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.

The Oregon Trail – Card Game

Apparently we were one of the fortunate ones who were able to grab The Oregon Trail card game this week.  Suddenly it is ridiculously hard to find and people are buying multiple copies and reselling for $40, which is crazy.

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We opened it up as soon as we got it home and decided to take some quick phone pics and I figured I’d write up a quick review.  The game itself is small (as you can see) and well worth the $10 it cost us.  We seriously lucked out and were able to not only buy the game a day early (someone whoopsied), but it was also on sale.  I chose names for us based on immature nostalgia because who didn’t pick silly names when playing the computer version?

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There isn’t a lot of game setup, and the rules weren’t terribly lengthy, but a tad confusing at times and also left a few things up in the air so we just went with what felt right when those situations arose.

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Thankfully our table appeared to be the recommended 3 feet need to complete the game… that is if anyone in our party actually survived the journey.  Considering there were only two of us, this seemed highly unlikely.

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While there is no hunting to be had, you still get to experience things like Extreme Cold and the other various illnesses that always popped up during the game, as well as broken wagon tongues and arms.

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I, of course pulled the Cholera card on what might have been my second turn.  Thankfully I had medicine in my supplies, but I also had a Town card and was able to get more medicine in the supply store. Phew!

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However, nothing could save me from Dysentery.  It was up to Josh to try and make it to Oregon.

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Alas, he forded a river only to succumb to a Snake Bite.  Our dreams of a brighter future out West were dashed to pieces and left to rot with the remains of our wagon in a desolate wilderness.

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Despite the game only lasting maybe 10 minutes, it was fun to play and definitely a good one to have on the shelf. Sometimes you just need a quick game that doesn’t take forever to set up and since it fits in a small box it’ll travel well too.  While fun, I really don’t recommend that people pay $40 on eBay for it. I have a feeling they’ll produce more and everyone who spent that much will feel pretty silly considering the game is really only worth the $10-$12 it’s sold for in stores.