Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

Release: February 10, 2009
Author Info: Website
Publisher: Penguin Books
Age Group: Adult
Source: Bought (Thrifted $.50! Featured)

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Excuse me while I make a few notes. People have had many things to say on the topics of this book, both in the intentions of good and bad. I'd rather say what I have to, and be done with it. You can skip down to the review if you'd like, but I can't bear to cut out my personal opinions on the issues of the book and the topics addressed within the story.

Notice: Given the fact there is a movie based on this book, I intend to stay as far away from the topic of those differences and my preferences. This is strictly a book review.

Warning: This book does have quite a bit of language and deals with the topic of race during a time of segregation in the South during the 1960s.
Frequent usage of the N-word and some adult situations.
I recommend for 18+.

Personal Note: I know there are people that feel a story such as this is nothing but fluff, hiding behind or using topics such as the ones touched on in this book as a way to write something 'greater' than they might have produced on their own. Using 'controversial' issues as a way to make their stories more important and launch them into a more serious sort of spotlight. Personally, I think that's a bunch of bull. Someone's going to do it no matter what you think or say, the issues are there, the topics will be discussed, get over the possibility of judging someone for it, and judge the product of it. Which at the end of the day is the point, they aren't telling you what opinion to have, they are merely presenting the idea.
The idea of African-American domestic house-workers in the early 60s, and their view of things. It may not be 100% accurate, but I feel presenting the idea and possibility is what brings this story attention. And it should, what were things like back then, how did African-American women live, what did they think of the world, they family they worked for, and the children they cared for? The world was beginning to change, and they were in the middle of it all, living most of their lives (working) in a white household.

I find stories such as these interesting, because of how I've been raised. Let me briefly explain.. I'm from California, where my both of my parents were born and raised, issues such as a race where never an issues even in my parents lives. It was something I never witnessed until I was 5 and had moved to Tennessee. Moving to the South at an early age was a culture shock for me, going from never judging anyone to having everyone judge everyone else, from the colour of their skin, to what accent they had, their native language, to what church you went to (which was never the right one). I spent almost 18 years of my life there.. I can't believe the way some people think and still live. But some people do, it's sad and appalling. /end

Hopefully I didn't bore everyone to death, with that out of the way, let's begin our review!

This book uses the changing of narrative, which is an amazing literary tool when used correctly. While fairly common I feel it takes a very good writer to pull it off well, Kathryn Stockett did more that than; this is by far one of the best changing narrative books I've ever read. I always find the concept interesting, reading from more than one character perspective, however I rarely enjoy it. I can't imagine this book written any other way.
What I appreciate most was, the lack of repeating situations over in different narratives that often, because it does happen. There was also very brief moments of playing 'catch up' between characters to get them up to speed, but it never took long or dragged. Whenever mentioned it added to the situation and what information was being shared.

Let's talk about the characters because they are each different and you see from each of their views, I'll try to avoid saying too much as the summary introduced them decently.

There's Aibileen who is wasting her life away because she sees no other means to providing for herself.
When she's introduce she's beginning to come to the end of her rope, working as a maid all of her life. She specialize in babies, until they start going to school and becoming more like their mothers/fathers. At that point she moves on because she can't stand to see everything she's taught them be over-turned by a women that hasn't paid them any attention or taught them until it's time to 'correct' what they've learned and know about the world.
Aibileen is a fairly quiet, calm, level-headed, loving character. Always ready to give some words of wisdom or bring some reason to the chaos. She put a lot of value into teaching children to feel good about themselves, along with overtime learning she can teach them things about the world before the roles of race begin to set in.

Minny is.. a sass-mouth. She's known for saying what's on her mind and finding herself without a job because of it. At the beginning of the story she crosses paths with Miss Hilly, the ring-leader of anyone-who's-anyone in Jackson, by working for her mother, Miss Walters, who's starting to lose her mind a little (probably more than that..). Hilly sets her up to be out of a job, in planning on taking Minny for herself, as she's known as the best cook in Jackson and Hilly has to have her. Only, everything falls apart and Minny does indeed find herself without a job, and on the wrong side of the worse possible person in Jackson, Miss Hilly.
At home she's got 5 kids, two of who are already old enough to work (and doing so) and an alcoholic husband who is border-line abusive, and only getting worse with time.
She's stuck between a rock and a hard place, putting on a tough act trying to keep her life together, with only Aibileen who sees through her and knows how bad things are.

