Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

Ice Cold (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #8)Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoy the TV show characters better, but I always find it interesting to read books that shows are based off of. This was a quick, fun book.



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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What an sbsolutely incredible life story! Parts are so hard to believe, you simply know they HAVE to be true!

I read this as a recommendation from a fellow teacher. We work at a rural school, with many students who live similar lives to the author's time in West Virginia. Homes with no electricity, water, or even floors. Homes with holes in the walls and floors. No bathrooms, no food, and often no supervision. These kids are often hard for teachers to understand and to motivate. After reading this book, I feel more motivated as a teacher to try harder.

The author's strength, bravery, and honesty is amazing and admirable.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone-- but especially if you work with children in need.



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Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: A Cotswold Killing by Rebecca Tope

A Cotswold Killing (Thea Osborne Mystery #1)A Cotswold Killing by Rebecca Tope

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Not bad. Parts of it I found unrealistic, and the main character was a bit whiny in parts, but overall a fun mystery that didn't require too much deep thought.

I listened to the audible version of this-- I liked the narrator a lot.



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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth, #1) by MC Beaton

Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth, #1)Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was recommended to me by a friend that also enjoys mysteries set in the UK... I enjoyed the laid back character of Hamish Macbeth-- but was greatly annoyed at the silliness of Alice. It struck me that she didn't seem so ridiculous at the beginning of the book, but seemed to get dumber as the story continued.


Overall a good book. I will certainly give #2 a look.

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Review: Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham

Faithful Unto Death (Chief Inspector Barnaby, #5)Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I am a HUGE fan of the Midsomer Murders TV show which is based off these books. And I have read one of the other Caroline Graham books-- which I really enjoyed. I listened to this audiobook, and didn't enjoy it as much as the other CG book I read. Maybe these books are just better when read?

I am also not a fan of the character of Det. Troy in this book. I realize characters are changed when TV shows are made from stories-- and I am GLAD that Gavin Troy's was changed for the show. His character in the book is rather despicable.

I still look forward to reading more of these stories-- but I think from now on I will READ them, and not listen. That being said, the narrator was fine. That is not the reason I didn't especially LOVE the book.



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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Up Next: The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

From Amazon.com:


Paula McLain on The Paris Wife

Most of us know or think we know who Ernest Hemingway was -- a brilliant writer full of macho swagger, driven to take on huge feats of bravery and a pitcher or two of martinis -- before lunch. But beneath this man or myth, or some combination of the two, is another Hemingway, one we’ve never seen before. Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, is the perfect person to reveal him to us -- and also to immerse us in the incredibly exciting and volatile world of Jazz-age Paris.

The idea to write in Hadley’s voice came to me as I was reading Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, about his early years in Paris. In the final pages, he writes of Hadley, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” That line, and his portrayal of their marriage -- so tender and poignant and steeped in regret -- inspired me to search out biographies of Hadley, and then to research their brief and intense courtship and letters -- they wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of delicious pages to another!

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Hadley, and through her eyes, with the young Ernest Hemingway. He was just twenty when they met, handsome and magnetic, passionate and sensitive and full of dreams. I was surprised at how much I liked and admired him -- and before I knew it, I was entirely swept away by their gripping love story.

I hope you will be as captivated by this remarkable couple as I am -- and by the fascinating world of Paris in the 20’s, the fast-living, ardent and tremendously driven Lost Generation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Suggestions Box

Well, while we wait on Justy Mac to catch up (post her Water for Elephants post, and read Bossypants)... I think this is a great time to take suggestions on what we should read next. So far we have read 2 bestsellers, and 2 memoir-esque books.

So what next?

Post your suggestions!

Oh yeah, here is my review of Bossypants...

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What do I think? I think I want to be Tina Fey!
Hilarious! I really liked this one!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Water for Elephants~ S. Dub's review

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Beautifully written... exquisite detail... an amazing story and a wild adventure! LOVED it!



View all my reviews


Discussion Questions--
*WARNING* CONTAINS SPOILERS!!

1. To what extent do the chapters concerning the elderly Jacob enhance the chapters recounting the young Jacob’s experiences with the Benzini Brothers circus? In what ways do the chapters about the young Jacob contribute to a deeper understanding of the elderly Jacob’s life?

