The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

In case you didn't noticed, this blog has been DEAD for half a year now. More than half a year, in fact. Unless I update it with chapters of my pathology or anatomy textbooks T___T anyway summer break is a good time to catch up with reading! I must have bought this book ages ago and totally forgot about it. anyway.

The "help" in this title refers to African-american maids working for white people in the 1960s. Where they cannot dine with the whites, cannot go to the same school as the whites, cannot work in places where whites work. The story tells mainly about 3 women, two of them maids and one a white, who want to prove a point to the world, that black and white is just a colour and doesn't make any difference to how one should be treated.

Aibileen is a maid who has taken care of seventeen children throughout her career, and she has always had a good record with her manners and attitude. She recalls how she got fired from her first job:
I come home that morning, after I been fired, and stood outside my house with my new work shoes on. The shoes my mama paid a month's worth a light bill for. I guess that's when I understood what shame was and the colour of it too. Shame ain't black, like dirt, like I always thought it was. Shame be the colour of the new white uniform your mother ironed all night to pay for, white without a smudge or a speck a work-dirt on it.
I think it's scary to think that the colour of shame is the colour of innocence. She was being accused of stealing silverware from the house and thus fired. How can you be ashamed of something you didn't even do? That is the fate that most maids face when they have ignorant and proud white bosses.

The second lady is also a maid, Minny, who can barely keep her mouth shut and even though she's a great cook, she often finds herself jobless once she says something that angers the boss.

Skeeter Phelan, however, is a college graduate who aspires to be a writer. She goes for bridge with her fellow ladies but finds them annoying when they mistreat their maids. She wants to make it big, to New York City, but fails to find material interesting enough to catch the attention of the editor, until she submits her proposal to write about black maids working for the whites.

The editor initially scoffs at the idea, wondering how are the maids going to open up to a white and tell her how it feels like working for Skeeter's friends and such. But with a turn of events, the maids felt that their stories needed to be heard, and they knew the price that they were going to pay.

It's a sad story about how differences set people apart, and when the majority of the population finds nothing wrong with that, people who opposes it are persecuted. I guess the hardest thing they are fighting here is mentality. But this is seriously a good read!! The characters are well developed, with characters so easy to hate and to love.


I'd personally give 4.9/5.0


Waiter Rant

by Steve Dublanica

Bought this book at 68 HKD at a secondhand bookstore in SoHo and this book took me 3 months to finish! Don't get me wrong though cause it's quite an engaging book written pretty much in blog style and there's not really a plot to follow. Basically a day-to-day account of the author as a waiter, the conflicts and satisfaction he gets from the job.

It provides infinite insight to the job; as said by the author, there are 3 types of waiters: people trying to become something else, people whose lives are falling apart and people stuck somewhere in the middle. Which sounds true to some extent; he mentions that some waiters are self professed writers although they spent the rest of their lives looking for book deals, waiters who after work, go and get themselves wasted every night and come back to work smelling of booze the next morning, and people like him.

He used to study at a Catholic seminary and later dropped out after figuring out it wasn't what he would like for the rest of his life, and then he began waiting tables. And then he started a blog, while keeping his identity anonymous, blogged about his experiences with customers--from the nasty and cheapskate ones to the heavy tippers. He also offers tips on the proper way to treat a waiter, how to tip properly, how to make reservations etc and all are presented in a lighthearted way.

Very worth the read! Esp during stressful exam periods; reminds you that there is still a world out there not related to aminoglycosides, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, mycobacterium tuberculosis....

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Oh ya! Check out his blog here.


The Boy who Harnessed the Wind

The boy who harnessed the windImage by KizzieFK via Flickr
By William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealy

I've finally picked up AND finished reading a book after a 4 month hiatus! o.O

Normally I don't do non-fiction but after a short pep talk from my aunt "you're grown up already, you should be reading more stories of how famous people became famous" so here's my 1st successful attempt at it (I bought a biography on Hitler but the facts sort of made my head go dizzy)

A true story of a Malawian, William Kamkwamba fulfilling his dreams of building a windmill aka "electric wind", and changing the ways of his society for the better.

William, as like any other Malawian, comes from a family that relies on farming for a living. In an event of a drought or the government misuses people's money (As he says, "Our president is a funny person."), they are plagued with starvation, some even resorting to selling off children while unscrupulous merchants sell grain mixed with sawdust.

