The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Again, I know I’m behind the times reading and reviewing this book, especially since it became a bestseller and hit movie. But as we all know, the book is better than the movie, and I’ve seen the movie about a dozen times so I figured it was about time to read the book. What made me giggle is anyone who happened to see me reading the book asked if I had seen the movie! So anyways, since it’s so well know, I’m going to do another book/movie comparison, and keep this short.

  1. Character portrayals in the movie are well done, in my opinion, but I was surprised after reading the book that Hilly isn’t as thin in the book as she is in the movie. When the author was describing her, I was actually surprised enough to note it!
  2. Skeeter’s mom in the movie is much more tolerable than in the book. Movie mom is a little less rooted in her ways, less stubborn and proud. Book mom is a nightmare until the last 30 pages or so. And there was no regret from book mom about firing Constantine, as the reason for her being fired was much different in the book. Also, Aibilene is the one who tells Skeeter about that situation first, not the mom.
  3. Minny and Celia’s relationship in the book has more details that make the reader truly appreciate their special relationship. The movie glosses over the some of the big events that seal their friendship and respect for each other.However, I still think the movie did a good job in portraying their relationship.
  4. Celia knowing about “Two Slice Hilly” and the reason why a check was cut to her. This made me want to high five Celia.
  5. Skeeter’s personal growth and character development is so much stronger in the book. I think the movie did a good job, but towards the end of the book we see a strong, independent Skeeter appear, whereas movie skeeter was pretty independent to begin with. I liked the gradual growth in the book a little better.

Those were the big points that jumped out at me. Honestly, I really do think the movie did a great job sticking to the book. To have such an important issue discussed from so many different points of view, all with the purpose to generate equality still resonates with readers and watchers to this day. About 50 years separated the story’s year and today, and we’re still fighting for equality… anything that makes a reader think about current issues gets a recommendation from me.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

It’s been over 10 years since this book was released and became a bestseller, and six years since the movie came out… so I guess you can say I’m a little late to the party, but I’m all caught up on what the fuss was all about. So I’ve decided to do a summary and a movie comparison, just to refresh your memory and preserve mine.

At age ninety (or ninety three, he can’t remember), life in the nursing home is something Jacob Jankowski just can’t get used to. He’s sick of the boredom, of the geriatric food, of the overly cautious nurses. When the circus rolls through town and excitement buzzes around him, Jacob starts to reflect on the early years of his life…

After the tragic loss of his parents the week before his final veterinary exams, Jacob decides to run away to restart anew. What he didn’t realize at first was that the train he decided to jump belonged to the property of Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth- a circus train. A man named Camel initiates Jacob to circus life and sets him up to be introduced to Big Al, the circus ringleader. Upon hearing that Jacob (almost, though technicalities didn’t matter in the circus business) had a Cornell veterinary degree, Big Al places Jacob with his right hand man August, the equestrian director and superintendent of animals, as the menagerie veterinarian, and bunks him with clown Kinko, aka Walter, and his dog Queenie. Kinko isn’t too happy about the idea, and he and Jacob don’t make friends too quickly, but eventually after Jacob has a few rough first days they make amends.

Under August’s wing, Jacob starts his new job by evaluating Marlena’s horse. She is a performer (aka kinker) with a string of horses, a star attraction, and so happens to be August’s wife. Jacob is smitten the first time he sets eyes on her, but knows not to show it. After he diagnoses Silver Star, he learns pretty quickly not to trust August. He finds out he’s a temperamental man who lacks sympathy for both humans and animals alike, and he’ll take whatever means necessary to keep control of those around him. So when the circus manages to pick up an elephant names Rosie, Jacob finds himself playing middle man to protect her, and Marlena, from August.

As Marlena and Jacob grow closer, August becomes more and more overprotective, and soon Jacob’s life is being threatened. At the same time, many of the workers in the circus are becoming unsettled, unpaid, and ready for an uproar. As things come to a head under the big top, even the animals start picking sides.

Now, in comparison to the movie, the book has more depth, character development, and in my opinion, more action…so it’s easy for me to say it was better than the movie. Here’s what was missing or different:

