Monday, April 05, 2010

My interest is kindled!

I interrupt this sequential narration of our Maui vacation with a few reviews. I didn't tell you, but I filled up all my image hosting space on Picasa, so I'm trying to figure out which new service I'll use and how I'll host all my pics. Translation: I didn't want to write the next post in my Maui blogs because I need to be able to insert photo links. I want to get that all squared away by tomorrow. It's a good opportunity to talk about something else, though, and still Maui-related.

One of the best things I did this trip was read like a madwoman. I told K today, I really feel like I've relaxed when I get to read a lot. It's not something I get to do a lot at home, and most of the reading I do at (and for) work is to re-read things I'm teaching for the umpteenth time (and why, dear blog, does it not matter how many times I read something--why will the children always ask me a question I do not know? *sigh*). Today I have three reviews for you.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I've never heard of Kathryn Stockett or this novel at all, but I stumbled upon it purely through Amazon-browsing. It has great reviews on Amazon and it deserves them. It's one of the two books I bought when E gave me the Kindle. Of course before I read it, Marty and her daughter Marta both mentioned it in their post about their Sistas weekend in Vegas, so... that just piqued my interest even more.

The Help is a beautiful book. It takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 amidst the civil rights movement. It's told in the three distinctly different voices of Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen and Minny are black women working in white homes; Skeeter is the nickname of a college-educated daughter of a white family with cotton money. Skeeter gets the idea to secretly write the stories of the relationships between the black women and their white families. It's touching, heart-wrenching, funny, and lacks any hint of cliche or sugar-coating. The book is told in regional dialect (that means words look like they sound, not like they're actually spelled) but I didn't find it distracting or as difficult to digest as something like Their Eyes Were Watching God--though that's a great book too, BTW) and I found it had a quality to its setting not unlike Gone With the Wind--different subject matter, but it had the same slow warmth to it that evoked the south so clearly.

What I liked the most about Stockett's novel was that she was able to talk about the subject matter--race relations in a difficult time, in a difficult time in history--without any hint of it being stereotypical or preachy. It's just a novel about the relationships of women, the hypocrisy of the south during that time, the pain many endured, but also the touching familial relationships that were established within such a problematic system. It made me laugh out loud several times. I wanted to read to find out what would happen, but I also grew sad as I started to feel like it might be over--for me that's a sign of a great book.

My recommendation: Read it now. It will surely be a movie, and you'll be glad you know more than what's on the screen.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

I also picked this book solely on Amazon reviews, and I'm not sorry. Let the Great World Spin was in some ways very dissimilar to other things I read; it represented such a hodgepodge of interesting characters--an Irish street priest and his brother, a cornucopia of New York hookers, a tightrope walker, a judge, mothers mourning sons lost in Vietnam, and a drugged-out couple of artists. I LOVED IT. This was one of those stories where things start out as far apart as one could imagine and end up intertwined. The connections weren't forced, though. I could also see this book being a great movie, something along the lines of Crash's intermixing plot lines.

The entire book is set against the backdrop of the real-life crossing of the span between the Twin Towers by tightrope walker Phillipe Petit in 1974. It is one of the plot lines of the book, but it also exists in the background of nearly every vignette in some small way; each of the characters is affected by it differently and the reader is also forced to reconcile the image of Petit with the eerie historical connotation the phrases "Twin Towers" and "World Trade Center" now hold in our minds. New York exists almost like a yellowed 1970's snapshot from that time; the variety in the characters was so interesting and written with such focus.

As I said, it's not really like other things I read. While most things I read tend to be deeply character-driven and exploratory of each character's psychological motivation, some of these characters exist only as static (unchanging), two-dimensional people. We see them only for moments, or only in ways we're meant to see them. A lot is left out, but it doesn't seem to matter. It's told in glimpses only, but the glimpses are so compelling. McCann also knows how to turn a phrase--I found myself having to stop and wonder at a lot of his metaphors or figures of speech (also a sign of a good book for me). I like my books well-written and witty. This one didn't disappoint, and it made me want to learn more about Petit and his feat that took place five years before I was born.

My recommendation: Read now. Worth it.

Last review: Amazon Kindle

I love my Kindle. It's perfect. It's amazing. It's everything I hoped it would be.

Things I love:

  • it doesn't hurt my eyes
  • I have lots of free books on there
  • I didn't have to pack a bag of books for Maui
  • it reads to me if I am driving or don't want to open my eyes
  • it doesn't weigh much
  • it's very easy to use
Don't go telling me the iPad just came out. I don't want one of those. I already have an iPhone. This is what I wanted, and we're very happy together. I used it all the time on our vacation and I liked it on the plane, I liked it in the room, I liked it on the balcony, and I liked it by the pool (I put it in a gallon plastic baggie, just in case of splashes!). It rocks my socks right off, thanks for asking.

My recommendation: Cool tool for book nerds. Get one if you like to read, a lot.


  1. Would you like it here or there? Would you like it anywhere? :) Just kidding! Sounds like you are fully enjoying it - I'm curious to try one out. Colby has one and really likes it too.

  2. YES. Thanks ML. I'm so glad you commented. :) I was beginning to feel like I was shouting into the void... not so much commenting going on of late. You can check mine out anytime you want. :)

  3. You know I'm always reading... I've been imagining myself going to all those places in Maui. I can almost feel the warm sun! I'm enjoying following your vacation stories. SO glad you guys were able to get away and have some fun.