The Help – Kathryn Stockett vs. Beloved – Toni Morrison (Spoiler Free)

So, I’ve recently read both of these books. One (The Help) voluntarily and the other (Beloved) as a part of my university course. I started off reading Beloved and to be honest, not quite liking it. Trying to find an exact reason why I pondered if it could be because the novel is a historical piece, and I frankly, have little to no experience reading historical fiction. In order to prove or disprove this theory I began reading The Help. Having now finished both novels, I couldn’t help but compare the two novels and thought… why not write about it?

So, I’ve recently read both of these books. One (The Help) voluntarily and the other (Beloved) as a part of my university course. I started off reading Beloved and to be honest, not quite liking it. Trying to find an exact reason why I pondered if it could be because the novel is a historical piece, and I frankly, have little to no experience reading historical fiction. In order to prove or disprove this theory I began reading The Help. Having now finished both novels, I couldn’t help but compare the two novels and thought… why not write about it? So, here it goes..

BELOVED:

So Beloved if you didn’t know is an Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winning novel written by Toni Morrison. It is based off a real story about a woman who was an escaped slave. For some historical context, this was in a time where in America being one either side of a river (Whose name i unfortunately don’t know) dictated whether or not you were considered free if you were of African descent. However, this freedom was at a constant risk as if you were “owned” by someone across the river they could come and “retrieve there property” essentially dragging you back. For this woman she was living in America essentially free from her “master’s” ensalvement, with her family; until one day she saw her “master” coming up the drive. Reacting quickly she herded her whole family into the shed and killed them all. She was in the process of killing herself and her infant child when she was captured and jailed. A horrific story which to this day astounds me. This true story spoke to Morrison and is what she based her novel off of. The fictional piece follows he life of Sethe and her daughter Denver. Seth is a woman who was a slave on a plantation who was abused, beaten and raped and who despite being injured and about 9 months pregnant trekked across state lines to ensure her baby’s and her family’s future. We are introduced to Sethe when she is living with her youngest daughter (now 18) Denver in a place called simply “124”. This home of of their happens to be haunted by the ghost of the baby whom Sethe killed. Her two other sons had left her already having had enough of the Ghost’s presence and her Mother-in-law Baby Suggs had just passed away. Denver and Sethe live a seemingly quite life, except their house is plagued by secrets, insecurities, and obviously a ghost that doesn’t know when to blood quit.

Admittedly it starts off as a really hard read. You’re picked up and thrown into the story, like Alice falling in to Wonderland. Only unlike Alice instead of saying “oh dear!” i personally was utterly a little more rude expletives. It’s a confusing ride at first, with incomplete stories and a language that while seemingly English is harder to understand, and there is absolutely no context at all. Somehow i feel like that’s the point of everything. To make the reader completely and utterly confused. However, after… quite a long while into the book. Some more context is unveiled and somehow, though I’m not sure how exactly you fall into the “rhythm” of the language of the book and all the things that completely sent you for a loop starts to make sense. Just in time for the climax of the book to leave you utterly confused, elated and sad. It’s not the world’s happiest book. Actually, there is nothing all that happy about it. Still, it’s a good read. Something I would suggest picking up if you want the unbridled and haunting truth of the Slave Trade in America. Just make sure you’re watching a lot of romantic comedies while reading this book, because it made me yearn for a really big hug and an even bigger carton of ice-cream.

THE HELP:

The Help on the other hand is almost the complete opposite of Beloved. The Help for one thing occurs in a later time period than Beloved. It is set in a time when slavery is abolished, and those of African descent are paid for work, although they are still treated as less than human and paid little to nothing, there is also a worrying amount of segregation and racism that makes me very sad. However, unlike Beloved this story while told seriously also has some light hearted elements which make it a much less depressing story. It is also a story that is easy to follow and while it does contain slang, it is slang that I didn’t find difficult to understand. It truly was a fun read and i really enjoyed the story it told and the clever way it was told in. The movie that was based off this book was also extremely good and was fantastically acted and beautifully told. Definitely highly recommended by yours truly.

