The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn StockettThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
Published by Amy Einhorn on February 10, 2009
Genres: Historical
Pages: 465
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

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.

This year, one of my goals is to read more of the books that have been collecting dust (unfortunately literally) on my shelves. I’ve pretty much got as many bookshelves as my house can support, and they’re packed. If I want to buy more books I’ve read and loved, I have to make the space. The Help has been taking up space on my shelves for years now, since I picked up the hardcover at Goodwill. It’s one of those books that I felt I had to own but didn’t feel a strong impulse to actually read. But, because it’s such a large book, it was an early candidate for reading. It’s not going to make any space on my shelves, though, because it was so good I’m keeping it.

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Series Finished in 2018

One of my goals over the last few years has been to finish more series, rather than just starting them. It’s a tough goal. For me, finishing a series often means rereading the first books because I don’t have great recall and don’t really remember what was happening. That’s a time investment. I’m doing more backlist run-throughs but I do still start more series than I finish, which is a problem.

In 2018, I finished 31 series and started 79, so, yeah, I’m not winning this battle. Given that I probably will not continue in several of those, it’s more balanced than it sounds. But still I wanted to do a post about the ones I finished, as encouragement for me to keep going and to hype the good ones. Keep in mind, though, that I am sometimes guessing that a series is over, as publishers often don’t announce the number of books and some authors (like Meg Cabot) go back and do sequels years later.

I’m just going to do these in the order I finished them broken down month by month. Remember that I didn’t necessarily read them all this year; the dates are for when I finished the last book of the series.

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Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Serious Moonlight by Jenn BennettSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 16, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

With Bennett’s YA debut, she became one of my favorite contemporary authors. She strikes that balance between fluffiness and real life problems that makes for the best contemporaries imo. Serious Moonlight may just be my new favorite Jenn Bennett novel, which is impressive because I really, really love The Anatomical Shape of a Heart. But Serious Moonlight‘s phenomenal in terms of romance, character arcs, and plotting.

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American Panda by Gloria Chao

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

American Panda by Gloria ChaoAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 311
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Fluffy contemporaries are my favorite, and this cover had my hopes up high, between the cutesy fonts and drawings, that glowing smile, and the warm beverage, it promises the fluffiest. There are a few darker aspects to American Panda, but on the whole I got just what I wanted. Actually, some of the things I didn’t want ended up being just right. I love when contemporaries strike that balance between cuteness and real life problems. I loved American Panda from the first page to the last.

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Top 15 Books of 2018

Every year, for some reason, I dread writing this post. Part of it is that my memory for books isn’t that great, because I shove so many into my brain that it’s really hard for me to remember them all. And by ‘really hard,’ I mean I literally can’t. That means that, at the end of the year, I look back at all my high ratings, and I don’t remember some of them. Does that mean they were less good? Should I still put them in my round-up of my favorite reads for the year? Gah, the indecision, it burns.

After making a big ol’ list of all of my top-rated books of 2018, the ones that made me feel something, I made a second list of all the books I could not bear to leave off of my list of my top reads, and that came to fifteen. Not bad out of 310 books read. That said, I am cheating a bit, putting series together (even sometimes with a loose definition of series oops).

What I was left with were the books that had the biggest impact on me throughout the year, and I’m so surprised how many of those I read during the first half of the year, since usually it skews more recent. I did make a couple of selections between books of about equal enjoyment by prioritizing books that I believe need more hype. They’re also all books I would reread.

Ready to rock? Let’s go.

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