Well, after reading all of the events that occurred in the 3 months that the main part of the story takes place, you can certainly understand why he might not remember exactly how old he is! I think it is important for the older Jacob to have these memories (even if he is starting to forget a few things), especially as he is alone in the world. Sure he has his kids, grandkids-- but it is obvious that they are not close-- and as he says later, he is not really a part of their lives anymore. I think the older Jacob clings to these memories, perhaps as a way of remembering Marlena, but also to remind himself that he is, for all purposes, a survivor. Sure he is old now, and wobbly-- but he has endured so much in his long life! No way a wheelchair, walker, or forgetful son will slow him down now!

2. How does the novel’s epigraph, the quote from Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg, apply to the novel? What are the roles and importance of faithfulness and loyalty in Water for Elephants? In what ways does Gruen contrast the antagonisms and cruelties of circus life with the equally impressive loyalties and instances of caring?

The epigraph is perfect! It perfectly describes Rosie. 100% loyal-- no matter what beatings she took-- and even the times that Jacob felt he let her down because he wasn't there to stop August-- she recognized in him the caring and love he had for her. And in the end, Rosie is the one that defends not only herself, but Jacob and Marlena as well. As cruel as the circus and it's ways and people could be, they were a family. You look after your family, you fight with your family, you trust and distrust your family.... Rosie was loyal to Jacob, and in the end, he was eternally loyal to her.

3. Who did you, upon reading the prologue, think murdered August? What effect did that opening scene of chaos and murder have on your reception of the story that follows?

I admit, I thought it was Marlena that had killed August. Through the rest of the story I kept waiting for that bit to come back around-- I knew it would eventually. And I certainly would not have blamed Marlena if she had killed him. Especially when she found out she was pregnant. I could see where she might view this as the only way. In the end though, I'm glad it wasn't her and that it was Rosie. Rosie had just as much reason as Marlena or Jacob for sure, and some how I doubt animals feel guilt, at least not like people do.

4. In connection with Jacob’s formal dinner with August and Marlena in their stateroom, Jacob remarks, “August is gracious, charming, and mischievous” (page 93). To what extent is this an adequate characterization of August? How would you expand upon Jacob’s observation? How would you characterize August? Which situations in the novel reveal his true character?

At that point in the story I'd say it IS an adequate description. However, as the story goes on, and August's character is revealed further, I think Jacob (and the reader) certainly add to their initial thoughts. He is crazy. Apparently he is a paranoid schizophrenic, but I'm not even sure that does justice or even explains his immense cruelty. One thing can be said for him, he is not biased as to who he beats (physically and emotionally)... from his wife, to Jacob, to the animals-- he is a maniac. I think I felt better through all the tales of his insaness knowing that he gets what's coming to him in the end.

5. August says of Marlena, “Not everyone can work with liberty horses. It’s a God-given talent, a sixth sense, if you will” (page 94). Both August and Jacob recognize Marlena’s skills, her “sixth sense,” in working with the horses. In what ways does that sixth sense attract each man? How do August and Jacob differ in terms of the importance each places on Marlena’s abilities?

As a trained vet Jacob also has a sixth sense with animals. This is shows through not only Rosie, but other animals-- Bobo for example. Jacob and Marlena are very similar in many ways. You can certainly understand why someone so caring and amazing with animals would be attractive to a vet. August, on the other hand-- I feel he is attracted to Marlena simply for status' sake. She is beautiful and talented, and sure to attract a LOT of attention. August seems to seek out attention-- both good and bad. And as she was considerably younger than he-- not only is she like a prize, but more easily manipluated by him.

6. After Jacob puts Silver Star down, August talks with him about the reality of the circus. “The whole thing’s illusion, Jacob,” he says, “and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what people want from us. It’s what they expect” (page 104). How does Gruen contrast the worlds of reality and illusion in the novel? Is there anything wrong with pandering to people’s need for illusion? Why do we crave the illusions that the circus represents?

It seems few things in life are ever what they seem. As for events like the circus, or the lives of celebrities, etc... I think people realize how fake it all is. But as August says, it's what people want. Everyone wants to escape their own lives from time to time-- to be wowed and amazed! Often times though, reality is more chaotic than fantasy. Look at the end of the book-- here's Jacob stuck with no job, no degree, a pregnant girlfriend, a dozen horses, an orangutan, and an elephant-- and murderous elephant at that. And that is ANOTHER thing he has-- Rosie's secret. To use Rubes, the circus represents the impossible-- people flying through the air, walking on wires, riding on and performing with exotic WILD animals... not to mention the romantic notion of life on the road- part of a caravan of performers and workers. Nothing to tie you down and hold you to a certain place. Freedom.

