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Book Review: The Help

I just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. In a word: Wow. This book is so well written that I couldn’t put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

When I first started reading it, I had thought to myself, “okay, it’s about black nannies and housekeepers…it’s set in the early 1900s or so.” Ya…not so. I know in my head when all these things happened, (and I know that this is fiction) but it totally blew my mind that all this was set in the ’60s!! That doesn’t seem that long ago – and I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that people treated others like this not-so-long-ago (Although, I suppose some still do…)

I loved the way that there were a few chapters at a time dedicated to the various main characters. You weren’t bouncing around too much, but you got to see how the minds of each character worked. One white lady, Skeeter; and two main “Help” ladies, Aibileen and Minny. I also loved the way that one chapter wasn’t from the point of view of any of them so we could see the entire dance scene from ALL of their points of view.

*SEMI SPOILER* I may be slow, but it took me until about 1/2 way through the book to realize that THIS book is supposed to be THAT book – the one they’re writing! I’m not sure why it took so long, or exactly when the Ka-Thunk happened, but I was tickled to my toes when I realized it…again knowing it’s all fiction, but it’s still fun to think that these events were as they happened because this book is about the book in the book. LOL

One of the things I will never forget – even though it didn’t really have anything to do with the storyline, was when Aibileen was just randomly thinking away one day about how she was now breathing in the air someone from Chicago was breathing out 3 days before…and it made her wonder if she was thinking about Sears and Roebuck or Shake ‘n Bake because that person had been while he was breathing out. Crazy thoughts that I would think myself πŸ™‚

I would recommend this book highly to anyone who will listen to me. Have you read it? What did you think?

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden

I read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton for my book club and I have to say HANDS DOWN, one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time – if ever.

The first 3 chapter cover so many decades that it leaves your head spinning, but it sets it up for how the entire book reads. Each chapter is a different decade, told from a different character’s point of view. And it wasn’t always the same 3 characters, just one of the ones from that decade.

There are a few spots where I thought I had it all figured out, but then realized that there were other possible answers…answers that also made sense.

While reading, I found that I didn’t really relate to Nell (even though the whole story pretty much revolves around finding out who she is). I liked the story lines about Cassandra (two generations below Nell) and Eliza and Rose (a generation above Nell) – even though the story lines revolved around Nell anyway.

I loved that one of the characters is an author and you get to read a few of her stories. And it really does seem to change “authors” when you read them; they’re written totally different than the rest of the book.

I HIGHLY recommend reading this book!!

There’s a wonderful interview with Ms. Morton on Amazon that sheds some light on where she gets her ideas, as well as some insight to her as a person.

Book Review: A Reliable Wife

I just finished reading A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick for my book club. After reading so many Debbie Macomber books (that are fast-paced and get you to where you want to go), it was hard for me to make the mental change at first. I mean, seriously. The entire first chapter is one of the main characters waiting at the train station. No joke. In that first chapter I found myself thinking, “Does this guy have an editor??” because he repeats himself so much it’s annoying. (I GET that he doesn’t like what he sees when he looks in the mirror – you only have to tell me that once.)

Aside from that (and figuring out how to just skip all the stuff Mr. Goolrick tends to repeat), I actually enjoyed the story. I didn’t relate to any of the characters, but I found I wanted to know what was going to happen to all of them. There were parts that dragged for me – possibly because I kept getting interrupted while reading; probably because of the aforementioned repeating.

It was fairly…shall we say…graphic (only so I don’t get the pervs hitting my site while searching the web), but not too over-the-top “graphic.” I’m not a guy, so I have no idea how realistic some of the thoughts one of the main characters has…but WOW if they are πŸ˜‰

I hesitate to recommend the book. I’m glad I read it because it was entertaining and made me think a bit…but at the same time, there are so many other books I’d recommend before it.

Book Reviews: Blossom Street Bundle (Plus 2)

I read Debbie Macomber’s Twenty Wishes for my book club. While reading it, it seemed like she mentioned characters – in passing – that I should already be familiar with, so I guessed (correctly) that this book is part of a series. I found the Blossom Street Bundle (3 books) plus more that are a part of the series. So far, I’ve read 5 of the books. It looks like there are 2 that should have been a part of the bundle since they were written between two of the ones included (I was a little disappointed that these weren’t included! I like to read things in order). I’ll probably go back and read them, but since I’ve read 5 in a row now, I need to get some other reading done first. Also, while it’s great to get to know the recurring characters and see what’s going on with them, these books are actually really good stand-alone as well.

