The Help/ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

December 30, 2010

Well Christmas usually brings great tidings, and fabulous books. The holiday season did not fail me this year in literary texts, and I read two of the best books I have ever set my eyes upon. Because I loved both of these books equally, I have decided to let them share a post. I feel like I am almost cheating them, because I liked them both infinitely better than anything else I have read this year, but then again, this preface almost does them justice 🙂

 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, published 2009

My boss, my friends, even random strangers I have over heard have been raving about this book. I was also looking for a Christmas present for my mom. She likes a good book, so I bought it, which gave me the excuse to proof read it before I wrapped it up. Smart thinking? I’d say so.

This book is about breaking racial and gender barriers in a hostile world. Set in Mississippi in the 60s, three different women struggle to succeed in a society that is against them. Aibilee and Minny are two African American women working as maids, while Skeeter is a rich white woman set on making a change . These three women work together to get their stories heardd. Stockett does a wonderful job creating three distinct perspectives and voices for each women. This is a heartfelt story that really got to me, and I literally did not put the book down. My mom came in a couple of times when I was reading it, and I had to dive under my covers so she wouldn’t see me. Needless to say, she was a little suspicious. But I was too invested in the characters to let a little something like keeping a Christmas gift secret get in the way.

 

 

This next book was in my Christmas stocking, and I had finished it by the end of Christmas day, it was that

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published 2009

good. Set in post World War II England, Juliet is a writer with nothing to write about. That is when she gets a letter from a man in Guernsey who has one of her used books, and wanted to find more. After friendly communication, she finds out there is much more to the story. A whole group of friends on the island of Guernsey created a literary society to keep themselves safe from the Nazi occupation. Juliet ends up visiting the island, and learns more about the wonderful stories. This novel, written entirely in letters, is the kind of British humor that I love. It is written beautifully, and I was crying happy tears by the end.

 

 

Please read both of these books. They are both very uplifting, and good for the soul like chicken noodle is for your health 🙂

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Redeeming Love

December 21, 2010

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, published 1997

YIKES, its been a week since I last wrote on here. Not good for my blogger reputation, I must say. But in all the craziness of finals and coming home safely in the midst of a snow storm, I finally got to sit down with a nice cup of hot chocolate and do the unthinkable for a college student- pleasure read!

My mom and I went Christmas shopping together a couple of weeks ago in a Borders, which just make me want to buy books for myself and forget about everyone on my Christmas list. As soon as we turned towards the fiction section, my mom started squealing “MY FAVORITE BOOK! I lost my copy and now they have it in paperback! Have you read it? you haven’t? well I’m going to buy you this copy so then I’ll have it too.” And before I could get another word out, the book was bought and in my dorm room staring at me while I had to read my 30 sociological theory articles.

BUT NOW I have time to read my mom’s absolute favorite book- Redeeming Love. Apparently its a huge hit among people who read Christian fiction, which I have never really read before. Its about a girl, who was sold into prostitution when she was 8, after her mother died and her father refused to recognize her existance. After 12 years, “Angel” is famous for being the most beautiful prostitute in California. This is when the Lord tells Michael Hosea to take Angel and make her his wife. After a lot of drama, and Angel hating Hosea’s guts, the Lord shows both of them the true meaning of love.

There is a good reason that this book was my mom’s favorite. It was excellent. I picked it up at the beginning of the day and had finished all 450 pages of it by the end of the day. Not only is it a captivating, beautiful retelling of the book of Hosea, it really makes the reader think. I fully believe that this book has changed many people’s lives, and helps people recognize the true meaning of love. And I love books about the pioneers (I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder back in the day), and which this book is full of :). I really hope you pick it up, you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll learn more about what God intends love to be.

 


A Fierce Radiance

December 13, 2010

A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer, published 2010

I am a genuine lover of historical fiction. The idea that some can write a story based on true life, but at the same time not true to life, is fascinating. Also, the amount of research that has to go into one of these novels is astounding. My favorite time period to read about, I would have to say, is World War II. Everything about this era I find intriguing- from the Holocaust to the empowerment of women in the workforce. When looking for a good book to read, I came across A Fierce Radiance- set in WWII and about a female photographer using her lens for a just cause.