7. Reflecting on the fact that his platitudes and stories don’t hold his children’s interest, the elderly Jacob notes, “My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik—that’s all ancient history now. But what else do I have to offer?” (page 110). How might we learn to appreciate the stories and life lessons of our elders and encourage people younger than ourselves to appreciate our own?

Life is a lesson we can constantly learn from. I personally love to hear stories my 95 year old grandmother tells of her life and struggles. But I am also a person that loves history-- I would love to teach nothing but social studies to the 5th graders I work with. I recognize that this is usually their least favorite subject-- and I relish in the challenge of showing them how fascinating it can be. And showing them that they are living in history right now-- that one day their kids and grandkids will ask them about events they witnessed and lived through. Of course there is also the whole "we can learn from past mistakes" -- which it seems we rarely do... perhaps because we are not paying attention to these old timers' tales like we should be.

8. Looking at himself in the mirror, the old Jacob tries “to see beyond the sagging flesh.” But he claims, “It’s no good.... I can’t find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?” (page 111). How would you answer that question for Jacob or any individual, or for yourself?

I think everyone goes through times in life when they lose themselves, or do not recognize who they have become. Perhaps this is stronger later in life... I'll get back to you on that one!  :)   For the character of Jacob, he has gained and then consequently lost so much through his life. And after all the years of excitement-- during both circus shows, raising a family, life with exotic animals.... to be stuck in a wheelchair in the lobby of his nursing home, forgotten by seemingly everyone, I can see how he would feel lost.

9. After Jacob successfully coaches August in Polish commands for Rosie, he observes, “It’s only when I catch Rosie actually purring under August’s loving ministrations that my conviction starts to crumble. And what I’m left looking at in its place is a terrible thing” (page 229). What is Jacob left “looking at,” how does it pertain to August’s personality and Jacob’s relationship with August, and what makes it a “terrible thing”?

I think Jacob is afraid that Rosie has, as he did, fallen for August's manipulations. At first Jacob pretty much befriends August-- he dines with him, goes out with him, etc. But more and more he sees what August is really like, and I'm sure feels somewhat foolish for believing in him at first. I think he is afraid that Rosie has done the same. Luckily though, Rosie is NOT as dumb as a bag of hammers, and can see through the manipulation. Animals are usually smarter than humans on this point.

10.  How did you react to the redlighting of Walter and Camel, and eight others, off the trestle? How might we see Uncle Al’s cutthroat behavior as “an indictment of a lifetime spent feigning emotions to make a buck” (in the words of one reviewer)?

I was horrified! Of course, after all the attention drawn to the act of redlighting, I suppose it was inevitable that it would happen to one or more of the main characters. This is going to sound horrible, but I was SO relieved when I found out Queenie was spared! I have always had a hard time with books that feature cruelty or death to animals-- and lord knows this book had both! I think the saving of Queenie helped restore my faith a bit. As for Uncle Al, I'm not so sure he wasn't as crazy (or more so!) than August. It is clear that his employees (whom I have already mentioned function more like a family) meant nothing to him. But in the end...well, karma is a bitch!

11. After the collapse of the Benzini Brothers circus and Uncle Al’s having“done a runner” (page 314), Jacob realizes, “Not only am I unemployed and homeless, but I also have a pregnant woman, bereaved dog, elephant, and eleven horses to take care of” (page 317). What expectations did you entertain for Jacob and Marlena’s—and their menagerie’s—future after they leave the Benzini Brothers circus? How do the elderly Jacob’s memories of Marlena and their life together confirm or alter those expectations?

I figured they would join another show-- at least for awhile. I wondered though, if her pregnancy would cause a problem with this plan. I was glad to find that it did not. I knew that they had had many more loving years together. I am in awe of their love story!

11. At the end of the novel, Jacob exclaims, “So what if I’m ninety-three?...why the hell shouldn’t I run away with the circus?” (page 331). What would you project to be the elderly Jacob’s experiences after he runs away with the circus the second time? How does his decision reflect what we have learned about his early years?

First of all, I agree-- why shouldn't he run away with them? I like to imagine that he had many more fulfilling years as the ticket seller. And that he was able to regail many more younger circus folk with his fascinating take-- probably leaving Rosie's secret out this time.