Like I said, I read Twenty Wishes first, and I haven’t read them all (yet) but the order of the books is:

The Shop on Blossom Street
A Good Yarn
Christmas Letters*
Susannah’s Garden*
Back on Blossom Street
Twenty Wishes
Summer on Blossom Street
Hannah’s List*

*Haven’t read yet.

Obviously, I enjoyed Twenty Wishes enough to check out the other books. The main character in most of the books is Lydia, the yarn shop owner on Blossom Street, and most of the books revolve around the people who take knitting classes in her shop. The exception (so far) is with Twenty Wishes. The main character in this book is Anne Marie, the book shop owner on Blossom Street. She’s recently widowed and forms a group for widows in her book shop. They come up with the idea to create a list of 20 wishes and the book revolves around Anne Marie and the widows.

Each book has about 4 characters you follow. The nice thing – that actually bugged me at first – is that you get a little bit of a recap for each character when their chapter comes up. It bugged me at first because I was like, “I KNOW!!” …but then I realized, “Wait, I recall.” I’m not sure I would have remembered who was who and what was going on without the little bit of recap. Especially if I’d put the book down for a day or two (right…like THAT would happen πŸ˜‰ ) The little recap worked between books as well – you got a taste of what had happened previously.

I call myself a “trashy romance novel reader” …but that’s not entirely true now. I’ve come to realize that I actually enjoy the romantic parts of book, but I don’t necessarily need the trashy parts… THAT’S where these books are absolutely wonderful. The story is there, but you’re not bombarded with pages upon pages of graphic descriptions. Perfect.

The stories themselves are wonderfully predictable. (C’mon, they’re romance novels, of course they’re predictable!) While you know what the ending is going to be (usually), the journey to get there is the wonderful part. And Ms. Macomber’s writing is such that she doesn’t draw things out. If she writes that two (nervous) characters are meeting up for a date, you don’t have to wait 10 or more pages for that date to actually happen. LOVE it!

One thing I noticed about the books with Lydia in them as the main character is that the chapters that are written from Lydia’s point of view are all in the 1st person while the rest of the chapters with the other characters are written in the 3rd person. I thought that was kind of neat.

An added bonus to reading these books? I’ve started knitting. The books with Lydia as the main character include knitting patterns!

And while I’ll read a book or two by another author before them, I’m looking forward to picking up the other books in the series.

Book Review: The Middle Place

I just finished reading The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. I LOVE her writing style! She’s so refreshingly honest and incredibly real.

Ms. Corrigan does a mix of flash-back type chapters and current time chapters which go together really well. The flash-back chapters are still told from the view of “adult” Kelly, so your brain doesn’t have to do that ka-thunk that sometimes happens when too many different points of view are in the same book.

I loved reading about times when she knew she was being unreasonable, but she just couldn’t help it – who hasn’t been there? And how she works through things like being jealous of her husband’s relationship with his parents – even though she has her own very strong one.

The dynamics of Kelly and her siblings rang incredibly true as well – both in the flash-backs and the present day chapters. The love-hate relationships that were actually mostly love with a dab of frustration mixed in πŸ™‚

The Middle Place is a fun, fast read that will make you laugh and make you cry. I’d highly recommend it!

Book Review: The Shack

I just finished reading The Shack by William P. Young. Wow. This is the type of book that keeps you thinking long after you’ve finished it.

Mr. Young tells the story of how Mack finds his way to God. Mack has gone through a huge (unimaginable) tragedy and – understandably – turns away from God. This is the story of how he journeys back.

The way Mr. Young describes God, Jesus, and everyone else involved is – in a round-about way – how I have pictured God…without really knowing it. I mean…if I were able to write this well and put my thoughts together, THIS is how I think God is. (I can’t really explain any more without giving too much of the book away…)

The emotions you go through while reading this book are just incredible. More than once I had tears just streaming down my face…and not always because I was sad.

