Monday, December 13, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I finished reading this book the other day and was actually disappointed that it ended. I laughed and cheered out loud. What an amazing read!! The book grabbed you from the first page and you find yourself move smoothly through the entire book.

The novel is told from the perspective of three characters: Aibileen Clark, a middle-aged African-American maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son; Minny Jackson, an African-American maid who has often offended her employers despite her family's struggles with money and her desperate need for jobs; and Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young white woman who has recently moved back home after graduating college to find out her childhood maid has mysteriously disappeared. These three stories intertwine to explain how life in Jackson, Mississippi revolves around "the help."

It is written with a wonderfully humorous flair. You'll spend half the book wondering what the "Terrible Awful" is and you will laugh so hard when you finally find out what it is. The Help touches on the civil rights movement of the 1960s from the perspective of three different women in Mississippi, the center of racial division in the country. The author speaks through these women with surprising perceptiveness and understanding of her subject matter. You find out at the end of the book that she grew up in the area she writes about with a black maid as part of her daily life. Highly recommend! Well worth the read!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Princess Bride

What to say about The Princess Bride by William Goldman? I know everyone has seen this movie and so might overlook the book, but I have read this book many times and love it more every time. All the wit and humor that was present in the movie is in the book ten fold! Of course many scenes vary from the movie, so expect that, but if you are looking for a light humorous read... PICK THIS UP!! No matter how many times I read it, I never get tired of it!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I had to post this because everyone gets all giddy over Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (I did too, don't get me wrong), but I think her best work so far is overlooked. The Host is a far superior book in regards to character development, underlying themes and plot line. It is also Meyer's first novel intended for an adult audience.
The Host is set on Earth after a massive takeover by an alien parasite species (don't run away yet), but there is a small human resistance that hides from the "souls." The problem is that the "souls" have created the perfect society. There is no violent crimes, no stealing, no currency even. They have made a better world, so are the humans justified in taking back our planet when we lived so violently? What does it mean to be human? Should we suppress free-will to make a better society? Is that society really better? There are so many thinking/talking points of this book that I find fascinating and that is just in the underlying story.
Of course, in true Meyer fashion, there is a love triangle. This one is complex and quite unique to any other that I have read, which makes the story even more enjoyable. Altogether a great read and I highly recommend it.
After you read it, I found so interesting discussion questions at the following site. WARNING: Do not go to this site if you have not read the book. It will spoil it!

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The concept of this book intrigued me. I mean, why would people who were destitute and routinely struggling for survival commit so many resources and so much personal labor to the building of these massive cathedrals? Most people during this time period (1100s) were poor in a way we now only see in third-world countries and still they aspired to build incredible monuments to their faith. Many of these building stood the test of time and are still standing today, which is a testament to their workmanship. I doubt my house would last a fifth of that time. When you also consider the amount of time put into building these cathedrals (sometimes 50-100 years) it is a miracle they are even completed, if you consider that these must have been built through famine, the changing of those in power, wars and various other problems. These were ideas I never really considered until I read the preface of this book. I found Follett's interest and life-long love of cathedrals very captivating and I couldn't wait to get into the rest of the book.
Now, 973 pages later... I can't say that I recommend this book beyond its preface. Do I think it was a masterful work? Yes, but it left me feeling unsettled and disgusted. I think there is enough in the world to bring you down that you don't need a book to do it for you too. To be honest, the only reason I kept reading is because I wanted the villain of the book to die so badly that I kept going. Follett's villain rapes, kills and destroys all around him, the descriptions of which are not likely to leave me soon. That alone makes it not worth it. Trust me, unless you enjoy being depressed and angry for 973 pages, read the preface in the bookstore and leave it on the shelf.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Traitor

Up until now I have only mentioned books that I have enjoyed, but here is an exception: Stephen Coonts' The Traitor. This was intended to be a suspense/thriller novel where you don't know what is going on until the very end. This kind of writing is more common now, but I think very few writers are good enough to pull it off. The plot was patchy and scattered and there were so many characters who could be other characters, it was a bit like reading King Lear. (Except the vocabulary was far from varying. On one page there might be three different things he describes as "delicious." It was annoying... get a thesaurus, PLEASE!) Most of the time I was wondering "What the heck is going on?" and not in a good way. I am very surprised I finished the book at all. I can't even give you a summary of the novel that would seem coherent at all, so I won't even try.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Robe

I read this book last year, but it is perfect for the Easter season, so I decided to review it now.

