Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Help

Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Pages: 451
My rating: 5/5 stars

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town... [Amazon Product Description]
            Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, “We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.
            Author Kathryn Stockett defined the above words as the one line that she “truly prized.” They’re the ultimate summary of The Help. I could end this review right now, if I liked. But I won’t. Because I loved this book and I want to harp on it.
            When you read a truly great book, you know it. It gives you a thrill, an excitement that couldn’t be the result of anything else. The suspense kills you, the characters’ antics make you want to scream, and all you ever think about when you’re not reading it is ways to escape the mundane tasks that are keeping you away from the book. But when you’re done, you have an undeniable impulse to jump up and down and tell every single person you encounter how amazing that book is. It’s downright uncanny. It’s the power of well-written words.
            But The Help didn’t give me that excitement. Don’t get me wrong- it was indeed a truly great book- but it was one of those novels that has a…um, calmer effect on you. It touched me, challenged me, and made me think. It’s one of those books that isn’t thrilling, isn’t suspenseful, isn’t anywhere close to sci-fi (a genre I’m very fond of at the moment). But it is one thing: it’s unforgettable.
             I loved Mrs. Stockett’s writing style. Period. And I’m still stunned that this is her first novel. It’s not only a NY Times bestseller, it’s now a movie that will most definitely win a heaping ton of awards. I loved the amazing characters Mrs. Stockett created. I can’t really say which one was my absolute favorite, only because all three of the MCs (Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter) are all so interesting in their own unique way. Aibileen was old and wise, and I loved her sweet, motherly relationship with Mae Mobley. Minny was fiery, fierce, and feisty. (WHOA! Brownie points for Shelby for some awesome alliteration there! Seriously, I didn’t even plan that.) And I felt like I was one and the same with Skeeter. All three of the MCs made me laugh and cry. Miss Celia was the most hilarious of all the characters, but after everything was uncovered, her story really wasn’t very funny anymore. Hilly just made me angry, but for the sake of those who haven’t read the book yet, I won’t spoil it and tell you why. Let’s just leave it at this: Good job, Mrs. Stockett, on creating a character that was the devil incarnate.
            One of the most interesting things about The Help is that there isn’t any other book like it. I read historical fiction rather extensively, and I’ve never heard of someone writing about the black help in Mississippi in the 1960s. It’s a topic I would love to research more now that I’ve read The Help, and I wish I could read more fiction on it, but I doubt I will be able to find any.  If you know of any, please let me know about it in the comments!
            One more thing I forgot to mention: the ending. WHOA. Wasn’t expecting it to end like that. At all. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. I sat there snuggled in my bed for a while after I read the last page, wondering why Mrs. Stockett allowed defeat. Wondering why all of it ended so abruptly, so unresolved. But then I realized that it wasn’t defeat. The heroines weren’t lost- things just didn’t turn out like a fairy tale. It wasn’t a COMPLETE happy ending. Reputations were ruined, lives were put at stakes, jobs were ended, tears were shed. But through it all, freedom was born. Freedom to start over. Freedom to do what one wanted to do. Freedom to live.          
            In conclusion, if you haven’t gotten my gist yet, this book is amazing. Unforgettable. Yes, that’s the word for it. Unforgettable. I’m sure it’s story will stick with me much longer than any thrilling sci-fi or fantasy novel will. And that, dear friends, is why YOU must give it a try. J

Quick Content Review:
None (Not enough to even worry over- a black maid’s grandson gets attacked and beaten for using a white restroom; he become blind. Minny’s husband, Leroy, beats her for no reason. No description on either of these two instances.)
Sexual: None (Stuart asks Skeeter to go to the coast with him, implying they would stay in the same room, and though Skeeter considers it, she refuses.)
Language: Heavy (There was much unnecessary language in this book. I do realize that it’s not YA, but it was still unnecessary. I tried to keep count of it all, but I lost track after a while. In addition to the list below, God’s name was used 5+ times in various forms.)
G*dd*mn- 10+
H*ll- 2, maybe more?
D*mn- 20+
Sh*t- 5+

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Daily Dose #6....Rockin Around the Christmas Tree

I love books. You probably know that already. But it's not just a love for books. It's deeper than that. It's a love for beauty. I love books because I love the way words delicately flow across a page. They take you to another world and keep you there for however long you want. They make you think. They let you dream. They can change your life.

