As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it
- (★★★★): Really liked it
- (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
- (★★): Barely finished it
Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. My dates may not be completely accurate as I have limited Internet access to update my progress.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been able to get a lot of reading done, it’s hard to keep up with all these reviews! I have about three more books already for my next post plus the Twilight series.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Historical fiction
GoodReads rating: 4.46 / 5 (1,900,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)
Summary: Aspiring writer Skeeter finds her passion project in taking stories from the help: colored maids found in nearly every household in the South. The maids’ stories will reveal shocking things about both her circle of friends and her own family.
Thoughts: Wow, this book was amazing! I love multiple point of view formats and historical fiction, so I really enjoyed this book. It would have been a five-star book if it wasn’t written by a white woman. Hear me out: sure, writers are supposed to try to get into the minds of other characters and livelihoods, but this felt too on the nose. When writing from the point of view of Aibileen, the author gets a “blaccent”, appropriating the use slang and language patterns among the black community… you know, the same ones white people make fun of them for? Not to mention, I have mixed feelings about Skeeter. First, she does problematic things like comparing her sexual disinterest in women to her mother hooking up with a black guy, not writing a single thing for herself (both the Miss Myrna column and Help) and letting black people do all the work (so, basically a reflection of how this nation was built), undermining the current state of racism (basically ignoring Aibileen’s worries about her friends and neighbors getting beaten and killed), said she felt it was her “duty” to help black people (talk about a white savior complex) and lets her friends treat their help like garbage while she’s writing the book. Skeeter wasn’t really pro-black, she just wanted trauma porn for white people to read so she could absolve herself of any guilt from the time she had help and get ahead in her career. The book itself seems like an extension of that, the primary take-away mostly “feel-good.” The author also romanticizes the relationship between the help and their bosses, saying “it’s like true love. You only get it once in a lifetime.” While there are better people to work for than others, there is still a power dynamic and professional line in the relationship that you can’t gloss over. When addressing such issues in the afterword, the author justifies writing about the plight of black women because “we’re all people after all” (not exact words, but same idea), insinuating colorblindness, which is the exact opposite of anti-racism. Viola Davis as Aibileen absolutely stole the show, but she regrets making the movie because it focused more on white voices than black voices. Also, the real-life maid the author had took issue with the movie and even filed a lawsuit. Here is another great blog post on more issues with the story. While the story is good, the understand of racial issues is still lacking, so you can’t get a complete narrative.
Other adaptations: The critically acclaimed 2011 follows the plot well with the most amazing cast (I especially loved Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance). However, I need to have words with whoever casted Skeeter, I just don’t see it for Emma Stone.
Tranny by Laura Jane Grace
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir, LGBTQ+
GoodReads rating: 4.27 / 5 (5,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)
Summary: Self-proclaimed anarchist sellout Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! shares her story of wrestling with gender dysphoria through childhood, writing music, touring, addiction, marriage and family.
Thoughts: I haven’t listened to Against Me! much (I do listen to “Bamboo Bones“, “Thrash Unreal” and “The Ocean” a lot though), but her story has been in my peripherals as I follow a lot of other bands on the scene. I really enjoyed her concise writing, candor and peering into the life of a literal rockstar. It was fun to read about touring with bands I listen to more (the verdict: Blink-182 are pricks and Dave Grohl is as humble and fun as he seems) and life on the road, but at the same time sobering (no pun intended) to hear about her struggles with gender. Although, I wish there was more about life as she transitioned and how the hormones and body changes affected her writing and performing.
Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Genre: Non-fiction, entertainment
GoodReads rating: 3.34 / 5 (7,00- ratings)
Medium used: Hardcover (borrowed from the Unalaska library)
Summary: This book dives into America’s favourite guilty pleasure, The Bachelor franchise, from casting call to after the final rose and the fame that comes with it.
Thoughts: Guilty as charged. I watch and like The Bachelor. I won’t even correct myself like many people do by saying the love to hate it, because I don’t; I like it for its entertainment value, but this book made me realize the cost of that amusement. Although everyone signs stringent contracts before being casted, it’s atrocious what they go through and some of the unexpected consequences. I’m disappointed, but not surprised as some of this information has been floating around for a while now. Also, the author struck me as having a bit of internalized misogyny and holier-than-thou attitude. If the book could speak, it would say “I’m not like other girls.” Also, 80% of this book is just quoting interviews. Poor form.
The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Genre: Fiction, short stories
GoodReads rating: 4.52 / 5 (15,000 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)
Summary: Red takes interest in mysterious, young banker Andy when Andy requests a small rock hammer and cloth inside the walls of Shawshank Prison. Like every other man on the inside, Andy swears he’s innocent, and Red actually believes him.
Thoughts: Full disclosure: I’m still not entirely sure what version I listened to. The audiobook says “Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption; a novella in Different Seasons,” so I’m not sure how my version differs from the original. No matter, I’ll make it my personal duty to see to Different Seasons soon. In the meantime, this did not disappoint. I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few Stephen King books and this story is absolutely captivating. Not to mention, audiobook was a great choice for this as the format is narrated by Red and seems as though I’m being read a bedtime story rather than hearing “and this happened, and this happened.”
Other adaptations: The 1995 film is a masterpiece, often referred to as one of the best films of all time. I know it’s one of my personal favorites. There were some minute changes and differences, but I think they only made the movie better. (start spoiler) For example, in the book, Brooks wasn’t the inmate that owned the bird Jake and his departure was unceremonious. In the movie however, his suicide made a good narrative for how institutionalized men become on the inside. (end spoiler)
Have you read any of these? Which did you enjoy?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.