Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Directly after reading Go Set a Watchman, I started listening to The Help by Kathryn Stockett on audio.  This was deliberate–on the surface, they’re similar books.  A young woman returns to her small Southern hometown and is appalled by the racism she observes in her friends and family.  But there’s a crucial difference–I liked The Help SO MUCH better!

The Help is the story of “colored” maids working for white families in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s.  Three women alternate points of view chapters to tell their stories:  Aibileen, a maid who deeply loves the white children she cares for; her friend Minny, whose outspokenness has made her almost unhire-able; and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a white woman in her early twenties who has just returned from college and dreams of being a writer.  Skeeter starts seeing the racism in her friends and her town, and becomes inspired to write a book of interviews telling the story of the maids.

This book is so good because we get so far inside each of the major characters, learning their backgrounds, what inspired them, what led them to where (and who) they are now.  Skeeter is deeply influenced by Constantine, the black maid who raised her–and by her own mother, who seems to be perpetually disappointed in her.  Minny’s mother told her the rules for working for white families when she was fourteen (and Minny’s never been all that good at following them), and Aibileen’s own son died shortly before she began working for her current white family.  Those are just a few snippets, as the book gives such a rich and complex picture. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Buying Library Books

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: What time of the year does your library have its library sale?

My library does a warehouse sale about every two months, which is completely brilliant. Best prices in town–$1 for kids books and paperbacks, $2 for hardbacks. But a couple of times a year they do a brown bag sale—just $6 for as many books as you can fit in a grocery bag. I brought home 17 books last time…

The warehouse sale is very bad for my bookshelf space, but very good for my book budget! And I’ve been able to find some books I really love and would have spent a lot more money on if I had to. I’ve also bought some books (especially at the brown bag sale) that I might not have bought if I hadn’t been able to throw them into the one bag for the same price—but while I usually only buy books I know I want to keep, in this case I make an exception. And if I read the book and don’t want to keep it, of course I donate it back to the library!

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TV Review: Beauty and the Beast (1987 TV show)

BeautyAndTheBeast1987_Complete_2014rereleaseI found myself with a hole in my television viewing a while back, when Once Upon a Time and Castle both went on hiatus at the same time. I needed something to fill in for my fairy tale show and my crime mystery show—so I decided to watch Beauty and the Beast. Because it’s a show that manages to hit both themes at once!

The story centers around Catherine (Linda Hamilton) and Vincent (Ron Perlman), the two title characters. In the opening show, Catherine is attacked by muggers and left for dead. Vincent rescues her, carrying her below New York to a secret society living apart from the rest of the world. They grow close, forming an empathic bond—but their friendship is complicated by the fact that Vincent is a…well, “lion-man” is probably the best descriptor. Catherine returns to the world above, inspired to change her life, and leaves her cushy corporate position for a job with the DA, bringing criminals to justice and protecting the victims. She and Vincent still have their bond, but struggle with their inability to live in the same world.

This isn’t a show that I ever loved, but I liked it a lot—at least for the first two seasons (more on that later). Sometimes it’s cheesy, sometimes it’s implausible, but I enjoyed watching it. A big part of that was Catherine’s character. I do love it that, after she’s attacked, she takes self-defense classes. I think that encapsulates her character. She’s determined not to be a victim, and to fight back against corruption, violence and anyone trying to exploit or harm the weak. Granted, it does help that she has a lion-man who can sense when she’s afraid and come to the rescue if things get out of hand…but she’s hardly a passive heroine just waiting for him to show up and save the day.  And I love that she doesn’t just become fierce over night–she has to learn how to defend herself. Continue reading

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Quotable Henry Ward Beecher

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”
― Henry Ward Beecher

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Book Review – Star Trek: First Frontier

Not too long ago I mentioned rereading my favorite Star Trek novel, First Frontier by Diane Carey and Dr. James I. Kirkland. I’ve mentioned it once or twice around here, but I’ve never done a proper review. So I think it’s time!

The book begins with the Enterprise taking an experimental flight into a blue giant, hitting a time warp and cosmic string in the process (just run with me on this). When they emerge, they find the universe inexplicably changed—the Federation has disappeared, the Klingon and Romulan Empires are pounding each other into mutual oblivion, and the Earth is a pristine wilderness where the dinosaurs never died and humanity never evolved. Kirk has to lead his crew into the deep past to stop alien saboteurs who disrupted the timeline.

The funny thing about this book is that the premise sounds preposterous. I tried to write it as reasonably as I could, but I know it probably sounds preposterous—except it works. When you actually read it, all the concepts are treated seriously and presented plausibly and none of it’s a joke. Not even when Kirk remarks that he’s going to restore the timeline  if he has to kill the dinosaurs himself. Yeah, that’s kind of a joke, but it’s born out of frustration and tension and it’s real. Continue reading

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