Fear of many different kinds settled into New York City during World War II: infectious diseases killing thousands of children, the threat of bombings always on the horizon, and countless men not returning home to their families after being at war. Claire Shipley, the protagonist, tries to capture all of this with her camera and intellect- a photojournalist for LIFE magazine allows her to have the power in her hands and to show the world as she sees it. When she runs across a story about the breakthrough medicine of penicillin, she becomes more involved than just an article- it becomes her life, which is now focused on how the human race has suddenly been able to “play God,” as the doctors describe it. After her child died from an infection after a simple cut, she is determined to discover the secret behind this medicine. Artfully hidden by the government, Claire becomes a spy of social justice. While searching for the truth behind penicillin, Claire uses her camera as her aid as she discovers other medicines that are being fought, even murdered, over. A story enriched with espionage, romance, feminism, heartbreak, and suspense, Belfer develops an absorbing, narrative focused on the miracle of penicillin that most have forgotten about, and captures the basis of true human desperation and fragility.

YAY PENICILLIN! (Don’t get the wrong idea- I know absolutely NOTHING about science)

🙂


Emma

December 13, 2010

Emma by Jane Austen, published 1816

Well, its finals week at my college. Which means my brain is about to melt out of my ears. Not a pretty sight. Its 1:20 in the morning and I’m in a study section of my library, surrounded by books. So of course I figured this would be the perfect time for a blog post.

For one of my classes, I am writing an 8 page in-depth comparison between Jane Austen’s Emma and Miramax’s film of the same name. In case you aren’t familiar with the plot (which you probably should be..both the book and the movie are CLASSICS), the story centers around a 21-year-old named Emma, living in the 1800s. She is very witty and well off, and sees it as her life goal to be the “cupid” of her town. Unfortunately, her match-making backfires, and she ends up hurting her vanity, as well as the feelings of many people. But don’t worry- as with all Jane Austen novels- there is a love interest, and it ends happily. I LOVE all Jane Austen books, but this one is probably my favorite. Austen really steps it up with the complexity in this book- its filled with wonderful wit, sociological analysis, and romance. Also, I think I relate more to Emma than any other character. She’s pretty much who I would want to be if I was an 1800s heroine.

At first glance, when you compare the movie and the book, they seem very similar. Many of the events that happen in the novel closely parallel the book. But, if one compares the tone of the novel and the movie, they are very different, especially in respect to characterization. The movie makes everyone seem overly stupid and vain, while in the novel Jane Austen makes sure that every  character is flawed in a  relatable way. Emm, in the movie played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is too beautiful for words, and while she is very witty , she never severely suffers the repercussions of her action, as the Emma of the novel does. Harriet, Emma’s main project , is someone who is beautiful, shy, and slightly less  smart than Emma, but in the movie she is ugly, obnoxiously stupid, and very clumsy

Which leads me to think…what makes a movie a good interpretation of the novel? Is it just the events that have to stay true? Is characterization left open to the director, or should they have remained with the original tone that Jane Austen set for the novel?
Let me know your opinions! 🙂


A Vintage Affair

December 9, 2010

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff, published 2010

It was actually a sight to see. Three 20 year old girls running around Barnes and Nobel like kids in a candy store. After by-passing the appalling amount of books about Mr. Darcy (seriously…we counted 20), we searched for the next good read, and found a gem among the new releases.

I know that you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but A Vintage Affair‘s images on the front stuck out to me. I passed by it possibly 4 times while parusing, each time stopping to pick it up, look at its synopsis, and wondering if it was actually worth spending the miniscule amount of money I acquire as a college student. But, when a book has you in its grip, it does not let go. I was sold, and soon after was the book.

And it didn’t let me down. The book focuses on Phoebe Swift- a vintage clothing extraordinaire, proficient in all things classy from the 20’s to the 80’s. After the tragic death of her best friend, Phoebe takes life in her own hands. She quits her stable job as a Sotheby’s auctioneer, and opens her own vintage clothing store: The Village Vintage. Even though she takes more loans than she can afford, it becomes soon apparent. after the many news aricles and countless customers, that she is going to make it. But, as it turns out, it is not her spontaneous new career that stresses her, but her past. Only after meeting a women who survived World War II, and has similar stories as her own, does she realize that the only way to “wash the dirty laundry” is to move foward and create a new path.

