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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


I'm not one to read a book just because it is the latest obsession, or a NYT Bestseller. In fact, I mostly picked up The Help just because I was sick of my friends, my mom, and my friend's moms urging and nagging me to read this so-called "great" piece of literature. So I read the first few pages, and immediately noticed the excellent writing style. So I read more. Actually, I read the whole thing. And if you don't know what it is about...

It is 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. Aibileen is a black maid who is raising her 17th white child, and is becoming more upset about the way things are in the world. Her best friend Minny has just been fired from her job as a maid (again) and has just taken a new job with a mysterious and troubled woman. And Skeeter is a white socialite who has just graduated from collage and dreams of being a writer, but her mom urges her that finding a husband is more important.

Skeeter takes more notice about how wrong blacks are treated in Jackson, and decides to write a book of interviews taken from various black maids in town. She asks Aibileen and Minny for help with the book, and the 3 women band together to work on this dangerous and controversial project. The stakes are high, but making even a little difference just might be worth it.


This book is certainly worthy of all the buzz and credits it has gotten, and the blockbuster movie that was based off it. Stockett has created lovable characters who each have their own unique voice as they narrate the story. Aibileen is the wise soul, Minny is bold, and Skeeter is observant and thoughtful. Their points of view all blend together to create a nicely-told tale. Miss Hilly Holbrook, the antagonist, was especially snaky and easy to hate. Stuart, who is Skeeter's beau for a good part of the story was a bit of a let down. It is always kind of sad when a relationship that developed through most of the story fails. But it was certainly understandable and Skeeter became even more independent in the resolution.

The Help has both humorous and dark bits intertwined in it. A reader may laugh out loud and then shudder a few chapters later. It's message is empowering and somewhat beautiful. Be warned that it has an open ending, and the final pages are bittersweet. But that was perfectly fine with me. This is a pretty good book, and is worth your time.

THE BOTTOM LINE:
Funny, jarring, notable. This is a special book.
5/5 stars

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart


I actually read this one over a year ago, but I thought of it today for some reason, and I figured, why not tell you about it? It was a pretty good book, and quite cute. A summary for ya:

4 misfit children have just been recruited to join a queer society. Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance have passed all the odd and unusual tests required to join. They are taken to Mr. Benedict's house, where the kind old man asks them to help him take down an evil man named Mr. Curtain. Mr. Curtain has a machine called The Sender that sends subliminal messaging through airwaves. These messages are picked up by the human mind (though the human themself is unconscious of it) and causes their minds to be influenced and controlled in negative ways. The kids go undercover at L.I.V.E. (Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened) which is a private academy ran my Mr. Curtain, where the evil man and The Sender are located. The 4 children each posses their own odd and exceptional talents, but they will need every bit of wit, brain power, and courage that they have to take down evil.


This book is clever. It's like a big puzzle. My favorite part was the beginning, where the kids have to pass all the tricky tests in order to join The Mysterious Benedict Society. This book is part mystery, part brain teaser. Twists and turns will surprise readers and amuse them.

I also liked the characters. They are young and lovable. Reynie is the clever one, Sticky is the genius, Kate is the agile one, and Constance is...Constance. The children bond throughout the book, forming a close-knit and trusting friendship with one another. Mr. Benedict was your typical sweet old man, though he suffered from narcolepsy. Mr. Curtain was evil. Enough said.

This book probably can't be classified as YA, it was more for younger middle school-level readers. But you may want to give it a chance. It was a longer novel too, almost to a point where it seemed like things were being dragged out. But the conclusion is well-done and heartwarming.

THE BOTTOM LINE:
Cute, exciting, and smart. This book will keep you guessing.
4/5 stars