12.  In the words of one reviewer, Water for Elephants “explores...the pathetic grandeur of the Depression-era circus.” In what ways and to what extent do the words “pathetic grandeur” describe the world that Gruen creates in her novel?

I think it is certainly an apt description. Many thing during this era were certainly "pathetic." But what better entertainment during this dark era than the magical menagerie of a small circus? For people during this time, that small, desperate circus probably was the grandest thing they had ever seen. And I like to think that it gave people hope and inspiration. Of course, had they known the reality of that lifestyle-- the drinking, fighting, red lighting, even just the injustice if the social classes within the circus itself-- I'm not sure how hopeful the audiences would have been.

Friday, April 29, 2011

1st to Die by James Patterson

1st to Die (Women's Murder Club #1)1st to Die by James Patterson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Poor writing, somewhat annoying narration... not a favorite for me...



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Magical Menagerie

I am almost halfway done with Water for Elephants and I am still LOVING it! I am very impressed with this author's style of writing. And while I envision Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, I have no trouble making up the other images in my imagination. (And REALLY, it's not too stressful to picture RP or RW!)

Normally I really struggle with books that contain animal cruelty... I just CAN'T read them. But I am doing surprisingly well with this one... I just keep telling myself, "It's ONLY a book! Those animals never existed!" (Though in my head, and heart, I know that animals are often not treated well at these venues).

I am very anxious to see how the plot turns out-- AND to see the movie for comparison! I mean, I GUESS I can watch Robert and Reese for a couple of hours... if I HAVE to!

;-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Water for Elephants

Just had to drop a line... I have only read 2 chapters so far, but WHOA! What fantastic, descriptive writing! I am already loving this book. SO glad we decided to read it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

{Water for Elephants}

After much thought I have decided that this book will be my next choice. When will I start this book? I hope to begin by the end of the week. I am going to be passing my Nook onto my husband. Before you panic, I am passing it on because I am getting an iPad THIS WEEK!!!! We ordered it on March 31, also known as My Birthday, but it won't ship until tomorrow..... Crazy, right?? Well anyway once I have it set up I will be using it as an e-reader too! Have you read this book? Do you have any thoughts on it? Discussion questions? Please share!

Happy Reading!!

-Justy

Monday, April 18, 2011

yes, i'm still here....

OH MY!! I have completely been neglecting my reading time. Life has been rather hectic with school craziness, sick children and husband, and studying. Yes, STUDYING!!! What am I studying for? I am taking the School Leaders Licensure Assessment in June. Am I crazy? Yes, probably. I should have done this a long time ago as it is something I am very interested in. However, I will save all that for another post.

 
Books I have read since last time:
  • Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi
  • Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
  • Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
  • Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
  • Life Laughs by Jenny McCarthy

 
I downloaded "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" but haven't started it yet. I would also like to read "Water for Elephants".

 
Thoughts?

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Anyone that teaches school, or is thinking about teaching school, is a parent, or has ANY interaction with children NEEDS to read this book. It is honest, eye-opening, hilarious, and even a touch sad in sections. It really makes you aware what it is like for children (or adults) with ADHD.

I give this book 5/5 stars

Link to Goodreads

Unbearable Lightness: Finished!

So I finally finished Unbearable Lightness by Portia DeRossi! It didn't take me forever and day because the book was bad or slow or anything like that... I just lost my reading train of thought for awhile. Plus things got hectic at home and school, which interfered with my reading time.

I liked this book a lot. As I said before, I do not typically read biographies, or even a lot of nonfiction for that matter. I like to be taken away from the real world when I read. That said, I did enjoy this book. I commented before about the author's complete honesty-- and this held true until the end.

My only negative is that parts of the book seemed very repetitive. I found myself feeling like I was reading the same line over and over. I think Ms. DeRossi's writing is great, I feel the editing could have been better.

Still I would recommend this book for anyone dealing with an eating disorder (your own or someone else's), or even anyone that is just a fan of Portia or even Ellen.

I gave this book 4/5 stars

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Still Here!

Whew! Things have gotten a bit crazy in the last couple of weeks! School has been NUTS-- as have the kids! The hubby and I also joined a gym-- so that has eaten into my reading time a bit-- but I have also lost 6 lbs, so it's worth it I guess.  :)

Right now Justy Mac and I are reading Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi. I don't usually read biographies or autobiographies, so this is something different.