Once you’ve finished the story, I highly recommend going back and reading the Forward again. It makes a lot more sense the second time around and I think it pulls the entire story together.

I found myself fairly emotional while sitting in church today…choking up while trying to sing songs about Jesus. It’s happened before – just getting overwhelmed by what you’re singing or hearing…but it seemed even more deep than before since I was reflecting on the things I’d read. I also think I was moved more than normal because this book was recommended to me by my brother … someone I’d never really thought to label “religious.” (Not that I would now either…)

The Missy Project was created to help get the word out about this incredible book. I’m more than happy to link up.

Book Review: The Given Day

I read The Given Day by Dennis Lehane for my book club.

I think, if this hadn’t been for a book club, I might have put it down a few times and never picked it up again. It was really cool to read about some of the history of Boston and the way Lehane wove personal lives into what happened way back when – even with someone famous like Babe Ruth. (Funny story about that…more later). It would be neat to do a little research to see if indeed Ruth was in a slump at the time period…no way to know if the reason he was in the slump was what was written in the book, but my guess is that the slump actually happened.

When I first started reading it, I was intrigued by one of the main characters (Danny) and not the other (Luther). And then about 1/2 way through, it flipped and I was bored with the first character and more interested in Luther. There were scenes that made my stomach turn though, and that’s not normally the type of book I enjoy.

I was definitely entertained, but I don’t think I’d recommend this book to just anyone. It was brutal.

So…funny story. I was reading along and BOOM there’s a chapter about Babe Ruth. And I’m thinking to myself, “Geez, that was out of nowhere. Why’s this guy all of a sudden writing about Babe??” Turns out that since I read it on my Kindle, and the publishers decide where you start when you download a book…I MISSED the entire first chapter!! (It was a prologue of maybe 15 pages that totally ties in a whole part of the story!)

Book Review: Handle With Care

For my book club, I read Jodi Picoult’s Handle With Care. I’ve never read anything by her before – although I’ve heard of some of her books (like My Sister’s Keeper). I have mixed feelings. Are all of her books so freakin’ emotional??? I’m not sure I can handle that πŸ™‚ Oh my goodness the tears.

The first thing I noticed was that the book has recipes in it! And yummy-looking ones at that. How can you not like a book that includes information about how to bake something tasty? πŸ™‚

The second thing I noticed was that each chapter is set up as a different character talking (or writing a journal entry) to one specific character in the book, Willow. It feels really, really personal because you know they’re talking to Willow, but it totally feels like they’re speaking directly to you. Another neat thing Ms. Picout did (that I probably noticed right away because of my tech writing background)..? Each character has their own font. So each chapter is a different font! I thought that was a nice touch.

However, since each chapter is a different character and they’re all talking in the first person – it is sometimes a brain “ka-thunk” to remember who is doing the talking. Not a huge one, but it’s still there. There were a few times that I had to page back and look at the chapter title again (the title is the name of the character). Also, even though knowing the character is talking to Willow, when I switched from one chapter to the next, I had to remind myself that the new character wasn’t talking to the previous character; s/he was talking to Willow. Again, not a big deal … but it was there.

The way Ms. Picoult puts you through all these different – and very strong – emotions is amazing. And the way she makes you think “Yikes. What would *I* do in that situation??” is incredible. She just grabs you and makes you read until you can no longer keep your eyes open. πŸ™‚ Very engaging.

I do have to say that I didn’t really like the ending. I’m not sure, exactly, how I would have wanted it to end…but definitely not the way it did. Or if the ending had to happen that way; perhaps it shouldn’t have been the ending because we need more information about how those events impacted the other characters. Perhaps I was just left wanting more…

I’ll definitely be picking up another book by Ms. Picoult – but I need to read a few not-so-freakin-emotional ones first! πŸ™‚

have a little faith

I was going to do this as a book review…but it’s so much more than that. READ THIS BOOK!!! have a little faith by Mitch Albom is absolutely wonderful; and so, so thought-provoking. I’ve never read anything by Albom before, but you can bet your sweet a$$ that I’ll be picking up his other books soon (like, Tuesdays with Morrie).Β  I LOVED his writing style!