This book is a masterpiece! Lloyd C. Douglas's "The Robe" follows a Roman solider through the years before and after Christ's crucifixion. The Roman solider is present at the Crucifixion and is deeply affected by this experience. "The Robe" follows the political and social times that Christ lived in and illustrated the changes that started from Christ's life and resurrection.

What Douglas believes occurred right after Christ's crucifixion was very interesting and plausible. The historical context was well researched and believable. I enjoyed understanding this story in greater depth than we normally give it, even during Easter. My heart broke my times for all in the story... How those around the crucifixion of Christ must have been haunted! Highly recommended reading!

My husbands favorite quote (because he hates clutter):

"Hoarded things might easily become a menace; a mere fire-and-theft risk; a breeding ground for destructive insects; a source of worry. Men would have plenty of anxieties, but there was no sense in accumulating worries over things! That kind of worry destroyed your character. Even an unused coat, hanging in your closet; it wasn't merely a useless thing that did nobody any good; it was an active agent of destruction to your life." p. 275

Other favorite quotes:

(Referring to Christ) "How often he talked about generosity! In his opinion there was nothing meaner than a mean gift. About the worst thing a man could do to himself or a fellow creature was to bestow a grudged gift. It was very hard on a man's character to give away something that should have been thrown away! That much of Jesus' teachings you could accept, my friend, without any difficulty." p.251

"This faith is not like a deed to a house in which one may live with full rights of possession. It is more like a kit of tools with which a man may build him a house. The tools will be worth just what he does with them. When he lays them down, they will have no value until he takes them up again." p. 347

(This is referring to the new Christian movement and it's relation to Rome. It is an interesting perspective on how the opposing forces could have viewed Christ and His followers.) "You mean - they might try to overthrow the Empire?"

"Not by force. If some foolhardy fellow were to stand up on a cart and yell at these captive people to take up arms against their masters, they would know that was hopeless. But - here comes a man without an army: doesn't want an army; has no political aspirations; doesn't want a throne; has no offices to distribute; never fought a battle; never owned a sword; hasn't a thing to recommend him as a leader - except - except that he knows how to make blind men see, and cripples walk; and, having been killed for creating so much excitement, returns from the dead, saying, 'Follow me - and I will set you free!' Well - why shouldn't they follow him - if they believe all that? there is more than one kind of courage, my child, and the most potent of all is the reckless bravery of people who have nothing to lose...

"...They have no fear. Now - you set a thing like that in motion - and there'd be no end to it!" p. 407-408

(I love this quote about slavery.) " don't rob a slave of his divine character when you buy him and hitch him to a plow, between an ox and an ass. He has had no choice in the matter. It isn't he who has demoted mankind: it is you! He is still free to believe that God is his spiritual Father. But you aren't! ... his slavery has made you a relative of the beasts, because that is your conception of a man's value." p.172

"The Romans will be crushed, but not because they are too fat (because of slave labor). It will be because they have believed that all men are beasts. Enslaving other men, they have denied their own spiritual dignity." p.172

The Hunger Games

Ok, a disclaimer right off: I had no idea that this was the first book in a series that is not finished yet. That was extremely disappointing since this book was so good. From the moment I opened it, I couldn't put it down. I read all in one day which meant I stayed up until 2 or 3 am.

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a story of a 16-year-old girl living in a post-apocalyptic America. She is selected by lottery to participate in "The Hunger Games" which is a televised contest of survival between 24 contestants. Winner is the last one standing.

Very "Lord-of-the-Flies" in some ways, but a gripping read. I'd wait for the entire series to come out first since I hate waiting.