The story follows three main characters. Skeeter Phelan, Minny and Aibileen all of whom live in Jackson Mississippi . Aibileen and Minny are maids who have been in the business of looking after white-people’s babies and houses since around the time they were fourteen and are long time friends. Minny is a short tempered and sassy maid whose sharp wit and tongue often get her in trouble with her employers and Aibileen is a calm and sad woman who has spent her years raising and loosing other people’s children and after having lost her own son to a tragic accident has just about given up on life. Eugena “Skeeter” Phelan is a white 22-year-old woman who never quite fits in with the crowd in Mississippi as instead of going to college to find a husband like most of the women her age, she actually went to college to get an education. A revelation I know. This decision is constantly looked down upon by just about everybody in her life, including her mother. It is because of her outsider tendencies and her college educated mind that she sees the world in a way that is unique of that time. That is, she doesn’t look down upon “the help” like everybody else does.

Together these three find an unlikely and heartwarming friendship and band together to write a book about how the world really works. By doing so they risk everything, Aibileen and Minny more than most; as while it is not predominant in the book, the violence that African American suffer is touched on and alluded to as a possible consequence. This book does not solely place the victim role upon “the help” as the book also goes into how people who are of the same race but not considered the same class are also treated. altogether the book splendidly highlights people’s ability to be cruel for cruelty’s sake. But, it does not solely focus on the negative like Beloved, instead Stockett choose to include some redeeming themes such as: discovering friendship and strength in difficult times, the kindness of others and sometime Kindness found in unusual places. Stocked even touches on domestic abuse and finding the self-empowerment to put and end to it, as well as definitions of community and how they can make or break a person.

I would seriously recommend this book to anyone who asks. It is a fantastic and beautiful read. Both of these books are.

 

Til next time,

L.K.

Ready Player One: Ernest Cline

The Ultimate Gaming story for any and all kinds of nerds.

Where to even being? I went into this book expecting it to be a good read, what i didn’t expect was for it to fulfil my every Geeky dream. While it was a slow burn, it was the kind of slow burn that made you glad you waited every second you did, because the ending is immensely satisfying. This story follows the journey of Wade Owen Watts, a kid with the coolest initials ever living in the futuristic equivalent of a trailer park (trailer vans stacked onto of each other high enough to tower over skyscrapers) who is attempting to be the winner of the ultimate treasure hunt. But first some context.

The world that Ernest writes about has basically gone to hell, there’s pollution, poverty, starvation, drug abuse and the eradication of society as we know it. Not exactly “Disney Land” material. Everyone’s way of escaping their crappy reality is to login to this gaming system called OASIS. This system works as an online digital world which people use as both a gaming platform, and education platform and a business platform. Its basically a world embedded in 1’s and 0’s. The man responsible for the success of this game is named James Halliday who is a billionaire in a world of poverty. Upon his death, instead of a will leaving the company, OASIS and his wealth to someone he knew, he left a trail of three keys leading to three gates that all lead to the final prize. To find a key, gives the clue to the corresponding gate and completing the challenge within the gate reveals the next clue to find the next key. This sparked a culture amongst those who live in the OASIS. The people who spend their lives trying to find the first key and being their journey to finding the final gate are called “Gunters”. These Gunters live by a shared code of respect for each other, Halliday’s creation and a love of 80’s pop culture. They also share a hatred for a group of people also on the quest to the finish line who are called “Sixers”. These “Sixers” work for a company called “IOI” and whose bosses wish to turn this free platform into a way of making money and making sure that only the rich could use OASIS.

The general flow of the book is a slow burn leading up to a satisfying ending was admittedly a little hard to read. As someone who has not yet picked up a gaming console the vocabulary was a little difficult to grasp at first; but once I got into the flow of the story it was relatively easy to understand the lingo and get into the character’s from of mind.  Wade Watts is a beautifully written character who is both relatable and sweet. He is a very dedicated and wholesome nerd who lives and breathes OASIS, being only in his teenage years he has seen a lot of what the world has to offer and is quite happy with living in a virtual reality, and has given up on any ideas of trying to save the world, in fact, he reveals that if he were to inherit Halliday’s fortune he would build a rocket-ship to try and find a new world to populate. So, essentially in the beginning he is an overweight, nerdy character with only one friend to calls his own and a low level character. Throughout the book he evolves as a character enormously, he is still loveable nerd, but his friendship circle has expanded, he started caring more about his health and safety and he found a home to call his own; he also power-ups his character enormously. his evolution is one that makes your heart warm, but is subtle enough to be believable and to have a strong emotive response as it feels as if you as a person and the reader are growing along with Wade.