Miss Skeeter, is that different breed of women that didn't go off to college for her "Mrs." She went to school for an education and a chance to make something of herself in the world, only to find herself back in Jackson, back on her parents farm, and not knowing who the women in Jackson are anymore, especially the ones that used to be her friends. She finds herself no longer able to relate or even enjoy speaking to her old friends, who are more concerned about being married, having babies, and keeping their help in line.
Skeeter dreams of being a writer and gets her chance when someone for a publishing company in New York gives her the time of day, to write her a letter that starts communication on what she needs to do in order to be 'a writer'.

I felt the flow of the characters and their differences worked. There's friction, that never quite boils over, and conflict that is met with reasoning as time goes on. For the most part Miss Skeeter and Aibileen get along, it's Minny that's the problem. Trusting no one, wanting no on in her life, but feels she has to look out for Aibileen, even if she won't admit it.
At the end of the day Aibileen and Minny only have each other to rely on, they know all their worried, dreams, and concerns, they know how to balance each other, even though their personalities are so different. Aibileen knows the times to wave Minny off and when to calm her down, Minny knows when to act up and when to quietly watch. Adding Miss Skeeter to the mix is found to create tension at first, although over time it begins to fade as Minny warms to her. Again, even if she'll never admit it.

What I enjoyed the most, was the differences in the people in Jackson, from the workers to their employers. How you learn more about a person when you talk to their help. Everyone in Jackson has an imagine and reputation to maintain, you don't get close to your help or people see you a 'sympathizer' (to put it simply). That doesn't stop people from treating their help better than some and worse then others.

This book is about there being more to the world and what it holds, most of all when it hasn't been talked about. Things happen, even if no one says anything. How you're raised does effect you, but it doesn't decide who you are or how you see the world.

The few downsides I have to state are the speed of the book. There are moments, around the middle, that the story sort of lulls, waiting on someone or something to set everything back in motion. Going through the characters everyday lives, while interesting, I felt like I was waiting on the main plot line to pick back up.
Along with the passing of time jumping around without being mentioned that often. One side character announces she's expecting, only to be 6-7 months along the next time we see her, followed by a few months after giving birth.

I suppose that's what I like about this book, while the location and the time you assume how things are going to be, after reading you find that things aren't always as they appear. There are people and their families that are different from the rest, that care for their help and treat them better than is ever discussed.
(Anybody that knows anything knows Mississippi was one of the worst places to be African-American during segregation. Although it's not like there was much of a safe place in the South during that time.)

Recommend: Issues of race, segregation, personal stories, drama.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

(FTW) Finds This Week: #2

Finds This Week: #2


"Deals, FTW!"


This is my version of all those "weekly haul" memes. (More Information)

This last week I did some more thrift shopping, while in search of household items and furniture, among those I hit two thrift stores and Target, and found a few things to add to my collections.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black III

Men in Black III (2012)

Based on: The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producer: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Studio: Amblin Entertainment, P+M Image Nation, Hemisphere Media Capital
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Release Date(s): May 23, 2012 (France), May 25, 2012 (United States)
Running Time: 106 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Rating: PG-13

Official Site

Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back... in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K's life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him - secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind. (Source)

Movie Tags: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comedy, Goofy, Imaginative, Quirky

Yes this is a time-travel movie and somewhat of a 'tie-in' to piece in the other movies and the world of MIB after 10 years. The funny thing? It actually works.

Let me say I am a huge fan of MIB when it first came out and while I have seen them all, I can admit when one isn't that great. Even to the point of not being happy to admit that I have seen it.. those of you that have seen Men in Black II should know what I'm talking about.. (While parts of the storyline are valid, the movie wasn't one to be remembered and I'm still trying to block it out..)
This one however, surpasses any expectations set for it along with being better than the previous example of the series. Although, it could be argued that's why it's better.

Bringing a storyline back to life after 10 years, isn't easy; actors age, people won't sign back on, and there's always the factor of trying to introduce not only the old audience but a new one as well. Trying to appeal to new fans while pleasing the old ones.
This being said, it's no surprise that there are new faces to the franchise, although these new ones should not be overlooked; most notable there is the introduction of Josh Brolin as young Agent K who was amazing. It was a pure entertainment to watch him in the role. He went above and beyond, doing the role of Agent K justice.

While most of this films' plot line seems similar to what we've seen before, expanding on Agent K, his life and trying to farther understand him, there more to this story than meets the eyes. Under the almost typical plot there are plenty of twists, turns, and laughs to be found. Some moments are more pleasing than others, and there are a few that might have you saying "Predictable" this is still an entertaining movie.
Nothing is ever going to stop the complex relationship J and K have. K being distance and J forever trying to figure him out and make him less stiff and strict. K being K and J being J; it's that opposites' relationship that both works and causing never-ending friction, only leaving room for entertainment.