  1. Movie Elderly Jacob does NOT look ninety, nor is his mobility a struggle.
  2. Big Al isn’t mentioned in the movie. August is portrayed as the ringleader instead.
  3. The diagnosis and demise of Silver Star is much quicker in the movie, and Marlena’s character development is cut short, effecting what should be growth in the relationship with Jacob. The book allows for this growth and development.
  4. Rosie’s introduction in the movie is close enough to the book, but her character development and relationship with Jacob is cut short, making her participation in the climax of the movie less believable and dramatic.
  5. The big fight between August and Jacob, and the consequent break-up of August and Marlena largely differs in the movie. The movie makes it seem that after the fight, both Jacob and Marlena plan to run away to Ringling (the circus in competition with Benzini), that they knew then and there that they were going to be together. But in the book, Marlena knows she has to go back to the circus and August, and even after their tryst reminds Jacob that they can’t be together since she’s married.
  6. In the book, when Jacob returns to the circus after the fight between him and August, he talks to Big Al and says that Marlena will reconcile with August if she’s given space and time. Big Al buys the lie, and this allows some time for Jacob and Walter to get Camel to Providence, to be picked up by his family. But after a few weeks, Big Al becomes unconvinced and figured out that Jacob is actually working against him. This is when Jacob’s life becomes threatened, as well as the lives of Walter and Camel. This B-story is mostly ignored or skipped over in the movie.
  7. Book Jacob, after his conscience catches up to him, leaves the knife on a pillow on the empty side of the bed beside August. In the movie, Marlena is in the bed with August and sees Jacob’s attempted murder and retreat. When Jacob returns to the car that he shared with Walter and Camel, he realizes they’ve been red-lighted on August and Big Al’s orders, and feels guilty for taking Walter’s knife when it could have protected them.
  8. In the book, Jacob tells a workman he trusts about the red-lighting, and then relays it to Marlena, who also confesses that she’s pregnant. Finally admitting it to herself, she know that if she wants to be with Jacob, they have to run for it. The red-lighting is the catalyst for the chaos and the pregnancy is the final push for the relationship between Jacob and Marlena, and it’s downplayed in the movie in comparison to the book.
  9. The final scene in the movie shows Elderly Jacob complaining about how his oldest son, Walter, should have picked him up at the nursing home and brought him to the circus, and then asking if the guy was going to hire him into the circus. This made me so annoyed because in the book, the guy who Elderly Jacob is telling his story to is really empathetic to Jacob, and when the cops come looking for the elderly runaway, the guy covers for Jacob, telling the cops that the elderly was his father. Once the cops leave, Jacob broaches the subject of coming back to the circus because he knows the man understands that the circus felt more like home than the nursing home ever did. And for the love of God, the son’s name is Simon, not Walter.

So as I said, I know I’m behind the times, but I had this book in a pile that I just hadn’t gotten around to reading and I’m glad I picked it up. Definitely worth the read, but in my opinion, if you read the book, don’t bother with the DVD. Leaving out so much of the character development and details, the movie didn’t do the book justice when I feel they could have. I would have watched the movie for another hour if they could have added those developments and details back in.

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks

Oh Nicholas Sparks, you wonderful, tear jerking bastahd (sorry for my New England accent there ;p ).

What woman doesn’t love a Nicholas Sparks book? After a string of them and successful movie remakes, he’s a household name for romance novel. But what I loved about the Guardian is that though it’s a romance novel, it’s a thriller. Every quickly-turned page leaves you hanging in suspense and more than once thinking oh no, oh no!

The first few pages, we meet Julie, a recent widow in what seems like the darkest moment of her already hard life. Just when she’s complicating on why she’s trying to go through the motions of moving on, a delivery shows up at her door from he late husband Jim, and Singer enters the scene. Fast forward four years, and Julie has moved past the hurt of losing her husband largely in part to her Great Dane, Singer, and her friends. Mabel, her boss and late husband’s aunt, employs Julie at her hair salon in their small town, and treats her like a daughter. Julie’s best friend, Mike, is a mechanic at the auto shop he co-owns with his brother, Henry. Henry, his wife Emma, and Mike were Jim’s friends growing up.

When Julie decides to start dating again, the local dating scene was pretty slim until Richard walks into the picture. Attempting to sweep Julie off her feet, he lavishes her with fancy dinners, exciting dates, and expensive jewelry. Julie, always cautious, can’t help but wonder if she’s falling for him. But one person always stays in the back of her mind…Mike. Though it’s been clear he’s been in to her for a while, she wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea for them to be together- how would it affect their friendship?

Eventually Julie finally realizes that there was no chemistry with Richard, and that she should take a chance with Mike. Richard doesn’t take this very well… and that’s a huge understatement. But I don’t want to give too many details away yet, so all I can say is eventually, it becomes a race against Richard to keep Julie, Mike, and Singer safe.

Now, I’m definitely recommending this book. It’s a quick, thrilling read, and animal lovers will both love and hate this book, in a good way. I’ve already passed my copy along to a coworker!

 

 

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

This young adult, old-fashioned romance novel was a pretty quick and easy read. I pulled it off the shelf, noticing that horse racing in 1911 was mentioned, and thought between that and the romance drama, it may be a pretty good story.

We are introduced to the O’Leary family, owners of Irish Meadows, and Gilbert. After three long years, Gil returned to the home and family that took him in as young boy after his mother passed away, leaving him orphaned. With a passion for horses, he makes a stop in the barn only to run into Brianna O’Leary, his best friend and confidant in his youth. He knew Brianna always nursed a crush on him but neither had allowed more than friendship. Both grown, they can’t help but to still be attracted to each other. Later on Colleen, Brianna’s sister, welcomes Gil and through vindictive jealousy, takes aim to turn Gil’s attention away from her sister. While welcoming the return of Gil, the O’Leary’s also learn they are to welcome to house a distant cousin by the name of Rylan Montgomery. Rylan is visiting Long Island on an internship as he continues his journey through seminary. When Colleen is forced to pick him up at the train station, she can’t help but reprimand herself for admiring a priest. The plot thickens as we learn of the financial instability of Irish Meadows and the desperate attempts patriarch James O’Leary will do to keep the farm.

As much of a romantic as I am, I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the predictability of this story line. The internal conflict of the character’s thoughts are redundant- every other page is “Does s/he love me or not” and, all climactic conflicts between the characters are resolved with ‘changing my way’. The action is almost overly dramatic. I understand this is supposed to be held in 1911, but give the reader a break- reading the same disputes for 350 pages is annoying.

And on top of that, as a horse person, I wasn’t overly impressed by the equestrian commentary. Sort of “Saddle Club”-esque, in my opinion. So overall, it was something to preoccupy my free time, but not worth raving about or recommending.