Despite not being able to further his secondary education (due to poverty, of course), he has resolved not to be a farmer for the rest of his life. He did not want his fate to rest on the weather alone. Having a keen eye for machinery and an insatiable curiosity, he spends his free time visiting the school library and reading books like Explaining Physics. His command of English was not well at that time, so he depended mainly on graphs and figures to understand how things worked. With years of effort and an undying passion to improve his family's lifestyle, he managed to build a windmill, simply out of scrap metal and discarded pieces of junk!

Being free of impressive vocabulary and flowery figures of speech, the stark truth of the poverty and trials in Malawi is enough to invoke wonder, curiosity and, most of the time, fear.

Thumbs up to this inspiring true story! Really made me feel that I should try and make a difference in the world =)

Personal rating: 4.9/5.0
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This blog is soooo dead! So sorry for my reading hiatus; it's really been a long time since I finished reading a book. Will work harder! haa hope to come up with more updates soon :)



Cover of "Inkheart"Cover of Inkheart
By Cornelia Funke

Well honestly my brother bought this book for me around 2 or 3 years ago but I procrastinated and finally took 2 months to finish it (gasp!)

Mo (short for Mortimer), is a "book doctor"--someone who mends broken book spines, torn pages etc. However, he has a special gift, unknown even to his own daughter--he can bring fictitious characters & objects in a book to life just by reading it out loud! It is fascinating though risky business, and on one occasion, while reading out loud a book entitled "Inkheart", his wife, Teresa was stuck in the book while the characters (both the sinisters and good ones) escaped into the real world. Thus the adventure begins!

Besides the engaging plot, there's no magic to the words. Definitely not in my list of favourite books. (Though it was made into a movie!)

Personal Rating: 2.0/5.0
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The Lovely Bones

the lovely bonesImage by mush2274 via Flickr
By Alice Sebold

I made a grave grave mistake by watching the movie (directed by Peter Jackson) before reading the book! But don't get me wrong, Saoirse Ronan is a SUPERB actress. Just hoping that she's still not in her prime YET. (eg look at Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen now. Not a good thing to mature too quickly; fame is quick to come & go)

I digress, but anyway here's the synopsis:
Susie Salmon (as the author said, like the fish) is a 14-year old, wildlife photographer aspirant. Just another girl with daydreams, and also a crush on Ray Singh, an Indian with a British accent (sexy!). Life seems to get better as her crush notices her as well and even slips in a love note into her Biology textbook.

But her seemingly harmless neighbour turns out to be a serial paedophile and Susie is brutally raped and murdered. She ends up in the InBetween, where she constantly gazes out from her gazebo to those still on Earth, watching and listening. The killer, George Harvey, was clever in covering his tracks and Susie, now dead, could not convey the truth to her family and friends.. or could she?

It deals with the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one's life. How her family broke down after the news, and how the bits and pieces were slowly picked up and wounds gradually healed.

Compelling read! Note to self: NEVER watch the movie first. MAJOR MAJOR spoiler o.O

Personal Rating: 4.8/5.0
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The Hobbit

Dustcover of the first edition of The Hobbit. ...Image via Wikipedia
By J.R.R. Tolkien

Finally finished a classic! Been having this book for mayb 4/5 years (it was a box set together with the LOTR trilogy) Honestly I'm not a big fan of JRR Tolkien 'cause his style of writing is just too cryptic for me, seriously. But this book was a surprisingly easy and fast read! (though I procrastinated. A Lot.)

Bilbo Baggins (Frodo's uncle) and a group of dwarves, together with Gandalf went on a hunt for a ginormous amount of gold and treasure amassed by a dragon, Smaug. Bilbo was reluctant to leave the comforts of his hobbit hole initially but eventually he turned out to be the one with the quickest wit in dire situations!

A great adventure book! And one must definitely admire Tolkien for his detail in creating a whole new world (eg Elvish language and writings) for all his books... Crafty with unexpected plot twists at places!

Personal Rating: 4.6/5.0

P/s since I'll be going away from tomorrow till end of the year, this will officially be the last book I'll read this year! (Total count: 16) Last year I read 14 books so there's a slight improvement, though far from my target of 25!
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