The Handmaid’s Tale – Review

 

It’s no secret that The Handmaid’s Tale has become rather popular recently, despite being written 30 years ago.  Without getting into current political debates, I will just say that there are some interesting parallels and I can see why many women are deciding to re-read this novel or read it for the first time.

Okay, so… I find most dystopian novels really depressing so I don’t read that many – unless they’re YA because those usually seem less realistic to me and I can more easily separate myself from the book.  The Handmaid’s Tale is downright depressing overall.  The story is told by Offred and is a mixture of things she is experiencing presently and memories of her past. If anything, that was something I found to be the most interesting about this book.  Unlike many dystopian novels, Offred remembers the way things were and experienced them personally rather than just relating stories of how things were as told to her by others.  She was there to witness the division in time between Then and Now.

As for the representation of this new American society, it’s an extreme one, to say the least. Is it perhaps unrealistic that in such a short amount of time society as we know it could leap from what freedom women have now to having zero freedom and prized strictly for their ability to produce offspring… probably, but then again, maybe not?  At the heart of this new regime is religious fanaticism, which as history has shown can lead to great extremes which includes violence and misuse of power. Food for thought.

From Goodreads:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything dark and even longer since I’ve read a novel by Mr. King.  Right off the bat, I wasn’t sure if I could go through with it.  Did I really want these dark and gruesome images stuck in my head? I’ve really become a wimp over the years.  I pressed on, though, and I’m glad I did.

For starters, Mr. Mercedes is a thriller without any supernatural aspects as many of Stephen King’s books have. King has never been one to skimp on words, and he has always done a really good job when it comes to describing a scene. You aren’t left filling in a lot of blanks in your mind – there’s no need to. Perhaps that’s what makes it even more difficult when something horrendous happens, like the mass killing of a group of people in the very first chapter. I have a difficult time reading about violent occurrences that could happen in real life because I just get sucked into books so easily… and movies, and video games, and you name it.

The further I got into it, the more I didn’t want to put it down and became more immersed in the characters and the story.  By the final ¼ of the book, I didn’t want to stop reading and was trying to read as fast as I could to get through it because I had to know exactly how it turned out. I knew on some level that there would be a “happy” ending, but I didn’t know at what cost because, let’s be honest, you don’t really expect a skipping through fields of daisies ending in a Stephen King novel.

My conclusion?  I’ll be reading the next two books in the trilogy. There’s something about the characters that I really, really like.  Perhaps it’s a tad cliché to have the unexpected friendship between such unlikely characters, but I enjoy the charm of it anyway.

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

The Book of Speculation

I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t enjoy really long reviews whether it be for movies or books. I also don’t want too much to be given away and like sort of a mysterious and vague glimpse that gives me enough of an idea of whether or not I might like to read it. So, here we go. I probably won’t get around to talking about every book I read, but I’m going to try and do as many as I can. Like I mentioned before, I have a hard time remembering most of the books I read, so it’s helpful for me when I can’t recall whether or not I actually liked a book and why or why I didn’t.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The story overall was good and I enjoyed the writing and use of description in terms of location. You can easily see in your mind’s eyes the house slowly falling apart as the sea creeps in closer and closer and you can smell the salt in the air.  Water is a prominent and important character in this book as it tells the tale of a family of mermaids and what can only be a curse that has followed several generations.  While there is a sense of urgency in the story as the narrator attempts to save his sister from what he is certain is impending death, the pace itself is sometimes slow.

If you enjoy books about family, secrets, circus life (whether it may or may not be based on fact), some mysticism, the power of books, and a taste of fantasy then I recommend this. Ideally it would be the perfect vacation read, but really any old time would work.

I give it:

Goodreads Synopsis

A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother’s name. What is the book’s connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic

Book Review – My Grandmother…

So I’m trying something new… partly because I have a difficult time remembering what I’ve read, and I also like hearing what people thing about books I may want to read. I am no great critic and I make no promises that my reviews will astound you in anyway, but here goes. I do need to get better about taking notes whilst reading, though.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

by Fredrick Backman

I have mixed feelings about this book.  In the beginning I wasn’t even sure I’d keep reading it because it didn’t grab me in the way I want to be grabbed (more like a creepy too delicate hug when you want a passionate embrace). It was a slow burn with an occasional pop and crackle that would just keep my interest enough that I stuck with it, assuming that eventually there would be a burst of flames.