Even though it feels at some point within the novel that the ending is pretty obvious, the book does not cease to surprise by adding plot twists and turns throughout the story that really turn all of your assumptions about the characters and story on your head. Each new character that Wade befriends or interacts with has a compelling outline that really evokes emotions within the reader and makes you want to get to know the world and the gamers within it even more. It is definitely a book I would recommend and consider re-reading.

 

Til next time,

L.K.

 

A Monster Calls: Patrick Ness (Spoilers Ahead)

This book was a surprisingly beautiful tale with so much heart..

NON-SPOILER SECTION:

I went into this book admittedly with a completely different idea of what it would be about, but going into it i found myself more and more intrigued with this new and creative story that had me enraptured from the very beginning curious to see how it would all tie up in the end.

The story follows the life of a young man named Connor, but his age remains unspoken. this is particularly clever because he never does anything that could hint to a particular age grouping, this disassociation means that connor’s story is one that someone of any age group can relate to and feel and empathy for. His story unlike many others doesn’t start at the beginning of all his troubles but when they seem to be coming to a climax which is rare in my experience for stories, it all begins for us when Connor sees the Yew tree in the graveyard beside his house turn into a gigantic monster who tells Connor that he is a strong force of nature and time, who only comes walking in very few points in history; and he plans to tell Connor the stories of the three times previous in which he went walking. He then demands that when he has told Connor these three tales, that Connor must reciprocate telling the monster his tale and his truth. This is where our story truly begins. It is a beautiful heartwarming and sad tale that I couldn’t put down and is a must read.

SPOILER SECTION:

Connor’s has an extraordinary talethat expresses itself in the most ordinary of ways. He is a child with a mother who raised him on her own all the while battling cancer, his father left when he was six and now lives in America with a wife and child, and his Grandmother is someone who seems a malignant presence in his life. In his own way he is entirely fearless and yet frail, constantly seeking punishment, the reason for we don’t learn until the end. Everything about him speak of a quiet courage and strength, his life is filled with sickness and his childhood is scarce but it isn’t something he is resentful towards his mother for.

If anything in everything he does, even down to the way he interacts with the monster speaks of his love for her. When he came to the monster begging for him to use his yew tree branches to save her life, it brought me to tears. Here is a child who through his mothers illness looks into the reality of death and faces it with a strength that most adults can’t do; through this strength he is able to admit to himself his own truth, saving himself from the nightmares that threaten to destroy him. that he just wants his mother to die so that she can no longer suffer, but that he also doesn’t want her to die with every fibre of his being.

Coming to his won truth required a lot of personal growth for this character, and Ness tells it brilliantly. He uses the Monster’s tales to reflect the obstacles that are currently distracting Connor from the situation allowing him to overcome them, through living and thinking about these stories and allowing them to reflect in and defines actions. Its like watching the Hobbit and feeling a sense of accomplishment in every movie when they face an obstacle only to overcome it and bring them closer to their goal. Only in this case a part of you never wants them to reach it because you know how it will end. This is something I love about this book, its obvious from the very beginning that Connor’s mother isn’t going to make it, its shown so clearly through the actions of Connor’s family members and yet the mystery of Connor’s nightmare and Connor’s truth keeps you enraptured.

We end feeling for Connor and growing as people along with him in so many subtle ways. The stories themselves are particularly clever as they challenge modern day ideals of how stories should be structured as well as enduring ideals of right vs. wrong and good vs. bad. These tales always manage to ensnare as well as surprise, leaving me questioning my perspective on every previous argument or obstacle i’ve ever had in my life. So not only is it an emotional and beautifully written book but its the kind of book that can make someone really look at their life and find their own truth.

