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.

Two reviews for the price of one!

My hubby was away, so I got busy reading. I found a couple of books at the used bookstore…completely different yet great in their own ways.

The first I read was “God is not great” by Christopher Hitchens.

(credit: goodreads)

I read it completely interested in his unique point of view and I found the book incredibly well written. Though I didn’t agree with everything he said (and that wasn’t the point of reading the book), I still found ‘God is not great’ a fascinating read.

Certainly, I don’t think religion poisons everything, as he claims but hearing about his point of view was very interesting. I have read a lot of books from devout believers and find those who oppose religion fascinating because they are so unique. Christopher Hitchens certainly fits that criteria.

He has also done impeccable research to support his point of view. His book covers most religions and practices and most holy books. Incredibly informative, the book was also so well written that reading was a pleasure simply for the vocabulary and sentence structure. I love reading a well-written book.

My second find at the used book store was Divergent by Veronica Roth.

(credit: amazon.com)

Divergent was delicious. It is YA and not my usual read but it was fascinating. It’s set in a dystopic future where society is divided into five factions to keep the peace. Each faction practices a way of life that matches their motto. For example, Dauntless are brave and that is their focus and goal in everything they do.

In that setting, young adolescents have to choose which faction they belong to and that was really interesting to me. I wondered what made someone choose one characteristic over another and what a world made up of one personality trait would look like. Tris, the heroine, agonizes over her choice and finally has to decide in very difficult circumstances.

The rest of the book, we follow Tris through the challenges she faces in her new faction. It might be make-believe but it was absolutely addictive and I certainly couldn’t put the book down. It was also the best companion for a weekend without my hubby while the dogs slept at my feet.

 

Though I would recommend both books, they’re certainly very different reads. If you do pick one up, let me know what you think and, as always, if you find a great read, share it with me. I love finding new books to read.

Two reviews for the price of one!

Okay, so they’re free. I just thought I’d do a ‘doubly’. I thought making it shorter and more compact might make it easier to read.

My first book is ‘First Star I see Tonight’ and it’s by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It’s a new one in the Chicago Stars series but it’s a perfectly good standalone if you want to pick it up.

Recap:

First Star I see Tonight tells the story of Piper Dove who is trying to be a detective. During her assignment, she spies on Cooper Graham, the Quarterback for the Chicago Stars. He catches her in the act and all mayhem ensues.

Reasons to buy it:

The dialogue is incredible. The comebacks, the lines, the quick jokes, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is known for her dialogue and this book doesn’t disappoint.

The characters are really likeable. From the tough Coop, to the determined Piper, they’re friendly, funny and yet quirky. Not a creepy, ew-inducing issue in sight.

Finally, the humour. I love a book that makes me laugh and this one did.

My second book is ‘Now that you mention it’ by Kristan Higgins. It’s just been released and, since I’m a big fan, I was waiting biting my nails for this one.

Recap:

Nora Stuart, successful doctor and specialist, gets hit by a car and ends up going back home to the teeny, tiny Maine community she left years and years ago. Back she goes to find her once quirky neighbours haven’t changed and she tries as hard as she can to mend relationships and her family. Along the way, she mends more than just that, which was fine by me.

Reasons to buy it:

I loved, loved the heroine. Nora wasn’t a hit in high school, she was a nerd. She wasn’t pretty or thin but she was smart and she used those brains to give herself a future. Being a doctor wasn’t easy but she did it. I loved that about her. She also had a wonderful doggie Boomer, who was immediately loved by yours truly.

The premise caught me right off. I love the concept of heroines who return to their tiny birth towns. I know it’s been done but I still find it awesome. I love the quirky characters and funny back stories. I would have loved to visit the island myself.

This wasn’t just a simple romance story. The main arc of the tale is more about the heroine mending relationships (including the one with herself) and owning her power, than about the romance. And, while she did it, she made me laugh. Awesome.

Note: If you’re interested in the books, click on the covers and you’ll go to the author’s sites.

Hidden Figures – Almost a Review

Really liked this review. A huge thanks to Trent for that wonderful post!

Trent's World (the Blog)

hidden-figures

A few weeks ago, I read the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I really liked the book and can’t imagine the movie covering one tenth the ground it did.  There is so much context and background in the book, and yet I know the author was still only scratching the surface.

This is not a review of the book (review = excellent.  Read it).  I just want to say something about the book, something that I thought about as I read it but that is even more relevant after the recent events in Charlottesville.

