Review: Vox

Just finished it last night and the scary after taste is still with me. Vox is one of those books that I picked up, read a paragraph and couldn’t put down. It gripped me and refused to let go in the best sense.

It’s written by Christina Dalcher who holds a PhD in theoretical linguistics and that knowledge becomes evident as the book carries on. The author understands just how important language is and what it does to the human mind if it is forbidden. The consequences are dire and terrifying.

Vox is a dystopic story set some time in the near future in the USA. The main character is Jean, a wife and mother who, like all women can’t say more than 100 words a day. Well, she can but the consequences are horrific. Each woman and female child has a device on their wrist that counts those words and administers an increasing level of electric shock when they pass their limit. That limit does get reset each and every night but they only get 100 and that’s it.

The set up is pretty reminiscent of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that women are suppressed and men have all the power. It also suggests that this has happened because of a mix of politics and religion so the US is now a theocracy. There are innumerable police and enforcers, all men, who suppress the women and there are new versions of schools for girls where they get rewards for being quiet and are taught how to be dutiful, housewives while the boys are brainwashed by courses on ‘theology’ that teach that God created man above woman and the ignorance of that rule caused all the world’s problems.

I loved this book. Jean’s arc from naive witness to heroine is believable and terrifying. I liked her from the get go and the story only endeared her further to me.

But the book was terrifying. I guess reading about a dystopia while Covid-19 is shutting schools, businesses and normalcy is out the window wasn’t the smartest thing. But I couldn’t help it; this book was incredibly addictive.

The reaction of her children from silly, lovable little ones to brainwashed pawns and the transformation of her little girl were devastating to read. If there had been a dog hurt in the book, I would have been able to put it down but that wasn’t the case. It was terrifying because it was something that I could see happening very soon.

Still, the book ends well. There is a happy ending and sanity returns. Still, it is most definitely a page-turner. There was no way I was putting this thing down until I knew what happened.

Of course I would recommend this book. It is an incredible read and really well written but I would recommend it because of some very specific reasons. One, it is so easy to get into it, I defy anyone to read two pages and be able to put it down. It’s that yummy. Two, It’s a topic that needs to be read and understood. We can’t let something like that future happen to us or our children. And three, it was simply a great, enjoyable read. The characters are awesome, the story is really great and fun.

If you are a fan of the Handmaid’s Tale, or like dystopic stories, this one is for you. I would also recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers and suspense because it was definitely that as well.

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Review: On second thought by Kristan Higgins

I loved On Second Thought. It caught me since the beginning and I simply couldn’t put it down; in fact, I stayed up late into the night to find out what happened, cried and laughed until the end. It’s one of those reads that you’re glad you bought because you know you’re going to read it again and again.

On Second Thought is technically a romance but it’s more the story of two sisters and how they cope with tragedy. They’re pretty different duo but still very likeable. I could relate to both and it was a joy to read how they got through difficulties and coped.

Ainsley is a happy-go-lucky, full of energy and always ready to help those around her. She has a huge heart and won’t take a minute to feel sorry for herself. Instead, she throws herself into helping others, including her old Grandmother and those around her. She has a job she’s not enjoying and still manages to have a smile on for everyone. More than that, she’s hilarious and I laughed out loud at what she thinks and does.

Kate is more intense but gentle. She’s hit with a devastating blow and is determined to not have things fall around her. She won’t collapse, determined to keep things together even in the face of pretty overwhelming tragedy. Kate keeps trying and I cried at her determined selflessness.

Both sisters need each other. It’s actually quite beautiful how the story weaves their personalities into a cohesive common story. They lean on each other and come out the better for it. Their relationship actually brings out the best in each of them.

There is romance in this book but it’s definitely in the background. The story focuses on these two women and how they grow to accept the harder cards that life has given them. Their interactions and reactions to things are what make the book move. There are really quirky and funny secondary characters but I loved the sisters from the start.

This is a book I would recommend to a variety of readers. It’s a definite read for those who enjoy romance but it’s also a very good read for those who like fiction, women’s lit or simply a good story. I really like Kristan Higgins and this is a great example of why she’s a New York Times Bestselling Author.