So far (I am about 30% done), I am enjoying the book. It deals with the author's battle with weight, self-esteem, and eating disorders. I am familiar with Ms. De Rossi from Ally McBeal mainly. (I never really got into Arrested Development). I find she writes very well-- she is thoughtful and, at times, painfully honest.

I guess my biggest shock so far is how she describes the set and cast of Ally. I LOVED that show, and while her character ("Subzero Nell") was a complete BEYOTCH, it certainly added to the show's quirky characters. I always envisioned them as buddies off-set as well. Apparently this was not the case. Not that they were not friendly to each other, but they just didn't hang out, or really talk much it seems.

I am also impressed more so with her acting after reading what I have. I imagined she was just as confident (though not as hateful) as Nell. Turns out it is quite the opposite. I have always found Portia De Rossi to be beautiful- so her low self image is intriguing.

Has anyone else read this book? Thoughts? Opinions?

On a sidenote, I just finished a GREAT audiobook-- A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. This is the 3rd in the Flavia DeLuce mysteries. I LOVE these books and the way they are written-- but I especially LOVE the woman that narrates the audiobooks, Jayne Entwistle. This is a series that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Help: Discussion Questions

**WARNING** May contain spoilers!! If you haven't read the book-- you might want to wait to read my answers!

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?


This is a tough question! I really liked all of the 3 main characters for different reasons. Even the characters I didn't "like" were very well developed and written. Skeeter might be my MOST favorite character. She was viewed by her friends as awkward, brainy, and reserved. But in reality, she was more confident and courageous than any of them could ever dream of being. Just goes to show how little some people really get to know their "friends."


I think some of my favorite Abileen moments occurred with Mae Mobely. I loved the stories of "Martian Luther King" and how she was always telling MM that she is special and smart. Having taught kids that have grown up in homes like MM's, I know how important these few words can be. I often have students too, who have been brought up in moderately racist homes-- so teaching the Civil Rights era is often eye-opening for some of them. Can I change all of their minds? No. But I do try to make it clear that this is a choice that THEY get to make. This is not one of the things parents can decide for you.




2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On one hand she’s so unpleasant to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes she can’t control her. But she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think you can be a good mother but at the same time a deeply flawed person?


I think overall Hilly is a miserable person. I think she is probably in a marriage that she doesn't really want to be in. Perhaps she never got over Johnny ditching her, and just grabbed the first available "appropriate" spouse-- maybe to make Johnny jealous? She is having kids because that is what is EXPECTED. It helps her keep this "perfect" image. This of course is completely opposite of the route that Skeeter takes. And I view Skeeter as a much happier person-- even though she has to deal with all of Hilly's nonsense.


Yes, I do think a person can be a good mother (or parent) but be deeply flawed. Again, as a teacher, I see this all the time. Unfortunately, these parents tend to teach their children (often through example) to be just like them. And of course, it can work the other way too-- be an amazing person, and a lousy parent.


3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter – and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable. And most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?


Again, I think she is just doing what is expected of her by society. Unlike Hilly, I don't think she is in a miserable marriage, nor do I think she had children just because she was expected to. But I think she maybe sees Skeeter and is a bit envious of what she is going to be able to do with her life. Instead of being a housewife/ mom, Skeeter can move to the big city and get  a job and be her own person.


Her mother certainly becomes more sympathetic when diagnosed with cancer. But I also think she becomes more who she really is, or rather SHOWS Skeeter more who she is during this time. She seems to become less critical-- maybe because she is just so exhausted, or maybe because she wants Skeeter to see how she really is/ feels. Through all of her silly ways, you can see she just wants the best for Skeeter and for both of her kids to be happy.




4. How much of a person’s character do you think is shaped by the times in which they live?


I think a LOT. Most people do not want to be viewed as different or radical. It is human nature to want to be accepted by others. Luckily we do get the rare people who not only THINK something different, but they try to DO something about it. And I don't just mean opinionated people that always speak their minds-- those people are usually just all talk. I mean the people that risk it all-- career, reputation, even their life to try to make a difference- to try to make society better.


The Civil Rights era brought MANY examples of this- both good and bad. Of course we have Martin Luther King, Jr. but we also had the other side-- governors of these southern states, police chiefs in these towns (like Bull Connor)... I always try to remember that without these "bad" (though I choose to say they are uneducated and ignorant) people, the "good" (educated and brave) people could never have achieved what they did. I very much believe in fate-- everything happens for a reason. Sadly this era brought forth many tragic and seemingly senseless deaths-- MLK of course, but also lesser known african americans and also white "freedom fighters" such as Rev. Jonathan Daniels.