This story makes the reader feel good, plain and simple. Written by British author Isabel Wolff, it is the perfect amount of British humor with an inviting sentiment. Not only is it expertly researched with the numerous references to vintage clothing, it also searches in depth to a guilt ridden heart, and the road to self repentance.

I am so glad that this novel was the one to draw me in. It fit like the perfect 50’s prom dress, and warmed my soul like a cup of British tea.

and now.. for some vintage inspiration from you.. some outfits quoted in the book:

 


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

December 8, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, published 1943

Might as well start the first review off with my favorite book of all time, right?

I know that preface was a little overwhelming and kind of gives away my opinion of this fantastic novel.. but its true. This book is my FAVORITE.

You know that a book has had a meaningful impact on your life when you can remember exactly when and where you first opened its pages. Christmas, 2005. I was 15 years old, and was a semi-avid reader. I opened my last package to find that it was…. a book. Drat. Not only a book, but a book I had never heard of before. As Christmas began to wind down, and my extended family began their annual game of pinochle (I know.. who still plays that game..) I leafed through the pages of the book just to get an idea of what it was about. And after that, I was hooked.

The story begins by following the life of 11-year-old Francie Nolan, living in Brooklyn during the early 1900’s. Her family is unbelievably poor- her parents care about her, but are unable to adequately provide for them. Her father is a drunk, and her mother thrifty,but cold and unloving.  Francie helps her family by scrounging for scrap metal, that she then sells for pennies just to help her family get by. Through all the suffering and horrible things she goes through, Francie is able to find joy in life. She loves to read and spends hours at the library.  Her imagination takes off with every book she reads. When she isn’t reading, she watches the people who live on the block around her. She creates stories for each one, and continues to build up this world of her own.

Each chapter is a small story in the life of Francie, and with each chapter the reader falls more and more in love with the character. As she grows, Francie has to take  on some huge responsibilities for her family. Obviously someone who has a superior drive for learning, as compared to many women during that time period, she has to make a decision as to whether she should pursue her education , or remain in Brooklyn to take care of her family. Dreams are put aside as family is placed on the pedestal of her life, which reveals real life sacrifices people have to make for the ones they love. This heart wrenching story will not leave you untouched, and allows one to understand the nature of human kind just a little bit more.

For me, the true mark of an excellent book is how relatable the characters are. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn exceeds the expectations in this regard. I feel like I am Francie, that we are one in the same person. Her story is profoundly moving, funny, and true to life. I believe that it is impossible to walk away from this book without being moved, at least a little bit.

My well-loved, worn at the edges copy

This book is the one that I go back to whenever I am bookless, its my “fall back book.” I have read it and re-read it countless times. I want to encourage you to find your “fall back book,” the book that can always put you in a good mood no matter what day it is. The book whose spine and pages are worn with love, and will always welcome you to get lost in its world. Maybe now you’ll want to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or maybe it just doesn’t seem like your cup of tea. Find a book that you are passionate about, one that will always be there for you like the best of friends :).


Alpha.

December 8, 2010

Alright..so here’s the deal.

I’m new at this whole blog thing. But, the best way to begin is just to push foward right? So thats what I’m going to do.

This is the first post of many. Most will be reviews of books that I have read, and there fore feel led to share my opinion. Why should you care about my opinion? I have no idea. I just like to read, and I feel like many people, like you and me, are unaware of the vast majority of amazing books that are just floating out there in literature world.

I want this to be a place where good books and bad books collide, where someone can pick and choose from my musings and find a new world that they want to delve into. Feel free to agree.. or better yet disagree. I love it. I’m going to stay true to myself, and I expect you to do the same.

What kind of books should you expect?

Well… I like stories about the people, for the people. So democratic of me…but what I really mean is stories about lives, the inner workings of society, the depths of the mind. I’m a sucker for love stories and historical fiction. I usually hate satires about America. I like mysteries. I usually dislike fantasy.

So now that you know about where I’m coming from, its up to you if you want to keep reading. But thanks for entertaining at least this one post.

More to come later.