A lot of this book is about racism at its ugliest, but also how some people were able to rise above it, or perhaps “rise in spite of it” would be a better phrase.  A little background about how hard it was for people of color, and blacks in particular, to get ahead in…

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Review: Anything for You by Kristan Higgins

Anything for You is the fifth book in the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins. It’s the story of the other twin, Connor and the book that I couldn’t wait to read once I read Colleen’s story. Certainly it’s one of a series, but it’s also a fantastic stand alone book, so don’t let that deter you from this fantastic author.

Anything for You is Connor’s story. He’s been in love with a girl forever and then some. The only problem is that she doesn’t think they can work things out. So, Connor waits and hopes and waits.

Jessica met Connor when they were only little and in a terrible accident involving their dog and her little brother who happens to have special needs. Since then, they have both tried to move on and leave things be but couldn’t. Jessica in particular, has been busy trying to give her brother a good home, a supportive environment and a good income. In her mind, her brother, who has very special needs due to nothing he’s ever done, deserves to have things made as easy as she can for him. Since their parents were both alcoholics and completely unreliable, Jessica has taken it upon herself to give him the best future she can.

It’s not an easy situation for Jessica, she works without a break, moves them from a rental home to a more permanent house always, always putting her brother first. When Connor comes along supportive, loving and caring, it’s almost beyond her to push him away. She’s had a life of nothing but sacrifices. It’s almost inhuman to have to push her one love away.

But there are issues to work out and her brother is only one of the problems standing in their way. Their father suddenly reappears in town interested in establishing a relationship with them, there is someone at work creating trouble for Jessica and Connor wants more than a simple relationship from her. He wants forever.

The way these two work things out is yet another triumphantly beautiful story by Kristan Higgins. The town is fast becoming a favourite of mine with those lovely, hilarious secondary characters and their antics made me laugh out loud more than once. Still, they are secondary to this lovely story and finally, Connor and Jessica do get their happy ending.

Absolutely another book I’d recommend from Kristan Higgins. She’s truly a very special writer, one that can weave sadness and humour into her stories without belittling the struggles or dimming the humour. Her books are a great choice and I have yet to read one of hers that’s a dud. Still, this one is truly special, so if you’re looking for a great read, one that will take you in and introduce you to a great set of characters while telling you a beautiful love story, look no further.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: Click on cover to go to site.

Something unusual this way comes…

So I was at the book store yesterday and I strayed away from my beloved Romance section. It might have been the weather, the helpful clerk or my third cup of coffee but something possessed me and I ended up with three lovely books that are nothing like my usual reads.

Still, can’t wait to read them!

If we were having coffee…

(credit:7 Themes)

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how yours is. I was at a coffee shop only yesterday and got a terrible cup of java that made me regret ordering it. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who hates to complain…so I just added more milk and drank as much as I could. I wasn’t about to critique the efforts of the poor teen behind the counter.

(credit:Church Designer Magazine)

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I just finished reading ‘On Second Thought’ by Kristan Higgins and I absolutely loved it. It’s the second book I read from her that’s a little different from her usual books and I think it’s only an improvement. The last two books have been an almost mix of chick-lit and romance and I think Kristan Higgins has hit it out of the ball park with each of them. I hope she writes more like these and soon. They were awesome.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that our garage is almost done and I was actually able to put my Jeep inside today…and it stayed dry. My husband and I spend a delightful 20 minutes sweeping the inside and just enjoying the place. I know, sweeping? But the entire garage is empty, dry-walled and looks super clean and tidy. Sweeping it was an excuse to just admire every corner and inch.

(credit:java-nation.com)

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that yesterday we had a terrible storm. So bad, I stayed up watching the radar online for the obvious tornado until I was so tired, I couldn’t care less if a funnel cloud or the Rapture was coming.

How about you? How are things on your end?

The Weekend Coffee Share was created by Part Time Monster and is now hosted by Nerd in the Brain.

Review: Still Alice

This is another unusual read for me. I picked up this book and got caught up in the premise. What happens when a renowned Harvard professor gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. How does she cope? How does her family cope? How do priorities change and how does the way they relate to each other change?

Alice Howland is that Harvard professor. She’s known far and wide for her knowledge and insight. She leads a very busy, fulfilling life with her husband, also a hard-working professional and their three grown children.

We meet her as she’s rushing from one conference to another, presenting here, lecturing there. She’s professional, intelligent, able to multitask…and then she can’t remember a word at her presentation. It’s nothing that hasn’t happened to everyone at least once, but it keeps happening to Alice. Then there are the little things that she just can’t find and one day, she gets lost while running the same, familiar route.

