Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just Like Heaven

Title:  Just Like Heaven
Author: Julia Quinn
Ideal Age Range:  Young Adult and Up
Mass Market Paperback: 374 Pages
Copyright Date: 2011
Blurb:  Honoria Smythe-Smith is: 
A) a really bad violinist  
B) still miffed at being nicknamed "Bug"  
C)  NOT in love with her older brother's best friend  
D) all of the above
Marcus Holroyd is:
A) the Earl of Chatteris
B) regrettably prone to sprained ankles
C) NOT in love with his best friend's younger sister
D) all of the above
Together they:
A) eat quite a bit of chocolate cake
B) survive a deadly fever AND the world's worse musical performance
C) fall quite desperately in love
It's Julia Quinn at her best, so you KNOW the answer is...
D) all of the above
My Rating:  (★★)

I really normally love Julia Quinn's books.  Seriously, she is my absolutely favorite romance novelist (with Eloisa James nipping at her lovely heels), but her latest book just didn't do it for me.  I eat her books up.  Gobble them, if you will, but Just Like Heaven left a little bit of a hollow place in me as if I had eaten a sugar-free brownie instead of a delicious to die for German Chocolate Double Fudge Brownie sprinkled in wonder and powdered sugar.
Desserts aside, I am on a diet after all, Just Like Heaven was missing the Julia Glue that holds her novels together in witty perfection like a puzzle made out of words that coaxes laughter out of oneself as they read them.  I wasn't in love with Marcus Holroyd, and there wasn't much of a depth to Honoria.  As sad as I am that I didn't really like Just Like Heaven, and I understand that the Honoria has been a character in her books for quite sometime, so it's not as if Ms. Quinn would be able to change her name, I couldn't help thinking almost every single time that I read her name that it rhymes with Gonorrhea.  Or diarrhea. 
Maybe it's because I have an 8 month old baby boy and I deal with poop on a daily basis?  Who knows?  I just felt like some of the story was a bit... unbelievable.  The fever, and dealing with that just.. got in the way of the romance, I think.  Plus, Marcus was shy.  There was many instances that I remember reading that he didn't know how to flirt with Honoria, how on earth did he know how to bed her then?  There is no hint that Marcus was experienced, but it was obvious (ahem) that he must've been.
Overall, disappointing, but I still love her!  Hopefully her next novel with wash the taste of Just Like Heaven out of my mouth.  (Sorry, Ms. Quinn, gotta be honest even with my favorite author.  :) )

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Help

Title:  The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Ideal Age Range:  Young Adult and Up
Mass Market Paperback: 444 Pages
Copyright Date: 2009
Blurb:  "Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step...
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss.  She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger.   Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child.  Something has shifted insider her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way.  She is devoed to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. 
Minny, Aibeleen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi.  She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job.  Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation.  But her new boss has secrets of her own.  Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.  And why?  Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times.  And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another.  A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
My Rating:  (★★★ 1/2)

I got a lot less sleep this past week because of a book.  Not because of my kid, or the cats, or the weather, but because of a book.  I finished Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help just this morning.  After spending the last few nights staying up way past my bedtime to get in some reading time sans baby.  Not that I can't really read while the baby is awake, but it is much easier when he is safely tucked in bed.
I have to start off with something- this is not my normal fare of book.  It doesn't have within it's pages a hint of the paranormal, there are no werewolves hiding in the cotton fields of Jackson, or vampires in the humid League's hall.  It's contemporary fiction, perhaps set a few decades ago but the problems that are outlined in The Help still exist today, there is still racism, there is still sexism, and don't get me started about the discrimination of people of different sexual orientation than heterosexual.
Kathryn Stockett writes in each woman's voice, chapter by chapter the narration switches from Aibeleen, Minny and Skeeter.  And the differences of inflection and emotions are amazing.  This book is definitely character driven and there is a strength to each woman that makes you keep turning the pages to see what they can accomplish and how they change as people.
There is a depth to even sub-characters.  I felt intense dislike for Miss Hilly.  Pity and sympathy for Miss Celia.  I liked Skeeter's independence, and Minny's Sass (with a capital S).  Aibeleen's love for the white children she took care of hit me pretty hard.  Hardest thing to read was the last two pages, in my opinion, I won't say anything more, but if you haven't read The Help, you might want to pick it up, even if you are like me, not normally into books without vampires or werewolves, I'm sure you will like it.  You won't be able to help yourself.  ;)