Sword Art Online – Aincrad: Reki Kawahara (Spoilers Ahead)

Book to Anime? That’s different…

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first cracked this book open. Manga? The exact same as the anime? It was the anime all over again, but in a good way; there’s a lot of things that happen in the anime that isn’t in the book, but is approached in another version. It was a new experience to reading, one I’m not 100% sure about at this current time, but it would be a genre I’m willing to pursue. Here is the general gist of the book/anime. Its the year 2020 and a new  online game has been released called ‘Sword Art Online’ and it is accompanied by technology that allows the user to completely  delve into the game, having complete mental control over their virtual bodies, like they are living in the world itself.

We follow the story/ perspective of a gamer named Kirito, who is part of the first group of gamers to enter into the world of Sword Art Online as well as the group of beta testers who first tested the gaming experience. He is introduced to us as a shy, conservative, die-hard gamer who isn’t very good with people. nonetheless he makes friends with one of the gamers an helps him to get used to the platforming. It is truly a unique gaming experience for the users that is until they discover that there is no log out button. As it turns out the developer Ahkihiba Kyaba has designed the game so that it simulates real life, if you die in the game, you die in real life the user cannot log out, they cannot be forced out and disconnecting or trying to be forced out from the outside will ill them. In order to escape, they have to beat the game and shut it down from the inside. This is where the book and the anime differentiate… where the anime follows them in their first few days of their journey through the game the book straight away skips to two years later, in which gamers have conquered the first 70 odd floors and groups have formed of fighters called ‘Guilds’ who spend their lives in the game on the front lines, working their way through the levels and defeating the ‘Boss’ monsters who defend the gates the the next level. Kirito is one of those gamers, however, he is not apart of a Guild choosing to go it alone, rather than being with people he could risk loosing. The first day we follow his journey her comes across a type of rabbit that’s extremely rare and apparently tastes delicious. He captures it, but he doesn’t have the experience points to cook the meat properly so he has to enlist the help of a fellow gamer… this is where we meet his love interest Asuna.

Asuna is apart of the Knights of Blood guild, and has the nickname ‘The Flash’ because she is wicked fast with her sword and is one of the highest ranked players within the game, as well as one of the prettiest. Since it is in a game, Kawahara wrote the gender statistics to be stereotypically more male populated than female. So Asuna, with her looks and ranking as well as being in one of the most famous guilds is quite famous herself, and garners a lot of attention. Sauna, is fierce, loyal and strong, who has no problem giving Kirito hell..

From here we follow these two gamers as their virtual lives intertwine over and over again and as the slowly fall in love and venture to defeat the game, no longer for themselves but for each other, so that they can meet in the outside world and fall in love all over again. We are with these two as the battle demons, both inner and physical and get married, move to a quiet level by a lake and bring something to fulfilling to each others lives. All the while we explore more and more of the virtual world and all it involves. We are with them through every part of their lives until they finally beat the game.

This novel is… hard to really define in terms of genre; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, romance, comedy, action. It falls under many categories and as such is a really good read for a wide range of people. It explores multiple ascots of the human condition with the backdrop of an amazing sub-plotiline that makes you want to keep reading even past the end. If i had to say one negative thing, it would be that i wished the writing style were less choppy, and maybe that the time was taken to really go into depth with the story of both the defeat of the game and the romance between Kirito and Asuna. As it is, i feel like she popped out of nowhere and all of a sudden their in love and are getting married. This rush is understandable as the author was writing for a contest and was only allotted a certain number of pages -which he went over- but it certainly wasn’t enough to explore this story with all the love it deserves. Maybe his other books that continue the series, will fill in the blanks. Nonetheless, i would recommend this book any day, or at least the anime which is an addictive watch.

 

Til next time,

L.K.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: J.K. Rowling

WOW! i couldn’t put this book down!
Keep reading for the full review…

Holy hell this play is extraordinary!

J.K Rowling has done it again people!

