July has just been the best month ever this year. While other regions of the nation (and the northern half of the world…) are sweltering in extreme heat, fighting wildfires, experiencing drought, or dealing with life threatening weather, Colorado has had almost perfect summer weather. The monsoon came early this year and it has been unusually cool (for July) and wet. Beautiful sunny mornings have been giving way to afternoon showers in the late afternoons. Perfectly hot and clear blue days come almost every week but they don’t linger on and on; after a few days the heat breaks and cool rainy evenings return.
I have been in the garden almost every day with the cats and the bees, and in the afternoons I have been indulging in books about bees. How fun is that? Here are the titles:
- A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson
- The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
- The Bees by Laline Paull
- The Hive by Bee Wilson
- Kiss of the Bees by J. A. Jance
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
I really didn’t know what to expect. The only thing in common with these books was the connection to bees. Two books were non-fiction, one was hard to get through, and a couple of them turned out to be absolutely great. Here’s the breakdown.
The Death of Bees
(Fiction) I began this book one evening reading in bed and the next thing I knew it was 3am. From the opening lines (Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.) I was trapped. I should be clear. This is not a sweet story and it is not for the faint of heart. The humor is dark and the situations of characters in the book can bring you to tears. The two sisters in the story, Marnie and Nelly, are alone and desperate. Marnie has been the family caretaker since she was very young, and has had no adult supervision or guidance. She is definitely lacking a moral compass. Her little sister is curiously detached from the world and clings to childish understandings. I’m pretty sure she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum. Anyway, against all odds, the two survive. The girls change over time as they cope and grow into their own; Marnie becomes more like the teenager that she is, and Nelly emerges from her childish denial to become the partner that her sister needs. Eventually we work out what actually happened the night the girls’ parents died; help and stability for the girls arrives from unlikely sources and at the end of the day there is a happy ending.
The Secret Life of Bees
(Fiction) Another coming of age book. This one is set in the South during the time of the civil rights movement, and there is once again a dead parent. Lily, a 14 year-old on the run in search of her dead mother’s story, arrives in Tiburon, South Carolina, where she and her black stand-in mother take refuge at the home of a honey operation run by three sisters. I read this book right through too. There was a lot to learn about bees, life, legacies and mothers in the story; a good book and a fast read.
Kiss of the Bees
(Suspense) Well, I hit the wall with this one. The first half of the book keeps rehashing events from a previous novel while advancing the story line and interjecting Indian folklore. Help. Shoot me now! Eventually the book took off and the story began racing along, but since the bad guy in the book is an evil psychopath serial killer I just wanted it all to end. Whew! Eventually I got there, all is well, goodness prevails. I won’t be reading other books in this series.
(Non-fiction) This is the history of the honeybee and us. The very opinionated (and sometimes offensive) author relates how bees are linked to our work ethic, politics, and so many other things. Bees were the first source of sweetness for ancient men, and the wax was useful and important in a world lit only by fire. The text is organized in general topics (like Sex, Life and Death, and The Beekeeper) full of details and facts about bees in kind of a stream of consciousness style. Just when I would start to slip away into sleep I would come to a short chapter of recipes for cakes and lotion. The book was interesting, but you have to love bees to do this one.
(Fiction) You are a little bee in a hive. You are obviously different from the other bees. You are controlled by other bees and forced to conform and work for the success of the collected hive all of your life. If at any time you slip up you will be put to death. Welcome to the life of Flora 717. Life, death, nectar and love for the queen. I liked the book, but I wouldn’t call it a great read. 🙂
Well, that’s it. I am so over bees for the time being. I think that the rest of the month will be mysteries. I’m almost done making the new seat for the swinging lawn chair and those would be great books to read out in the garden. 🙂