Plot-wise, the general roles of 'good' and 'bad' where displayed along with those fighting to help the good while stopping the bad and save the world, a simple plot, but sometimes there's nothing wrong with simple, when you rely on the characters coming to life and playing the story out. I feel they did, having this movie live up to the expectations set for it.

What I enjoyed the most was the ever growing introduction of aliens and other life forms. There was an alien introduce that was able to see multiply futures, never knowing which was the one they were heading towards, which leads to countless awkward moments. He constantly said things along the lines of "Unless we're in the reality where (thing) happens" *waits for it, it doesn't happen* "Whew, that was a close one." While everyone else lives on none the wiser. Although that's kind of the theme in MIB isn't it?

What I really loved, was the cleverness behind this film. In the sense of not only appealing to it's young audience, in expanding and while introducing it's self to new fans, but also in the sense of playing homage to an older crowd that I feel may have been previously overlooked. With the factor of time travel, there are countless jokes and references to things that aren't around anymore, that might have applied to an older crowd. Both the seriousness of the theme (aka being in the past) and in poking fun; jet-packs the size of a car and the usual, H-U-G-E cellphones.

One of the negative points I have to comment on, it's a very large pet-peeve, the CGI and general computer animated or manipulation of the film. Compared to the other films, there is no question this is the best looking MIB movie in all of it's Sci-fi glory. However, there are still moments of sloppy work which drive me insane. Mostly the villain hopping around, which looked ridiculously fake, no questions asked. I understand some situations can't happen in real life, it should still look 'real'. (I can only explain it as, he looked like Mr. Fantastic, you know stretches and looking like he has no bones, hoping around. Really bothered me.)

I highly recommend this film. Not the MIB we're used to, which isn't a bad thing.
Compared to the other movies, I was felt feeling MIB has lived to a reputation of being over the top, bigger and badder is ultimately better, where as MIB III delivered a story with more heart and soul while not sacrificing anything plot wise. Well other than Tommy Lee Jones not having much time in the spot-light, which makes me sad but still happy to see he would return for the role, if only for awhile.

There are questions answered while others are raised. I feel the journey is worth what we find out, over what is left to be answered or decide for yourself. Which is what the Sci-fi genre is about; the conspiracy and theories the individuals decide on.

There are already questions behind the possibility of MIB IV, I hope it doesn't happen. This movie left on a fairly clean although possibly open-ended note. It could be said to nicely wrap up the series. *Crosses fingers*

Recommended: Sci-fi, Quirky, Time-travel, Adventure.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

(FTW) Finds This Week: #1

Finds This Week: #1

I'm changing it up!

I've decided to go my own way in doing a "Stacking the Shelves" (Hosted by Tynga's Reviews), "Showcase Sunday" (Hosted by Books, Biscuits, and Tea) and "In My Mailbox" (Hosted by The Story Siren) themes (just to name a few), All of which were originally inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie.
Now I won't be going to the extreme of changing my old posts out, although I will no longer be using the In My Mailbox tag. which was the meme I was using.
I will however still link my blog around to mentioned/related 'haul' memes

Why the change?
While there are many possible reasons as to why the change, none of them really matter aside from "Either way you don't win." In addressing the amount of drama I've both saw and still see on occasion flying around, I'd rather not link myself to anyone's "Weekly goodies" memes. If you know what I'm talking about this is all I'm going to say, or rather 'imply' on the matter, if you have no idea why it would matter; Good.
And while it hasn't personally happened to me (that I know of), it wouldn't surprise me if people start to un-follow someone for still using "In My Mailbox" or starting with the newer version "Stacking the Shelves" or "Showcase Sunday".
Either you go with the new trends or stick with the old one. Some people won't be happy with whatever you do, but that's their view of things. While I personally, don't care what most people think about this I really just don't want to put myself in the middle of something I have nothing to do with.

From that I will be; Neutral. Hopefully that is reasonable enough.

There's more to it:
Along with none of those titles really fitting how I go about this. I'm not feeling their style or function. They just aren't my speed in the way I gather books and the fact I also branch out with TV and movies.
I'm pretty much a no one who doesn't expect to receive ARCs or anything of the variety unless it's a giveaway/contest. Even still I'm horribly unlucky in that sense so I don't invest much in having a return. (It's just fun be part of something sometimes. See what people are up to, what they are saying, etc.)