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Review: The shape of family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I got this book as a recommendation…again. It’s a book about a family and what happens to them when tragedy strikes. I didn’t know the author or the book or anything about the story. I just picked it up and read the first chapter and was hooked.

More than anyone else in the family, I related to Karina, the daughter who struggles to find find herself and discover who she is. I loved how determined she was and how hard she worked at her studies. Having always been a type-A personality, that part of her, caught my interest right away.

The book is not just Karina’s story, however. We learn about the father and mother and her brother, Prem. They too grow through the book and I found their stories interesting to say the least. It was nice to see that adults too struggle to cope and are also growing themselves.

More than anything else, the book is a tale about how a family, that encounters a huge tragedy and has to learn to reinvent itself. People have to live in different ways, connect in different ways and redefine who they are. That sort of adjustment is huge and not easy. It takes years and lots of trial and error to figure oneself out. I loved that The Shape of Family gave that growth an authentic, serious portrayal.

I would definitely recommend this book. It’s not only written by a bestselling author but it’s a wonderful story. I loved the writing and the rhythm of the book, stealing me away and keeping me hooked until I turned the last page. If you like stories about families, about growing up and stories about trying to belong, this one is a great book to try.

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Review: The family upstairs by Lisa Jewell

The family upstairs is a mix of mystery book and family saga. This isn’t my usual read but lately, I’ve been straying from romance and trying new things. This particular book was a last minute recommendation as I left the bookstore and I’m glad I picked it up.

For me, the best part about the book was how quickly it caught my attention and refused to let go. The heroine, Libby finds a letter in her mailbox that simply changes everything for her and this is what starts the plot of the book. I loved Libby from the start. She’s intelligent, cautious, eager to know things and pretty reasonable. She doesn’t do foolhardy things that some heroines do in some movies or books that drive me crazy. Libby was interesting from the start and I didn’t want to close the book and not know what was going to happen to her.

This is a family saga book and the story threads include more than just Libby’s story. Since I don’t like to give away parts of plots of the book, I won’t explain too much here but I will mention that it was delicious because it told the story of a family and what happened to each member. Parents and children made serious decisions with serious consequences and I got to watch it all.

Since it was a mystery, there were twists. Now, I have to be one of the worst people to predict twists in movies or books; I can’t even foresee them coming in a Disney movie, let alone a book. So, to me, the twists were shocking, amazing and a complete surprise. There was even a point where I simply put the book down and stared at the words in disbelief. True, I’m pretty gullible, but I thought the twists were absolutely genius.

Definitely not one of my usual reads, it is still a great read that I inhaled in under 3 hours. I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in mysteries or family sagas, or even anyone who likes a book that is a page turner. I had never read anything by Lisa Jewell but this one was a definite hit.

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Top reads of 2019

If you happen to have extra time and want a good read, here are the recommendations from the top book sellers both in Canada and the US.

Chapters’ top 50 books of 2019 are here. I can personally vouch for number 2 as I have read it and found it outstanding.

Barnes and Noble’s top 100 bestsellers of 2019 are here. Super exciting to have that reference list and links to know a bit more about those books.

Good Housekeeping has their own list here. And there are some that are included in all three. Those must be amazing!

Do you have a favourite book of 2019 to recommend? Mine would have to be the Testaments. I just absolutely loved it.

The Testaments: A Novel by Margaret AtwoodWhy am I rambling about this now? Well, I’m planning to sneak to the bookstore tomorrow. Hubby is at work, you see and I’m free to play…I’m thinking Chapters and a lovely cup of coffee. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

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Where someone doesn’t like a book and I loose my noodles

I think I might have rambled on and on about how much I loved the book The Testaments. I might have just said a word or two. Or three.

Well, I ran into someone at work who…well, who didn’t like the book.

Now, things would have been fine if they had stated their opinion. I can agree to disagree with the best of them. But they had to put it down. They kept saying things that the book needed and should have included and how it wasn’t this or that or the other thing.

Yeap. I almost lost my noodles.