5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?


Not really. First of all, even if he had stayed, I don't think it would ever have worked out. Secondly, her mother lay upstairs dying-- I think Skeeter wanted to do SOMETHING to make her mother's last days happy and give her some hope.


6. Do you think Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?


Well, sure! Think of everything she had seen growing up in the deep south. For all the good relationships she might have seen, they were totally overshadowed by the horrible things. And how many times do you think she was lied to through the years-- and lied ABOUT! Sometimes I think that is worse. Lie to me, not good but ok-- lie ABOUT me to others and oh! It's ON!


7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?


I totally think Mae Mobley would NOT have been racist-- and I choose to think that because of all that Abileen did for and with Mae Mobley, she STILL won't be racist.


I firmly believe racism is taught. Children hear their parents making racial slurs, telling racist jokes, and making overall negative generalizations about another race. Children look up to and model their parents (and other important adults in their lives). Children are taught to think that their parents know best and are always right. As I said above, I have many student raised in racist environments, and these kids are often SHOCKED when they see videoes and pictures from the Civil Rights era. "How could people treat other humans that way?!" This is usually a response to physical and violent abuse they see. But they are often just as appalled by the verbal abuse. Ironically, this is the same they have grown up with at home.


8. From the perspective of a 21st century reader, the hair shellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?


HMMmmmm... I guess when I first started highlighting my hair, it was still the pull-through- the-cap method-- which was insanely painful! Nowadays it's the foil method, which really does look ridiculous. I often sit at the salon on color days, looking around at all of us ladies in our aluminum best and wonder, "If an alien walked in, or even a person from a third world country, WHAT would they think?!"


9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?


Abileen tends to keep her thoughts INSIDE her head (instead of OUT of her mouth like Minny). Even Skeeter is expressing her thoughts-- mainly through writing, but even verbally at some points. Abileen appears resigned to her life- at least to people like Elizabeth and Hilly-- but little do they know!


It's like the old saying about always being  aware of the quiet ones!




10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white? Have you heard stories of someone who put away their valuable jewelry before their nanny comes – so they trust this person to look after their child, but not their diamond rings?


Oh sure! And there is still plenty of just old-fashioned racism in the south. Nationally I think a lot of racism, and behavior like mentioned in this question, are focused more on hispanics. Unfortuanately it is hard to trust ANYONE in today's world-- but there are just as many "nice respectable" white folks that do things just as bad as the minorities.


11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?


Well, I despised Hilly as a person, so I think the pie was HILARIOUS! Would I ever go that far-- no. I am not nearly as brave as Minny!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Discussion Questions for "The Help"

Yes, I am finally getting around to this!!! I kept promising and telling Ms. SDub that I would get on this... Then in true Justy fashion I would forget. So here I go... Please forgive any spelling and grammatical errors!

Which character do you feel you are most like? Why?
Woo-wee!! This one was so hard for me. I really had to do some comparing and contrasting and here is what I have come up with. I feel I am a combonation of Aibileen and Ms. Celia. Forgive me if my explanation is long winded. It is hard to put into words why I chose these two characters. Let me begin with Ms. Celia. She is described as somewhat of a ditzy blonde that can't do anything domestic. I don't feel this side of her is what I relate to. The side of Ms. Celia I can relate to is her longing to "fit in". She desperately wants to be a part of Ms. Hilly's circle. She offers to help with the Junior League Banquet... She calls everyday... Now the reason I can relate to this is because of where I work. Let me explain. I work with some of the BEST teachers in the state. I truly mean that. I have been in several schools and I have never encountered a group that cares about teaching and learning like our staff does. Here is my thing though. These ladies have all lived in the same town together, many went to high school together, some even went to college together. They all know each other and their families. I came into this town as a "transplant". I am at a disadvantage simply because I didn't grow up there and do not know many people outside of who I work with. There are many days where I just want to "fit in". Does this make sense???? These girls go out together, have dinner together, go to concerts, etc. I have mentioned that I would like to do things with them but it just hasn't ever really happened. Now, don't misunderstand me. This is not intended to be a pity post at all!!!!! This is just how I feel I can relate to Ms. Celia just wanting to belong somewhere. I hope that makes sense??? Like I said it's hard for me to put it into words!!