Pictures can do that, too. Whoever said "A picture is worth a thousand words" was a wise person- because it's true! Pictures can tell stories just like books can. They take you places. They let you dream. You can fall in love with them just like you can with books. And that's why I do this meme. To show you some things I find pretty or beautiful or just plain awesome. 

You'll never know what will catch my fancy, but I promise not to post any pictures that are rude or inappropriate, or include quotes that have dirty or filthy language. By the way, I get all my photos from an awesome site called We Heart It ( Go check it out!  

[I found out about this meme from Holly over at Good Golly Miss Holly ( Gabrielle Carolina from the Mod Podge Bookshelf ( participates in this meme too. Go check out their book reviews or daily doses!]   

Now, thank you for reading my lengthy epistle. And if you didn’t, I’m going to sic my rabid squirrels on you. Just kidding. Maybe.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
May the joy of the birth of Christ fill your life each and every day!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Publisher: Firebird, February 8th, 2011
Pages: 464
My rating: 5 stars
Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden's daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive… [book description from Amazon]
             First off, there are two things you must know about me:
1) I try not one to judge a book by its cover…it’s a tough thing to conquer, and one must have the utmost self-control when in places like Barnes and Nobles or the library. I’m a work in progress. J
2) I’m not one to start out a review talking about the cover of a book. But this review is going to be an exception to that rule.
I believe that the cover of Incarceron couldn’t be more perfect for the book. It depicts the key, which is the central symbol of the novel. The background, which is an assortment of clogs and other clock-y stuff as well as some dead leaves, represents the mechanical-ness of the Prison, and the dead leaves denote the hopelessness of escape and death that emanates with life in the Prison.  It’s not a pretty cover, but it’s a fascinating and thought-provoking one, and one of the best I’ve seen in a while.
Ok. Enough about the outside- now let’s delve into the inside (“delve” is my new favorite word, by the way, so beware- I might use it excessively in this review. Forgive me in advance).
Incarceron is a dark story, indeed. When I first started it, it seemed almost like a steam-punk novel. I didn’t think it quite was steam-punk, though. It had all the aspects of a steampunk aside from the use of steam. J A very essential aspect for a steampunk, indeed. But what it is is one of those books that sucks you in, and you can feel everything. I felt the heaviness, the taste of the metal in the air inside the Prison. I felt the red eyes watching me, all the time, everywhere. I could feel the darkness envelope me, literally and figuratively, as it did Finn. It’s one of the best written stories I’ve read in a long time. Ms. Fisher did a magnificent job weaving this intricate saga- that’s one of the ways that it’s mind-blowing. I can’t imagine ever dreaming up such a brilliant tale.
One thing I didn’t really like, though, was the switching back and forth from Finn’s account to Claudia’s account. I never like that kind of switching back and forth in books- it confuses me and it’s frustrating. But I understand that it was really the best way to write the book, since Claudia and Finn were in different worlds (I hope that’s not giving away anything- it’s kind of obvious from the beginning though…). Also, the book was kind of lengthy. 464 pages is a pretty long novel. It wasn’t that I got bored with it. It was just that…well, it seemed stretched out. It was beginning to get tiring. But it’s not reason enough to not read the book. I still have a high regard for Incarceron and its creator, the marvelous Catherine Fisher.  
In conclusion, Incarceron was a refresher. I haven’t read a fantasy that great in a long time (though I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy in the first place…but I digress. Again.) I hear that there’s a movie coming out in 2013, and to be honest I’m itching to see it! And me, being ignorant, didn’t know that the sequel to Incarceron, Sapphique, was already out. So now it’s on hold for me at the library, and I’m dying to find out what crazy, impossible, mind-blowing thing happens next for Finn and Claudia.
And I guess you’ll have to wait and read my next review to see if I like Sapphique. J
Quick Content Review:
Profanity: Minor- Mild (Four uses of the b-word)
Violence: Mild- Heavy (More on the mild side, but the heavy rating is just for the one scene with Jormanric (sp?) before Finn and his companions leave for their journey. It was a bit descriptive…and bit of a stomach churner. But aside from that, there were only a couple other very mild scenes…a death of a woman by falling down a ravine and someone else is stabbed. No description.)
Sexual: None- Minor (only a brief comment from Casper about him being ok with Claudia having lovers after their wedding, which is clearly something she wouldn’t do. Some people insinuate that Jared and Claudia have a sexual relationship, but that is entirely not true and the idea disgusts both of them.)