that really make the book real. Foremost, though, I seek out compelling characters. Just as the world would be nothing but stray breezes and raindrops without people and animals, books are lonely wildernesses of words, cold and unfeeling, without characters. Beneath the action and excitement of the plot, the characters breathe miraculous life into the story. Life so miraculous that when a late night reader wrenches herself from the end of a chapter, her weary eyes screaming “you really must stop”, she goes to sleep restless and unsatisfied. Unconscious, her fingers twitch toward her bedside table where the book lies watching her, laughing silently as she struggles. You may think that it’s the blasted cliff-hanger of a chapter ending that holds the mind suspended in mid-air, but deep down you know it’s not. You wouldn’t care what happened to a napkin if it were being yanked down a river by strong currents as its friend blew alongside, up on the riverbank. No. You care about what the heck is going to happen to the character- Will they die? Will they end up in the sewer? Oh, good gosh, can they swim?!?

For the Young Adult writers out there, it’s incredibly important not to take character development lightly. Look upon your love of reading YA for guidance. Never quit reading; it’s the simplest and most enjoyable way to remind yourself why you’re spending hours slouched over a laptop, the bright screen withering your eyeballs. As you read, you’ll remember why you love the Young Adult genre, and why you particularly love those young adults on your own list of main characters.

These troubled younglings are so much more than names printed in typeset “Book Antiqua.” The lives of these characters (made all the more appealing by their rollercoaster, adolescent emotions) hold infinite possibilities for storytelling. It’s these characters that we need to focus on as writers. They make the story. We read for them. And we need to write for them, too.

Madeleine Rex (age 14) is an obsessive reader and writer. She blogs at Wordbird.
Follow her tweets at
http://twitter.com/MadeleineRex.
I’d love to hear any comments on the post above… And, yes, I have finally disclosed my age. I am fourteen years old. ( :
On the book-blogger side, I intend to write a review for The Lotus Eaters very soon, as well as a review of The Postmistress. I’ve been surprisingly busy and out-and-about for the past week and haven’t had much time for writing, let alone blogging. I’m also in the process of mulling over a Review Policy. Busy! Busy! Busy!
Good luck to all with either their reading, writing, or both. Depends on how far you want to push your creative boundaries!
P.S. I can’t get the paragraphs to format correctly. Sorry!

November 18th, 2009

Band Members Bind in the Library

by Madeleine Rex

I wrote this short story (I wrote both a 755 and 750 word version. This is the 750 word one) to the following prompt:

“Suffering from a mid-life crisis, a 50-year-old businessman quits his job and goes on a quest to “get the band back together”. -From The Writer’s Book of Matches

This is one of my writings (Impediments is one of the others) that I’m actually kind of proud of. It turned out just as I wanted it to. Thanks for taking a look! (And, yes, I know the ending is both odd and disturbing.)

Band Members Bind in the Library

Fox stared thoughtlessly out the window, which in itself looked livelier than he, as the tears inching down its surface streaked the window pane, expressing emotion that Fox was in dire need of. His daily excitement, for the last thirty years, had been extracted from the goings on of the upbeat and fluorescent-light-bleached Cubical World.

Even Fox had to admit, geometric shapes got old.

The radio of the 1982 Chevy he was lugging across the Walgreen’s parking lot tittered and muttered to life without having been asked to. The radio hadn’t been acknowledged, let alone meddled with, for months, and the thing had apparently abandoned its sense of propriety; an eardrum shattering voice, accompanied by equally obtrusive and frightening acoustics, bellowed from the rusty rectangle.

“More crappy shapes,” Fox grumbled, rubbing the lump on his scalp induced by his bonking his cranium on the vinyl roof of the car as he had lurched from his hunched position. He fumbled with the circular [“Shapes!”] knob hovering over the faded “Tune”, and then stopped.

Music.

Blasting.

Loud.

Terrible.

MOHawks.

Every thought consequentially led to another, each hurling him backwards seven years.

Fox put the car in park and leaned back. He reached up to run his fingers through what used to be hair but had recently demoted itself to Velcro. The music that, seconds ago, had nearly driven him insane, now sent indescribable shivers of yearning down his spine. He relished the moment.

And then it was over. Of course.

Although some oddly contrasting blue grass song had begun emanating from the radio, Fox couldn’t shake the piercing, heart-throbbing vibration of the music from his body. His fingers twitched, as though they were searching for the instrument he had sold in order to buy a cheap garage sale TV for his dorm room.

Mentally, he gawked at the faces that had recreated themselves in his agitated brain as he altered them and manipulated their features to reflect what they must appear like now, stinky, filthy, ex-drug addict fifty-six-year-olds. Those idiotic kids who had recruited him to play drums in their completely revolting, band – they were the MOHawks, so named for every one of their “grown-up leaders”, Mason, Oakie, and Hal – all three of whom were considered by Fox, veterans of the rock band world.

Fox managed to escape from his reverie just long enough to drive to the public library, where the only computers Fox had ever touched sat, buzzing and blaring messages about system security and Facebook.

He stood in front of the automatic doors for twenty-two seconds before they realized their laziness was impeding someone else’s movement and hastened to slide apart – too quickly; they shivered when they hit the frames.

The first computer he situated himself in front of told him it was out of order only once he had sat down. He then reverted to the computer to his right. The only issue with this one was its missing “K” button on the keyboard, but Fox soon realized he could easily jam his finger into the slot to produce the letter, and resumed his searching.

“Oakie Thompson… was killed at the age of forty by his rabid pit bull.”

He heard a nervous squeak beside him and glanced down at the little kid in the chair to his left, “Sorry,” he muttered. He turned back the screen, resolving to keep his findings to himself.

Carl Mason died of colon cancer in 2004 following his son’s similar death the March before…

It seemed as though Fox’s desire to get the band back together grew every moment it became more and more improbable. He scratched the side of his nose where a mole had been removed two summers ago as he typed “Hal Turner” into the search engine.

Hal Turner drowned on scuba trip to Hawaii at the age of twenty-nine. His elder brother, Mike Turner, accompanied him on the trip…

Fox sighed and nearly leaned back in the chair before he realized he was sitting on a stool.

MOHawks will not be performing tonight due to the lack of members, he thought, Crap. I miss those drums. Those stupid guys. They’re not here anymore. They’re… there.

His eyes widened. He played with the pens in his shirt pocket and fingered one thoughtfully.

“Sorry. You might want to close your eyes.” He thought it considerate to warn the child to his left to avoid frightening her again.

He jammed the pen into his chest, muttering:

“Goodbye, shapes. Hello, MOHawks.”