Whew!! That took alot for me to write that out. I'm not a good writer and it's hard for me to make sure the words I am typing convey my feelings properly. UGH! I need to work on this! I will come back later and write about Ms. Aibileen.

Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

SO CLOSE!

I only have 38 more pages of The Help! (I know-- you are thinking, "Well, it's ABOUT time!") I had to force myself to stop reading at 11:30 last night when it became clear that I would not be out of school for snow. I am DYING to finish it up! I have enjoyed it all along-- but man! It really gets GOOD during these last 100 pages!

And Oh, Minny! Love her!

SO-- I WILL be done tonight! And I will be answering my discussion questions SOON!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I didn't read The Time Traveller's Wife, so I cannot compare this one to it the way so many other reviewers have. That being said, I don't know why everyone is so upset that it is not like the first book-- why should it be? Different story, different characters... just different.

I liked this one pretty well. It is strange, and a bit convoluded and far-fetched in places... but overall I think it is written well. The ending leaves you hanging, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I don't really feel that all the characters were fully developed, making the ending somewhat weak.

I listened to this one, didn't actually READ it. The narrator was good, character voices were not ridiculous, etc...

I would recommend this one for anyone that likes (a) this author- again, this is all of hers that I have read, (b) ghosts-- there's a lot in this one, (c) stories that take place in London/ England, (d) the relationship between twins.

My rating: *** 

For Those That Have Read THE HELP...

Which character do you feel you are most like? Why?

I would like to think that I am most like Skeeter... brave, intelligent, accepting... I really like this character-- one thing that draws me to her, and this may seem kind of a silly reason, is that her name is Eugenia. This was my mom's name-- certainly not common. And she reminds me of my mom in some ways-- she is very smart, doesn't care so much what others think, more nerdy than fashionable.

But she also knows what she believes and how she feels, and she doesn't let her silly,shallow friends change her opinion. (We all have friends like these, don't we?) And we always get to a point where we think, "WHY am I friends with this person?" Of course the question may REALLY be, "AM I really friends with this person?"

Looking forward to hearing what you think...

I'm still chugging along! On page 303 now!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ignorance

Miss Celia is pretty much described as a ditzy blonde. She can't cook. She can't clean. She comes across (& Minny even describes her as) the laziest human being ever. (Though reasons for this sloth-like behavior are explained).


But possibly the most ironic description of Miss Celia's lack of knowledge comes from Minny. She says,
"See, I think if God had intended white people and colored people to be this close together for so much of the day, he would've made us colorblind...how did she (Miss Celia) get this far in life without knowing where the lines are drawn?...Every white woman I've ever worked for ate in the dining room as far away from the colored help as they could..."

Miss Celia replies-- "'But why? I don't want to eat in there all by myself when I could eat in here with you'"...

Minny-- "I didn't even try to explain it to her. There are so many things Miss Celia is just plain ignorant about."

(Quotes from The Help, pages 215-216)

I find this funny because as I teach the Civil Rights Movement to my 5th graders, and I tell them all of the awful things that happened to African-Americans, one of the adjectives I use to describe these evil-doers is "ignorant." Most southern whites were raised, like the women in this book, to be predjudice-- they don't really know any better. This is the very thing that Abileen talks about breaking her heart-- and she is dreading the day that Mae Mobley becomes like her mother and thus judgemental of those different than her.


But for a black maid to describe a white woman as ignorant because she is NOT predjudice certainly made me smile. It's all in a point of view. Perspective. Looking back, I view Miss Celia as ahead of her time-- and she didn't even realize it.


Miss Celia comes across to Minny as child-like and immature in many areas. But it is this child-like innocence that makes her unique and unlike the other ladies she is trying so desperately to fit in with. She sits with Minny at the table to eat, talks to Minny and refers to her as a friend, and trusts Minny with secrets that she cannot entrust to anyone else.

 I think if God had intended white people and colored people to be this close together for so much of the day, he would've made us colorblind...
I love that line... Sometimes I wonder if he did make some people colorblind... "Ignorant people" like Miss Celia... Educated and intelligent people like Miss Skeeter, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

(sigh)

I'm on pg. 238-- getting there!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just call me Pokey

Sorry I have slowed things down recently. Justy Mac zipped through The Help, but I seem to be taking my sweet time. I have noticed that I read REAL books slower than I do my eBooks. Weird. As a friend had loaned me this book, I saw no reason to download it to the Kindle.

