The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I resisted reading this one. I have a thing - if a bunch of people say "oh it's so great!" and they likely heard about it on Oprah...I just can't. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, so...sue me.

Anyway. Another blog I follow reviewed the audio and let me in on the tidbit that pushed me into the "listen to this" turf: Octavia Spencer, who voices Minny, will be playing her in the movie. So to the library I went.

Now, I've got more than just that one bias: I HATE multiple first-person point of views. Hate them. If I get into a book and I start liking the character and then I turn the page and I'm suddenly in the head of another character...I close it. Listening to this, though, solved that. I was hearing voices...and the actresses did such a good job I could have sworn I was just listening to them tell their stories. I became addicted. (even now, I miss them a little.)

So this story - what's so great about this story? It is not the story of a revolution. It is not the story of great sweeping change. It's not even a good love story...really.

It's a story that could be true. It's a story you could hear from your grandparents, if they lived in the South in the 60s (mine did.)

Stockett's breadth of imagination is impressive - not only for events but for reactions and emotions. Each character, even those who are merely satellite characters - are fully formed and believable. You could live next door to them. We all know how much I'm a sucker for that kind of development.

She also has her finger on the pulse of Civil Rights in Mississippi in the 60s. Events are happening to change the rest of the country...but that's the rest of the country. In Mississippi, things are just fine, thank you very much.

But Skeeter - I identified the most with Skeeter. Awkward, with dreams of being a writer. She comes home from college and realizes that she may not like her lifelong friends. She has the most obvious rite of passage here, although Aibileene and Minny come out the other side of their little adventure stronger women as well.

It really is well worth reading. I loved every minute - I can't even tell how many times I paused in whatever I was doing while listening so I could just listen...and how many times I teared up. I'll even admit (spoiler) that when the Skeeter got the phone call in January, I jumped up and did a little happy dance for her.

From what I can tell, the movie stays true to the story...but I have plans to see it in August, so I'll let you know. CJ Cregg is in it, though, so it's bound to be amazing.


The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver

First - despite the title and the cover (neither of which Weaver seems to have approved of) it is not a romance. Unless you count a romance with food as "romance"...but even still, there's no love story. So get that out of your head before you read it.

Second - there are no recipes. I'm sure (as a friend mentioned) that there were copyright issues, but still. Still. Waxing poetic about chimichurri and then leaving me to find a recipe is just mean.

Third- this is a very good read, those first two point notwithstanding. The premise is that Weaver has spent her entire life a) as a vegetarian who eats meat on occasion and b) being plagued by mysterious health issues. She visits several doctors of several varieties, and follows everyone's orders. Beginning with: make chicken broth from scratch.

What follows is a moral crisis coupled with an exploration of food that few people are privy to. Her status as Writer allows for interviews and tours that most people only dream about. The bonus is that if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Seattle area, you can reap the rewards of her hard work.

The book made me hungry, sure. Not as hungry as some of the other books I've been reading lately, but there were many times I would need a snack after getting a few pages in. It also made me rethink how we eat...much like Plenty and Fast Food Nation did. In a good way.

I won't tell you how it ends...but I will tell you it's a very interesting journey. So, take points 1 and 2 into account, and then pick it up.

Happy Reading!


The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Farria, trans. by Elisa Amado

So this isn't usually a genre I cover, but this book is stunning. I had to.

It's a picture book unlike any I've come across, and here's why:

At first, it's just a black book with fairly abstract descriptions of color...

But then the glare hits, or you run your fingers across the page and there the words are: in braille.

And the image descriptions, in glossy relief on the paper - even I was moved by them. 

The last page is the braille alphabet. 

That literature like this exists for young readers makes me smile. 

I could go on and on about how great it is, but really - you should just experience it for yourself. 

Even Baz is rapt when we read this one.


Lillian Jackson Braun...RIP

Discovered here.

She was 97, which is a good long life. And she was beloved. My mom, sister, and I read her novels - they were my first "adult" mysteries.

In honor of her I will pick up one that I haven't read: The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers is now requested from my library. I will read it and wish (again) that I lived in a barn and that my cats were much more interesting than they are.

I have a head cold, so a glass of wine is out of the question, but I will have a cup of tea and toast her memory and her influence. We never met, and I haven't picked up a Cat Who...in years, but I would be lying if I said that she had no influence over me and my writing.

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