What is your reading goal this year?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "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 woman 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."

I really enjoyed this book. It is informative, sad, heart wrenching, tender, and even has some light-hearted moments. I know this book is fiction, but Ms. Stockett does such a good job that it reads like a memoir. It is very well written and just draws you right in. It does take a little while to figure out who everyone is, and where each character fits into the story, but once you do then it's hard to put down. The stories of these women are fascinating. I really enjoyed learning about each one. It is unbelievable to me that events like these could have happened less than 50 years ago. It blows my mind. I do not know how anyone (especially women) could be so mean-spirited and hateful towards each other. I cannot imagine thinking so little of another human being, and being so hypocritical in the process. I hope that in the same situation I would be more of a Ms. Skeeter than a Ms. Leefolt. I hope I could be as courageous as these women were.

Ms. Stockett does a very good job of transitioning between characters and continuing the story line. I was concerned about the format of the book at first, but it comes together so well. I felt as if I were a part of the story. There is a lot of language in the book. Most of it is just how the characters speak, but there is quite a bit. I personally didn't mind it as much in this book because I was so involved in the story, but I do know someone who didn't like the language at all. There is also a scene with a naked man. It is quite the scene, and is offensive. I definitely could have done without it. However, it shows a side of the relationship between the two woman that could not be shown without something drastic and scary happening to them.

Overall I really liked this book. I would recommend it if you're okay with the above warning.

Rating: R (Remember, this does not correspond with the movie ratings, it's just my way of saying it is NOT for younger readers.) There is a lot of language, there is some death, there is some violence, and then there is that scene with the naked man.

Recommendation: 18 and up. This book is NOT okay for younger readers. I think it is okay to tell younger children about the basic premise of the book and use it as a teaching tool for dealing with race and treating all people with dignity. There area many lessons to be learned from this book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


TurboCharged by Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel

(Summary taken from Press Letter I received with the book) "TurboCharged, a new book by brother and sister co-authors Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel, outlines a revolutionary 8-step rapid fat loss program requiring no aerobic exercise, supplements or special equipment. After spending 30 years working with scientific researchers while continuously experimenting with various formulas, the Griesels have 'connected the dots' and discovered what they describe as the real secrets to successful dieting and body-defining rapid fat loss, stress management and longevity. Those insights are revealed in TurboCharged, an innovative regimen that the authors and hundreds of others have followed with great success."

This is the first dieting book I have ever read, so I didn't know what to expect. At first I had planned on actually trying the steps and then reporting whether or not I had any success, but then I remembered that I will be reviewing another weight-loss book next month. Needless to say, I don't think I want to be trying all these different ways to lose weight and then reporting my progress to the world. So I'm just going to review the book and maybe throw in a few of my comments.

The book is a very easy read. It is well written and easy to understand. The authors do not go into a lot of scientific detail, but they do give references and other articles you may read if you'd like to. The steps are well laid out and seem easy to follow. It is very different, though, from everything I've ever heard about fat-loss. They do not call it weight loss because they focus on actually losing body fat, not lean muscle. You take your body mass index (BMI) every day rather than just weighing yourself. I like that idea a lot. I like a lot of their ideas, and I guess it would be easy to follow if you were really ready. I'm not ready to give up grains, for instance. Giving up grains (even whole grains) and almost all dairy products seems radical to me. I like their idea of drinking more water and becoming more active. I can't give up exercise, though, because I have a gym membership and don't want to waste money on it. It's hard to believe that you can stay healthy and lose weight without a lot of exercise (they call it being more active: walking more and adding mini-workouts to your day instead of exercising for 30-60 min.). I think it's a great idea and I have actually added some of them to my day, but I still go to the gym as well. I've been drinking more water and have realized how dehydrated I have been. I also think right now the cost would be too much for me. Eating all fresh fruit, veggies, and meat would be really expensive. Fillers like rice and pasta, tortillas, bread, and cereal
are a staple in my house and I don't know how to just get rid of them. And honestly, give up pizza??

I do have to say though, I did take my BMI, which I have never done before, and I am in the healthy range. If I were drastically over weight then I think I'd be more willing to give my favorite foods up. My blood pressure is good, etc. If I had more weight-related problems then I think I would follow this program to a "T", just to give it a try. The health problem I do have is osteopenia (border-line osteoporosis), and taking out dairy is scary for me. I need all the calcium I can get. They do address this, but I've never heard of half the veggies they say contain calcium.

Overall, the book is well written and easy to understand. They go through each of the steps in detail and explain them well. It only takes a couple of hours to read, and if it works like they say it does it could be a very important couple of hours if you really need to lose body fat. They give several examples of people who have tried the program, and there is a website you can go to for more info. I have implemented a few of the ideas into my day: drinking more water, eating more fruits and veggies, doing mini-workouts throughout the day, and taking my BMI. If these changes help me decrease my body fat then I'll be excited. Unfortunately I don't think I'm ready to go all the way, but if you are ready to give up grains, most dairy products, and all processed foods, then this book is the way to go. I'm glad I got the opportunity to review this book because it did give me some motivation to eat healthier and pay more attention to what my body is telling me.

Rating: G (Very clean)

Recommendation: I would say adults should read it first. If you like it and want to implement it with your whole family then I would let older teens read it so they can see the steps and better understand them.

UPDATE (4/15/11): Mr. Griesel actually read my review and wrote me back! What a nice guy. He read about my osteopenia and referred me to a couple of articles. The first one is HERE and the second one is HERE. They have some good information that is worth looking in to! Thanks so much Mr. Griesel.

Monday, April 4, 2011


 Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license--for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world--and it isn't pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever."

This book has a very interesting concept. If everyone is pretty then no one can be made fun of, and everyone is more equal, right? Everyone should have the same opportunity for job choice, everyone should marry, and everyone should have friends. Well, it seems like that on the surface, but when Tally starts looking she SEES things differently. It does make you think more about how you live and if there is a different way to do things that you just aren't seeing. The characters are believable, except the whole premise is hard to get used to.  I found myself pulling for Tally in both directions. I wanted her to get her dream, but I also wanted her to see that her dream may not be for the best. I didn't like the political message portrayed: that WE are killing the earth with our metal buildings. Some of it was okay, like recycling newspapers, but Mr. Westerfeld definitely has a political agenda and I don't like that in fantasy books.  Some of it is predictable, but some things did take me by surprise.  I did find it interesting that this was written by a man. A lot of it deals with being pretty and feelings, and it did seem like it would come more from a woman, but, that's just a side thought.

Overall, I thought this book was okay. I still haven't decided if I want to read the rest of the series, and that may say a lot. There were no "physical intimacy" scenes, except for some teenage kissing, and I can't remember any language. There may have been one or two words, but not enough for me to remember.  There is some violence, and there are some deaths. I do know people that liked it, and I do know people that do not recommend it, and I think I'm somewhere in the middle. It did make me think, and that may be the goal.

Rating: PG-13 (There is some teenage kissing, some violence, and maybe a couple of words. There are a couple of deaths.)

Recommendation: High School and up. It may be somewhat clean, but the premise is definitely one for older readers. I think it may get lost on younger readers.