Book & Movie Review: The Help

Book Review:  The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

the-help-cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

I bought this book at a library book sale years ago.  I saw the movie with some friends from a book club when the movie first came out, but I had not read the book.  This summer, I decided I wanted to read something easier than the self-help books I usually read, so I pulled this off my book shelf.  It pretty much took me all summer to read, but I’m glad I did.  When I finished the book, I went to the library and got the movie to watch again.

Summary (from Goodreads)

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 inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’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.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book took me much longer to read than I had anticipated, but I really liked it a lot, and I learned a lot from it.

This book taught me a lot about the relationships between blacks and whites in the South in the 1960’s.  It really opened my eyes to the cruelty and injustice that existed during that time.  This book reminds me of how far we have come in working towards eliminating inequality and racism.  There is still much progress to be made, but I think this book and movie helps to bring us one step closer to that.

I really came to love and admire the courage of many of the characters in this book.  I liked the way the chapters switched between the perspectives of the 3 main characters:  Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny.  Two of these characters are black, and one is white.  Each of these characters provides her own stories of life in the South during that time, and I admire the way each of them was willing to risk everything to fight for equality and a better life for all.

Thoughts on the Movie

I thought the movie was really well done!  It followed the book closely.  I saw the movie when it first came out.  I had not yet read the  book, and I did not understand a lot of the little details.  When I watched the movie again after reading the book, the details stood out and made much more sense.  I would definitely recommend both the book and the movie!  My daughters (aged 13, 12, and 9) all watched the movie with me, and they all enjoyed it as well.

My Favorite Quote from The Help:

the-help-quote

Aibileen, one of the black maids, said this often to Mae Mobley, the little girl she was caring for.  If nothing else, she wanted to teach her this important truth about herself.  I believe everyone should be taught to believe this about themselves.

For more reviews on The Help, visit Goodreads.

Book Review: Transformed

Book Review:  Transformed

by Rick Warren

transformed cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I am a member of a small group (we call it a Lifegroup) at our church.  For 7 sessions, we got together every other week to go through this book together, watch the video that went along with the weekly lesson, and discuss our thoughts and how we can apply the concepts to our own lives.

Summary (through Goodreads)

Transformed is a church-wide, 7-session campaign that will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational. The world is shouting for our attention with answers to our relationship struggles, solutions to our financial trouble, and explanations to our search for meaning. But the world’s promises leave us empty and searching for more. God’s Word is the only answer that promises to transform our lives from the inside out. Unite as a church and be TRANSFORMED together.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I really liked this book a lot.  Over 7 weeks (49 days), each day I looked forward to reading, reflecting, and journaling on the lesson of the day.  In those 10 minutes of each day, I felt so at peace.  I was able to leave all of my worries behind and connect with my source and my true self.  It was a wonderful feeling.  When I was able to spend this time first thing in the morning, it inspired me and provided me with a great start to my day.

I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in becoming healthier in mind, body, or spirit.  The book covers just about every area of our lives:  spiritual health, physical health, mental health, emotional health, relational health, financial health, and vocational health.  The reading is very short, but the reflection and journaling is what I enjoyed the most.  To anyone who gets this book, I would encourage you to do the journaling if you want to get the most out of it.

Although I really enjoyed doing the individual lessons from the book, the part of this course that really made the biggest impact in my life was the small group discussion and the videos that went along with the book.  Find out more about the course at http://transformedlife.com/

 

Recipe: Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie logo.jpg

It’s the time of the year that my daughters and I love the most – blueberry picking season! We traditionally go on many blueberry picking excursions during this season.  Most of the time, we eat the berries just as they are, but we also enjoy baking them into delicious recipes.  Blueberry pie is a yearly tradition in our home – we make it once each year using freshly picked berries.  We have tried several recipes throughout the years, but this one from Allrecipes.com is our favorite so far.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over blueberries.
  3. Line pie dish with one pie crust. Pour berry mixture into the crust.  Dot with butter. IMG_7014.JPG
  4. Top with remaining pie crust.  Crimp and flute edges.
  5. Bake pie on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Be sure to place a pan or foil underneath it to catch any drippings.

Next time we make this, we are going to attempt to make individual pies rather than one big one.  I will update this post if we are successful.  Happy pie-eating!🙂

 

 

Recipe: Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry ice cream recipe

It’s strawberry season here in New England, and my daughters and I love going to pick!  We just finished using the remaining strawberries from our last picking adventure.  This time we decided to make something we had never made before:  Strawberry Ice Cream!  It was a big hit all around.

Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup milk (we used 1%)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, mashed (puree them if you prefer a smoother consistency)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.  Whisk until all ingredients are mixed.
  2. Add mixture to an ice cream maker.
  3. Allow ice cream maker to run for about 25 minutes, or until thickened to your liking.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
  5. Enjoy!

strawberry ice cream yum

For more recipes ideas using freshly picked strawberries, check out 10 Ways to Eat Strawberries.

 

 

Book Review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project Cover

My Rating:  *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

Honestly, I can’t remember why I chose to read this book.  I began it in April, at a time when I was really trying to focus on de-cluttering, so I must have seen it referenced somewhere since de-cluttering is one of the key recommendations for becoming happier.  I really liked the concept of the book as well.

Summary (from Goodreads)

What if you could change your life without really changing your life? On the outside, Gretchen Rubin had it all — a good marriage, healthy children and a successful career — but she knew something was missing. Determined to end that nagging feeling, she set out on a year-long quest to learn how to better enjoy the life she already had.