It’s a unique story in the way that it’s told, but I felt like the imaginative world often overshadowed reality too much at times and it wasn’t until a little over halfway through the book that I actually started to get into it and wanted to know what happened next. The imaginary world of Miamas is complex and in the beginning I became a little bored with it quite frankly.  Eventually it made more sense and the way the real world and Miamas were weaved together became more enjoyable and I appreciated it more for what it was.

Ultimately, I did end up enjoying it. Maybe I was even in the wrong frame of my mind when I began it and only appreciated it in the end because I persevered and my mood changed?  I think I may read it again to see… maybe next year.

The synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the internationally bestselling A Man Called Ove, a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

2016 Book Survey

I filled this out last year thanks to Jamie and now I’m joining in again!  I think this year I need to keep better notes so it’s easier to fill out.

Here goes!

Number Of Books You Read: 53
Number of Re-Reads: 0
Genre You Read The Most From:  Contemporary Fiction

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

So hard, but I’m going to say The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I love her books, but this one just fell kind of flat for me.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with this book and it did end up surprising me in a sort of eery and creepy way.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Hmm… I can’t think of just one book I really “pushed” on anyone this year… maybe The Name of the Wind?

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Best Series – Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Best Sequel – Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Best Series Ender – Winter by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles)

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

  1. E. Schwab (Shades of Magic)

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I didn’t really go outside my comfort zone this year. Something to remedy in 2017!

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas.

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

With so many books to read I don’t know that I’ll re-read any that I read this year, to be honest.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

Saga – Volume 1

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

I spent a lot of time with Clare and Jamie Fraser this year, so I’m going to say that they tie. Ha!

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

I cannot choose… Diana Gabaldon is so good with words.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero I think I actually need to re-read this and remind myself again.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

All of the Outlander books!!!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

How can you pick just one???

“Imagine what our world would be like if everyone loved themselves so much that they weren’t threatened by other people’s opinions or skin colors or sexual preferences or talents or education or possessions or lack of possessions or religious beliefs or customs or their general tendency to just be whoever the hell they are.”
― Jen SinceroYou Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn (Shortest)

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (Longest)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

I’m struggling to answer this one… I can’t think of one that really left me with this feeling, though. Bad, Blogger!

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

I’m so bad at these… I have no idea.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Ian and Rollo from the Outlander series.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously.

Can I just say anything in the Outlander series because those are my favorite reads this year. I promise 2017 won’t be all things Outlander. 😉

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Everyone kept talking about it and I doubted it, but ended up reading the whole series.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Malachi from the Irin Chronicles.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

Oh wow… I apparently only read four books from 2016 in 2016 and only one was a debut. Ha!  I’m going with The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Okay, I won’t go with my obvious choice here and will branch out. The Throne of Glass series is really well described, but I’m actually also going to go with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  She paints a very vivid picture with her words.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Even when they aren’t the best, I’ve been reading the Shopaholic books since the beginning and even when it’s over the top ridiculous, I always smile, so… Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

I feel like anything good I read isn’t a hidden gem.  I could tell you the potential pieces of poo to avoid, however. 😉

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Goldfinch brought out a lot of emotion and at times anger, as well as sadness and frustration. I won’t lie, it was a tad depressing.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

There’s actually a large stack of these that I will attempt to get through, but I should warn you now… 2017 is the year of all things Tolkien.  I’m re-reading The Hobbit and LOTR, but also going to be reading other Tolkien books as well and getting ready for Tol-Con 2017 in November!!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

Definitely Throne of Glass Book 6 by Sarah J. Maas.

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I’m actually looking forward to Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

The last Throne of Glass book!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

I want to be better about reviewing books and keeping track of them.  There are a few books where I can’t remember anything about them and yet I know I read them.  Books and related geekdom are going to be a huge part of my 2017, though, so we’ll see what happens!