NON-SPOILER SECTION:

It’s hard to even begin to express how much i loved this play, but i am going to try. For those who have never read a play before and need everything, both plot wise and character-wise explained in the text to understand what is going on, this may be a bit of a difficult read for you, but it is certainly worth it 🙂 For those whose imagination completes the scene with help and sometimes regardless of the words, then reading this play will be as good as if it were a novel. Trust me, no matter what level fan of Harry Potter you are (unless for some reason you hate the series, in which case my question is: How?) then this book/play is a must read.

SPOILER SECTION:

The fun begins! So this play essentially follows the life of the young progeny of Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter as they embark on their Hogwarts years. Albus Severus Potter and Scorpious Malfoy become the most unlikely of friends on their first day on the Hogwarts express, on this day we are shown so much of our beloved characters and how their lives have moved on! it is truly beautiful and sentimental for a Potter fan, i may or may not have cried a little. Nonetheless, despite my tears, the story goes on and with some handy stage directions we are shown snippets of the boys through the first couple of years at Hogwarts, Albus despite his family’s affinity for a certain Red and Gold themed house gets sorted into Slytherin along with Scorpious who i’m pretty sure everyone knew that on the inside he bled green and silver. But for Albus and Scorpious this sets into motion their lives as they know it, Scorpious has to live with rumours that he is Voldemort’s child, and Albus constantly feels like he is in the shadow of his father who everyone claims to see as the ultimate hero, because of this the relationship between the two are strained. Harry struggles with everything he has to try and connect with his son, but Albus just feels invisible and unworthy. Naturally this isn’t a family drama where there’s tears and emotions and fighting thats between loved ones; but a danger that is unexpected and thrilling. But more on that later.

Let’s talk about our beloved characters! Hermione Granger nee Weasley is Minister of Magic, I’m so proud of our little bookworm! Ron Weasley obvious married Hermione Granger and now managers Weasley Wizard Wheezey’s (I think that’s how it’s spelt) with two kids Rose Weasley and Hugo Weasley; Rose is her mother all over, and we don’t get to meet Hugo unfortunately… Harry Potter is head of Department of Magical Law Enforcement and Ginny Potter is the editor for the sports section in the Daily Prophet and they have three kids, James Potter Albus Potter and Lily Potter. Draco Malfoy marries Astoria Greengrass and has a child – Scorpious Malfoy. Our characters go through a hell of a lot of character evolution. Harry evolves as a father coming to terms with who he is, and how he has – accidentally – treated his son, Draco becomes a better person who shows that he is capable of love and compassion, as well as being honest and a good person; which is a nice change for him; and something I can honestly say I’m proud of.  Despite the fact that he grew his hair out in a pony tail. But despite his atrocious hair choices he manages to bury the hatchet with the Golden Trio.

Back to the boys. They embark on a journey in order to save Cedric Digger’s life in the Tri Wizard Tournament; but as we’ve seen and been told numerous time, playing with time is a serious mess, that can create numerous problems. As we seen when they boys try and fix time, they inevitably create about four different realities that all have different combinations of craziness, most of which amazing people die and in some times Ron and Hermione aren’t even married. But they come a long way and even run into some old favourites… like Snape, Lily and James Potter (the originals) and even given some surprising revelations like the fact that Voldemort does in fact have a child, who is not Scorpious, thank the Lord. But Scorpious evolves from someone who is afraid of himself and stirring up trouble, afraid to live up to his Father’s schoolyard reputation, and who is secretly harbouring a crush for Rose Weasley to someone who is brave and proud of who he is and who he wants to be. As for Albus, he goes from bing someone who feels like he has something to prove and harbouring a feeling of invisibility and feels of inadequacy based of his father’s success in life which he perceives to have been an easily obtained stars due to Harry not being honest with his son. But then he evolves into someone who understand himself and his father more and into someone who is proud of who he is and his Slytherin alliance… Something that is such a huge step for a person his age.

this coupled with a good story, brilliant plot-twists and amazing characters makes this one hell of a play that you have to have read at least once in your life.

Til Next Time,

L.K.