I am still not done, but WHOA! I am loving this book. One of the ways I determine a good book is does it make me FEEL? So far I have been through a range of emotions-- anger, humor, sympathy, confusion for how anyone could treat another human being the way some of these women do.

The characters are extremely well developed-- you can SEE them clearly in your head as you read. (Though I have heard this is being made into a movie, so  have no doubt my pictures will be distorted by Hollywood).

Right now the adjective I am thinking about is brave. Abileen, Miss Skeeter, and Minny are all immensely brave. This takes place during such a crazy time in US history. A sad time. A dark time. But nonetheless, a time of true bravery from many people.

We will be going over the Civil Rights Movement at school soon. It is interesting to teach this to 5th graders, and to see their reactions. We touched on it a bit last week-- having just finished the Civil War while discussing the celebration of Martin Luther Kin, Jr holiday. One student (and not one of my smartest either) said to me, "Why can't everyone just get along? We are all the SAME afterall."

Exactly.

I'm on pg. 166-- and I promise to get a move on!

Sidenote-- I've started a new audiobook-- Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. So far I like it. I've heard good things. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 17, 2011

*Slowing Down*

At S.Dub's request, I am going to wait on "Unbearable Lightness" and read another Celia Rivenbark fun read. I'll let you know what I think about 'Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like a Skank'.

Happy Reading!! :)

What do I think?

I am finished with this book and it was AMAZING. It was one of those reads that I could not put down. I am going to wait on my final thoughts until S.Dub finishes also because I don't want to give it away. All I know is I don't want Minny making me a pie after a spat!!! ;)

Now onto "Unbearable Lightness" by Portia de Rossi

JustyMac

--
Dear Justy Mac,

SLOW DOWN!
:)  S.Dub

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Help: chapters 1-4

Aibileen

S.Dub: 2 things kept going through my head as I read the first 2 chapters concerning Aibileen. One-- I cannot imagine going through life everyday being treated the way Aibileen (and the other "colored" maids) were treated. I teach a month long unit on the Civil Rights Movement-- so I know all about the issues-- but it never ceases to amaze me that human beings can treat each other this way.

The other thing I kept thinking about was how AWFUL Miss Leefolt is to her daughter, Mae Mobley. It just breaks my heart. I cannot imagine treating Miss Priss that way. I am interested to see how this mother-daughter- maid dynamic evolves through the book.

It appears to me that Aibileen is going to be a very strong character in the book-- even though I am not sure she is aware of, or believes in her own strength... yet, anyway.

JustyMac:

I agree that Aibileen is a strong character. She is a wise woman and she is brave.

As far as Ms. Hilly goes--oh my. She likes to be in charge and tell everyone what to do. Don't we all know someone like that? As the books goes on my dislike grew immensely for her. You'll find it isn't just the 'help' she is rude to.

Minny is a force to be reckoned with! She has a good head on her shoulders and is a tough lady. As you read on about her life, I'm sure you will agree.

I didn't mean for this post to end up in the middle of S.Dub's notes.... Forgive me as I continue to learn about blogging. :P


Minny

S. Dub: Whew! What a character Minny is! Unlike Aibileen, she KNOWS her strength and doesn't seem to be afraid to use it. I can forsee Minny getting herself, and possibly others, in some serious trouble through this book.

She seems a good match for Miss Celia-- who seems a sad sort of character so far.


4 chapters in and I am hooked. The characters are very well developed and the writing is amazing. Looking forward to learning about Miss Skeeter in the next couple of chapters..



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Beginning...

We are teachers. By nature, we read. Sadly, it is not always possible for us to read what we WANT to read. In these busy school days filled with planning, crowd control, family counseling, grading, assessing, being assessed by our assessments, and let's not forget, an amazing lack of funding, it is SUPER important to take some ME time and read for pleasure!

So as part of our New Year's Resolutions, we have started this book club to inspire & motivate us to read. (It also helps that we both got Ereaders for Xmas!)

In the past we have read a lot of the same books, and tend to have similar opinions. So it will be interesting to see how we each feel about our selections.

Up first is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This was a best-seller last year, and has been recommended (and loaned) to me (S. Dub) by a fellow teacher. JustyMac has graciously agreed to read along with me.

So here we go... In the words of our favorite Mexican restaurant server-- let's make this EPIC!