In December I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and completely loved it. I loved how it was written, from the perspective of three different women - Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. It was funny, it was sad, and it showed the terrible reality of life in 1962. It also showed just how hypocritical white people were when it came to black people. The hypocrisy of things like blacks should have their own bathroom so whites don't get their diseases, BUT those same black people cleaned the white folks' silver, cooked their food, and raised their babies. I did a lot of head shaking while reading this because I just kept thinking, do these white people realize how insanely hypocritical they really are??? Of course, the answer is no, because the world was a vastly different place in 1962.
Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, raising her seventeenth white child. She's always taken orders quietly, but lately it leaves her with a bitterness she can no longer bite back. Her friend Minny has certainly never held her tongue, or held on to a job for very long, but now she's working for a newcomer with secrets that leave her speechless. And white socialite Skeeter has just returned from college with ambition and a degree but, to her mother's lament, no husband. Normally Skeeter would find solace in Constantine, the beloved maid who raised her, but Constantine has inexplicably disappeared.
Together, these seemingly different women join to work on a project that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town - to write, in secret, a tell-all book about what it's really like to work as a black maid in the white homes of the South. Despite the terrible risks they will have to take, and the sometimes humorous boundaries they will have to cross, these three women unite with one intention: hope for a better day.
I'm currently waiting for the movie from Netflix, it keeps telling me "long wait". Ugh. My parents saw the movie and said it was great, so I'm hoping I'll enjoy it like the book. I highly recommend this book - so get to it!
After the first of the year, I started Sarah's Key by Tatiana DeRosnay. This book came highly recommended from a friend of my parents last summer. I had no idea what it was about, but I know I had seen it on the shelves at Target for ages and had often wondered if it was any good. Just trying to write out how much you should read this book brings me to tears. This book was supremely excellent. While the characters are completely fictional, the history is true. The history portion follows a ten year old French Jewish girl in 1942, the year of the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup - where thousands of Jewish families were rounded up by French police - not Nazi's, although it was Nazi orders - and taken to the Vel' d'Hiv', then to camps outside Paris, then shipped to German concentration camps. In present day, it follows a journalist who is told to cover the 60th commemoration.
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard - their secret hiding place - and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.
Sixty years later: Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.
To me, this is a must read. A definite must.
In the fall, I read My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones. It's not bad if you love Jane Austen's novels. It follows a gal to a Jane Austen literary festival in England (which could be fun but I'm not sure I'd fly all the way over to England just for that), and finds that the friend who invited her is more flaky than she realized - she's just the woman's pet project. And when her wish doesn't come true, is forced to find her own way as it were, and becomes a success to the delight of her friend and the dismay of others.
Lily has squeezed herself into undersized relationships all her life, hoping one might grow as large as those found in the Jane Austen novels she loves. But lately her world is running of places for her to fit. So when her bookish friend invites her to spend the summer at a Jane Austen literary festival in England, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself.
There, among the rich, promising world of Mansfield Park reenactments, Lily finds people whose longing to live in a novel equals her own. But real-life problems have a way of following her wherever you go, and Lily's accompany her to England. Unless she can change her ways, she could face the fate of so many of Miss Austen's characters, destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
My Jane Austen Summer explores how we fall in love, how we come to know ourselves better, and how it might be possible to change and be happier in the real world.
Another book I wanted to tell you about is also a Jane Austen take-off. My BFF gave it to me a couple years ago now, as kind of a joke because she knows how much I fell in love with Austen's novels. It's called Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Vierra Rigler. I enjoyed it.
After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?
Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman's life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to even fool the most astute observer. But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. This looking-glass Austen world is not with its charms, however. There are journey's to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be a familiar species of philanderer after all. But when Courtney's borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues. Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't care much for the whole chamber pot thing myself. And I'm pretty sure I would consider myself mad if awoke in 19th century England.
Anyway, the first two reviews I'm totally dead serious that you should read. The other two are fluff, so to speak.
Sarah's Key was the last in my stack of new books to read. I'm on the prowl for new authors/books. So if you have any recommendations of books or authors, please let me know. Please keep in mind I don't do vampires. At all. Facebook friends have recommended Janet Evanovich, Emily Griffin, and Jody Picoult (although I hear her books are real tear jerkers). As well as a few others, and I still have my regular addictions to tend to: Dean Koontz, Kathy Reichs, Jen Lancaster, and Sharon Lathan.