 

Review: The Testaments

I wanted to read this book almost as soon as I heard it was going to be written. The trouble with that is that I built it up in my head so much that I feared the reality couldn’t possibly match my wishes. Not only did the book meet my expectations, it surpassed them incredibly. This one is a keeper for years and years to come.

The Testaments is Margaret Atwood’s latest novel and one that she refused to write for over thirty years. It completes her earlier work, The Handmaid’s Tale. In an interview, she explained that the reason she decided to write it was that: “Instead of going away from Gilead, we turned around and started coming back towards Gilead.” She’s dead on.

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Timing is just right for this book. It might not have hit us the same way 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. But, right now, it’s an incredibly pertinent and important document to read. And, such an amazing piece of writing.

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Timing wasn’t, of course, what I loved most about this book. I picked up the hardcover (and I never, ever buy hardcovers) and read two paragraphs…and I knew I had to buy it. I loved, loved the content, the tone and the way she wrote, almost immediately.

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The book is written by different narrators-that I won’t explain so as to not ruin it for others. Each perspective has a very different perspective into the life in Gilead and each is rich with information, history and flavour. Eventually, without giving away too much, things merge and out of it comes, finally, the conclusion to the Handmaid’s Tale.

I loved each of the different perspectives. I was fascinated with the theocracy that Margaret Atwood had created. I thought it was authentic, brutally realistic without becoming overdone, and showed astute insight into human nature. As I read, I couldn’t help but to agree with the narrator’s logic and choices. As horrific as Gilead was, I could understand what transpired in the book, I could see why they had done the terrible things that they had done. It made logical sense.

It was also fascinating that the narrators didn’t destroy the mystery or the twists that happened in the book. I was left hanging, desperately hanging, at the end of each chapter, not knowing what was going to happen next.

I have many beefs with some books where characters step out of character, where rules that were once inviolable are suddenly broken, where the remnants of the plot are artificially twisted into a semblance of order at the end. I was so relieved that this book did none of those things. The ending was realistic and fit a grim and very plausible storyline. The characters stayed true to their beliefs, personalities and history. And nothing impossible according to Gileadian rules happened.

Better still, I was hooked. This is a book I read in bits of time stolen while my husband and I tried to get our house listed on the market. I snuck that book into work, tried to read while people talked around me and even moved important things aside so I could read it. It was addictive in the most delicious sense. If I could design heaven, it would be filled with books just like this one.

I absolutely recommend it. If you’re a fan of dystopian novels, female fiction or suspense, this book will fit you like a glove. You do not need to have read The Handmaid’s Tale to get hooked either. Try a couple of paragraphs, I bet you’re like me and can’t put the thing down. It was magical.

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New exciting book

Margaret Atwood is a very famous name around here. Not only is she a well known author, she’s Canadian.

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She’s also the author of The Handmaid’s Tale – a very successful book and a great TV series.

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Now, the reason for this post is that she’s just come out with the sequel to the book. People have been waiting for the sequel literally for decades and Margaret Atwood always said she wasn’t going to write it. Now, however, she has changed her mind.

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I, for one, can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on this one. Yum!

Here’s the thing

I’ve been watching this show called ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. Its based on the novel by Margaret Atwood of the same name. It’s a dystopian novel set in some future date and, unlike those dystopian movies for kids, things aren’t better. They’re really, really worse.

Now, I’m going to talk about this show and disclose something that happens in it. So, those of you who haven’t watched it and are thinking of doing so, please skip this post. There’s a spoiler coming up. So scoot away. Don’t read on.

Are you still here? Scoot! I’m telling you, there’s spoilers coming! Run! Run away!

Okay, now that it’s just us, let me tell you what’s going on. This series is pretty shocking and there are some terrible things that happen, horrible, violent things. Still, the story is sooo compelling that I couldn’t stop watching.

Until a week ago.

The episode (here’s the spoiler) showed the heroine being raped. I just can’t explain how horrible that was. I couldn’t, couldn’t bear it. It made me rethink watching the entire show.

Don’t get me wrong, I know horrible things like that happen and I know it doesn’t do them justice to gloss over them when they’re in a show. I do get that. I just can’t handle violence, be it against animals or humans.

So…I’m admitting I’m a complete and utter chicken and I don’t know if I can watch this show.