Each month, Gretchen pursued a different set of resolutions — go to sleep earlier, tackle a nagging task, bring people together, take time to be silly — along with dozens of other goals. She read everything from classical philosophy to cutting-edge scientific studies, from Winston Churchill to Oprah, developing her own definition of happiness and a plan for how to achieve it. She kept track of which resolutions worked and which didn’t, sharing her stories and collecting those of others through her blog (created to fulfill one of March’s resolutions). Bit by bit, she began to appreciate and amplify the happiness in her life.

The Happiness Project is the engaging, relatable and inspiring result of the author’s twelve-month adventure in becoming a happier person. Written with a wicked sense of humour and sharp insight, Gretchen Rubin’s story will inspire readers to embrace the pleasure in their lives and remind them how to have fun.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book took me a really long time to finish.  It did not hold my attention as well as I thought it would have.  I expected it to be a really easy read because the topic is something that I am very interested in, but it was not as easy of a read as I had anticipated.  I admire the author for her honesty and the way she points out her own flaws, and I can relate with her in many ways.  The book is filled with many examples from the author’s life, but in my opinion, it was a little too detailed and difficult to get through at times.

There are lots of great tips, precepts, and quotes in the book.  Nothing comes to mind that really stood out or inspired me, but I have done a lot of research on the topic of happiness so there wasn’t much that was new to me.  Just because the book didn’t have a life-changing impact on my life, it doesn’t mean it won’t on others, so I would still recommend checking it out for yourself.

You can find other reviews on The Happiness Project, and find out more about the author at Goodreads.

 

Visual Quote: The Mind is everything. What you THINK, you become.

The mind is everything logo

Commit to feeding your mind only good, positive thoughts today and surrounding yourself with those who uplift, encourage, and inspire you!  Have a great day!🙂

Book Review: The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers:  How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death

by Annie Kagan

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers Cover

My Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

This book was recommended to me by my Reiki Master teacher.  When taking the Reiki Master class a few weeks ago, my teacher played a song called “The Swan of Tuonela” by the composer Jean Sibelius.  In the book, The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy tells his sister that cosmic sound is very similar to this song.  My teacher told us briefly what the book was about, and it sounded fascinating to me, so I decided to check it out at my library.

Summary (from Goodreads)

“Annie Kagan is not a medium or a psychic, she did not die and come back to life; in fact, when she was awakened by her deceased brother, she thought perhaps she had gone a little crazy.

In “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death,” Kagan shares the extraordinary story of her after death communications (ADC) with her brother Billy, who began speaking to her just weeks after his unexpected death.

One of the most detailed and profound ADC’s ever recorded, Kagan’s book takes the reader beyond the near-death experience.  Billy’s vivid, real-time account of his on-going journey through the mysteries of death will change the way you think about life, death and your place in the Universe.”

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I LOVED this book!  I thought it was fascinating!  I have a strong interest in reading books about Near-Death Experiences, but this book takes it even further.  Although some of the things described are really “out there”, especially near the end, I really believe this is true.  Just have an open mind when reading this book.

I found it to be comforting and reassuring that we are all loved unconditionally regardless of our actions, and there is something great waiting for each of us on the other side, although the experience will be different for each of us based on what our beliefs are.  This book also confirmed my belief that we are eternal souls, and our time on this earth in a physical body is just one way for us to experience new things and help our souls grow.

This book was a VERY easy read.  I read it in about 3 days, although I probably could have read it all in one sitting if I had the time.  I did not want to put it down!

As Billy gave Annie advice throughout the book, here are a few bits of wisdom that I got out of this:

See yourself Billy Fingers

What you achieve on earth is only a small part of the deal.  If there’s a secret I could whisper, and that you could keep, it would be that it’s all inside you already.  Every single thing you need.  Earth is just a stopover.  A kind of game.  Make it a star game.  If I could give you a gift, it would be to teach you how to stay free inside that game, to find the glory inside yourself, beyond the roles and the drama, so you can dance the game of life with a little more rhythm, a little more abandon, a little more shaking-those-hips.” (p.84)

“All beings on earth carry the light from this sphere within them.  That’s why spiritual philosophies say that we are one…the light from the sphere propels your soul into your body when you’re in the womb.  It then becomes the invisible force that gives you life…” (p. 94)

“Don’t overlook the riches contained in the darkness.  Life’s very temporary, so don’t let time just pass.  Let the moments fill you — the ones you judge to be good as well as bad.” (p.95)

“There are many worlds, and the afterlife has many forms.  Where you go, who you meet, and where you meet them is different for different people.” (p. 104)

“After you’re dead, you are able to be in more than one place at a time.” (p. 105)

“Beliefs are big on earth.  People collect them.  Some of these beliefs are helpful, but others just keep you running around trying to follow rules that others have laid down.  They don’t have a lot of personal meaning.  It’s a good idea to sort through your beliefs now and throw out the ones that don’t serve you.” (p. 105)

“People spend lots of time on things that make them unhappy…to cultivate joy, pay attention to what you like.” (p. 152)

“Every single life is valuable in ways you cannot imagine or figure out while you’re alive.  Every single life is a gift.” (p. 154)

Cosmic symphony

See more reviews of The Afterlife of Billy Fingers on Goodreads.