2) It Ain't All About the Cookin' by Paula Deen - This is one my mother-in-law sent me for my birthday last year. I used to quite enjoy Paula's cooking show on Food Network so I think that is what made her think of me when she came across this one. Now that Paula is sequestered to some obscure television shopping network and has quit putting on her cutesy Southern persona, she comes across more to me like a tacky chain smoker. Which is a terrible thing to say, but I kind of always knew she was a little different than the Food Network producers wanted her to come across. It's kinda like how I never see people's new hair color when they dye it, I just see their natural color with the distractingly obvious fake color on top. Anyway, in this book, she exposes herself with pretty much no holds barred. I guess to some that is admirable, and it is inarguably gutsy, but it just kinda grossed me out. I know I put myself out there in days gone by, and it's hard to feel like the return on that is sometimes "Eww, yuck!" But we know the risks when we share these things. Not everyone should be trusted with our most secret thoughts and words and deeds. I'm sure she has other secrets anyway. There was still a bit of fake color on top, so to speak, the cliche Southern dialect it was written in being the most prominent among them. As a Southerner, I have to say, nobody talks like that. Or maybe the more important thing to say to Paula is that you don't have to talk like that as a Southerner to be distinguished as a Southerner. It's like watching the Beverly Hillbillies. I was talking to some coworkers about that show recently and they said they had always enjoyed that show. As a Southerner, I never much appreciated that show because I didn't get it- we didn't eat possum and we didn't call swimming pools "cement ponds." Similarly, most of the wording in this book is so over the top it's absolutely annoying. People love to think Southerners are simple and unintelligent and it bothers me when Southerners not only perpetuate this idea but propagate it in order to capitalize on it.
3) Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey - I am not sure how I heard of this book, but it had been on my library list for a while. Coming right after the Paula Deen book was unfortunate timing for reading this one which also made heavy use of cliched Southern dialect. What was maybe slightly more forgivable is that an uneducated character who had been raised by and among other uneducated people was the one using it- but I still don't buy it. There was also an inordinate amount of absurd similes peppered throughout the novel. These figures of speech are supposedly most common in the South, but many of the ones here were contrived and even distracting (I had to stop and go back and read again to figure out the gist), and there were just way too many of them. Furthermore, I just dreaded reading this one. It took at least three times as long as any other book to read because I just didn't want to read it. It was painfully slow and uneventful for the first half. I thought about quitting, but I already had it formatted and on the list for this post and I just couldn't give it up because of that. Memo to myself: don't put books on my blog, even as a draft, until I'm sure I really do want to read them!
4) Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks- What?! I love Tom Hanks. George got this for me on Tuesday the 17th and I couldn't wait to be done with Paula and move on to Tom. But then my library hold came ready and Tom had to wait a little longer. I hated my library hold so much (see above) that I went ahead and started this one while I was reading the other, just to give myself something enjoyable to read. And it was indeed enjoyable! Reading a book of short stories doesn't go quite as quickly as reading a novel because the plot doesn't carry you along and compel you to keep picking the book up to see what happens next. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it took me as long as it did to read this one. But you know, there was no need to rush anyway, no more than one rushes through a piece of dark chocolate or a warm bath. Hanks is so pleasant and his voice so familiar and warm that we may all have been able to figure out they were his stories even without his name on the cover. Ok, that may be a little bit of a stretch, but readers will definitely recognize him and everything they love about him as they read.