I mostly surf the net, thrift stores, second-hand shops, and look for deals. Which I enjoy. (It's like a mini treasure hunt, only easy on the bank account.. sometimes!)

Also as horrible as it is to admit it, I wanted a clever name. While this isn't the best that's out there, for now it's what I came up with. For those unfamiliar with the term "FTW" it generally means "For The Win" the nerd/gamer in me giggles a little when I attach it to my great deals. Because you'd use the term "FTW" to farther emphasize what caused something great. IE: "Great deals, FTW."
Not the best way to explain the term, but hopefully understandable enough to those that wouldn't normally see or use it.

The Finds

This last week I was shown around some of thrift stores in my new location. I was luckily enough to find a couple of them with decent book sections!

I also found a cute little second hand book shop, but was unable to do any shopping. Thanks to an extremely rude customer, which resulted in me walking out. (Was not happy that day.) Hopefully I will try to go back and browse again in the future.

This week I got 4 books for under $5 (with tax)!


Thrift Store #1

The Help by Kathryn Stockett $.50

(Check the image out on the left for the copy I own.)
I wanted to show that I purchased the "Movie-Tie-In) edition, which I'd normally be less inclined to by, but with a price tag of $.50, I wasn't going to walk away from it.
The main reason I wanted to feature this edition is because it has an essay by the author along with 'discussion questions'.
I plan to add those into my review.

I have already seen the movies, when it came out, which is very rare for me to do, and I loved it! I've seen a few time since but it's still as good as the first time.
Easily said I was thrilled to see this book for $.50. Even saw it somewhere else for $5 that day and laughed to myself.

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, #1) by Rick Riordan $1.00

This poor poor book! It's been though hell and back. While not my ideal copy, for $1 I'm not going to complain much. I saw it and went "I'm buying you and going to treat you like gold!'

I'm a big fan of Rick Riordan, truly in love with the Percy Jackson series, when I found this there was no question if I was going to buy it or not.

This book was owned by a little girl, which explains why it's so beat up, which I discovered on the first two pages she labeled it and herself as the daughter of Posiden/Nepture. (One on one page one on the other.) I thought it was cute.
It's little quirks like that I love finding hidden in second-hand treasures.
Even with the shape this (poor poor) book is in, I still think it' a great find.

Thrift Store #2

L.A. Candy (L.A. Candy, #1) by Lauren Conrad $2

I won't lie, I've heard very mixed feelings about this book. I however, love Lauren Conrad, not for Laguna Beach or The Hills, but because what she's done. She went to school, she got a job, she's tried to keep out of drama and most of her 'personal life' out of the lime-light, she has her head on her shoulders.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic #1) by Sophie Kinsella $.50

I found this while skimming through the Chick-Lit and thought for $.50, no big deal. I heard it cute, although some mixed reviews and a fairly 'iffy' movie based on the book it's self.


Castle: Season 2 & 3
I'm also already done with both of these already. I do love me some Nathan Fillion..

Current Bookmark:

This is something new I wanted to start. While I don't usually have great bookmarks and this won't always be featured, I did want to show my 'current bookmark' on occasion. That is when I have one that's really cute, cool, or just interesting looking.
Inspired by Liza @ Reading with ABC, known as "Bookmark This Week", seen here Bookmark This Week.

This is the card I got out of a Zoltar machine. I'm a Scorpio, by the way.
The funny thing about this card, my mother is an Aries and my father is a Libra, and the roles it's implying, would usually be reversed.
Let's not argue about how much effort or even faith I put into fortune telling or even horoscopes, nonetheless I think they're interesting. Nothing wrong with wasting a few quarters on a machine for fun.

I hope everyone else found some great stuff this week!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini Movie Review: #1 Mark of Love, Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family, and Hello Sister, Goodbye Life

Mini Movie Review: #1
Mark of Love, Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family, and Hello Sister, Goodbye Life

Personal Note: This is a post I started back in April but because of my personal life I never got around to finish and posting. I however, still wanted to share my opinions on these not-so-great movies.

I've watched some not so great movies recently. Wanting to really start on review movies in general, although feeling these movies in question didn't contain enough content to feature a review each (also doubting I would be able to produce enough content about each of them that would worthy of posting) I decided on a mini review to feature all of them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Repost: Which Books Should You Read This Summer?

I saw this over on Kah Cherub's blog NotJustNonsense and had to share.

Someone put a lot of time and thought into this, it's great.

Warning: Large image below the cut!