First of all, I think I would have really liked the Rabbi (The Reb). And it doesn’t matter that he’s Jewish and I’m Methodist. That was his point – everyone needs something to believe in … who am I to judge if who (or what) they believe in is right or wrong? As The Reb states, I’m pretty sure that almost all religions have something somewhere along the lines of “Love thy neighbor” … it shouldn’t matter if that neighbor has a different religion than I do.

There were two spots in the book that made me sit up and take notice (and no, these shouldn’t be too much in the way of spoilers…)

The first is when The Reb says “It’s far more comforting to think God listened and said no, than to think nobody’s out there.” WOW. I’d never really thought about that before, but he’s spot on! I can’t even imagine not talking (in my head) to God at times…and who else can you ‘blame’ when bad things happen – like if a child passes away (which is the context of this quote)?

The second is actually a story about The Reb’s wife. From the book:

They truly were a team. From the pulpit, the Reb might zing her with, “Excuse me, young lady, could you tell us your name?” She would get him back by telling people, “I’ve had thirty wonderful years with my husband, and I’ll never forget the day we were married, November 3, 1944.”

“Wait . . .,” someone would say, doing the math, “that’s way more than thirty years ago.”

“Right,” she would say. “On Monday you get twenty great minutes, on Tuesday you get a great hour. You put it all together, you get thirty great years.”

I think that’s just wonderful … and a great reminder that life – including marriage – is not all sunshine and roses. Nor is it supposed to be! You need a little rain to achieve rainbows.

I really wish all religious leaders – or even all people! – could be as accepting as The Reb. We’d have Holiday parties that include all aspects rather than ones that strip so much away there’s no meaning left for anyone. We’d have no anger or awkwardness if someone happens to say “Merry Christmas” to a non-christian. They could perhaps simply say “Happy Hanuka” back if they’re Jewish, and both people could just smile and feel that warm, tingly feeling when you wish someone a happy day. (By the way, can someone tell me why it’s not right to say “God bless you” to a Jewish person?) And why is it “Our God, Your God” ?Β  …what if it’s all the same being – just called a different name by the different world-wide religions?Β  …in the US alone there are 4 or 5 different terms for a big sandwich (Sub, Grinder, Hero, etc.) …why is having a different name for your spiritual being so different than that? (Did I really just compare God to a sandwich?? Hm.) ANYWAY…I’m by no means a religious scholar, there could be many reasons why it’s way different. I’m just saying – what if it IS the same being (or beings in some cultures) and there’s all this discomfort for absolutely no reason.

Anyway. Read the book. I really, really enjoyed it. And it’s a very fast read!

I did not receive this book from anyone – it’s simply one I read for my book club.

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Cross-posted on my My Opinion Matters blog.

I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I have to say that it took about 50 – 100 pages to really get into it though. HOLY SLOW. Thank goodness at least 3 different strangers walked by me whileΒ  I was reading and asked how I liked it…and recommended that I keep reading because it is worth it. They were RIGHT!

I think the biggest problem for me is that the “wrapper story” (more on that in a bit) is not in my area of interest: Finances. And while the characters needed building and there needed to be the “wrapper story” for that…I didn’t care as much about that part of the book as the “real” story.

The other problem that I had is that it’s set in a foreign country (Sweden) with many places that I’d never heard of and had a hard time pronouncing (in my head). And yes, I’ve heard of Sweden! It also means that many of the names were Swedish, so I also had a hard time pronouncing those (in my head). Think: Harry Potter and when you realized that Hermione is pronounced Her-My-Oh-Nee (or even Her-My-Nee if said quickly) …except that I have no such realization here. LOL

What’s a wrapper story, you ask? Well, it’s the first and last part of the book that only has a little bit to do with the meat (and the middle) of the book. Sure, there are characters who play parts in both stories (otherwise, it’d be two books, right?), and the wrapper one is necessary to set up why the middle part happens…

The middle story totally sucked me in. I love a great mystery, and this one was wonderful. I’m usually fairly good at predicting story lines, and this one got me – a few times!

I enjoyed reading about the main characters (and I’m actually looking forward to the sequel!)