Not being stupid, Alice realizes something is wrong and goes to check it out. The doctor not only confirms something is wrong, he explains it has probably been wrong for quite some time, she has just been able to cope because she’s very intelligent and she hasn’t noticed.

Once Alice finds out her diagnosis, the book becomes a map through the coping mechanisms of Alice and her family. We get to see it all through Alice…though she isn’t always the most reliable witness and gets worse as her illness progresses. She forgets who the characters in the book are and, at times, we have to decipher where she is or who she’s talking to from clues in her description.

The relationships in the family change with the illness. The relationship that I found most interesting was the one with her youngest daughter. Alice’s most troubling daughter, Lydia slowly becomes a supportive ally. Alice has to learn to think differently when she can’t simply use dialogue and words to analyze others. And through her new lenses, she sees things in Lydia that she had missed before.

This is definitely not a romance book or something I would normally read but I found it fascinating. One, it was really realistic. I could tell the author had done her research on the disease. Two, it was paced really well and we went from not knowing to knowing, organically and smoothly. And finally, the writing was magnetic. I really couldn’t put the thing down. I wanted to know what was going to happen and what the result would be for Alice.

Certainly, it’s not a book I’d recommend for someone searching for romance. It’s a book I’d recommend for someone looking for an interesting, quick, captivating read. It’s a story of a family coping with a life-changing event and how their relationships alter and change as they do. The book’s portrait of the illness is respectful but still manages to carry a punch in the story. All of it added up for a great read for me and explains why the book became not only a New York Times Bestseller but also a movie.

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: The hour I first believed

A friend of mine loaned me the book, The hour I first believed by Wally Lamb. I had to have it read quickly because she needed it back. At over 700 pages, it’s not a tiny book, still I gave it a go…and I got hooked.

It’s odd because this, again, is not my type of book. I’ve never read Wally Lamb and the characters suffer so much that I wanted to stop reading; I’m a big wimp when it comes to characters not being happy. But the story and the writing refused to let me go. This book haunted me for the two days it took me to read it.

The story is about Caelum Quirk who starts out as an unhappy man in his third marriage, stumbling around life and not being very successful at living it. Then, while things around him unravel, Caelum slowly starts to confront the knots that are keeping him prisoner in his own life.

A lot of books are great stories, but few are an amazing experience. This one is. I can see why Oprah would have chosen this author as one of her favourites and picked his books a couple of times. I can see why he made the Bestseller list.

Wally Lamb manages to write the ordinary, haphazard occurrences of Caelum’s life into a masterpiece of miracles. Along the way, Caelum is transformed. His beliefs and doubts have completely changed. And, as the reader, I got to see it all.

His wife, Maureen is a nurse at Columbine when tragedy struck. This book is based on that fact but the story is only born around it. Maureen suffers from severe PTSD and becomes one of Caelum’s challenges. Along the way, Caelum meets other characters who teach him and push him further along his journey.

There are many things that I absolutely loved about this book. Though I had to read it quickly, I can see how sitting with it and savouring it would be divine. It’s got details and little nuances that need to be noticed along the way. Nothing is really left to chance, this book is written carefully and with clear attention to detail. It took the author 9 years to write and, in my humble opinion, it was worth every moment of those years. From the tone of the narrator, to the pace, to the twists and turns, this is a book to cherish.

(credit: goodreads.com)

 

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

It’s happened to me before, I grab a book and, a few pages later, I have to buy it. Well, it happened again. This time it was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s a negative dystopian novel, so definitely not my usual read but it was still incredibly addictive. I couldn’t put the thing down.

It was also terrifying. I dreamt about the book for two nights in a row.

Without giving too much away, the story is about Offred who is a Handmaid in the future of the US. In this setting, humankind is suffering from the inability to have children and, among other things, they have forced women who have working ovaries into being surrogates.

I say among other things because the entire civilization is incredibly controlled. With high-level monitoring, people only have to say the word and a black van comes and takes someone away. The entire country runs on a mixture of cultish religious mix and political agenda that’s really scary.

To better subdue the women they capture into willing handmaids, the women are taken to a centre where they get a dose of brainwashing mixed with a healthy amount of ‘religious beliefs’ and some physical torture to finish the deal. Everything from their name to their rights are completely taken away. They are named after the couple they are given to and are to pray that they get impregnated quickly so they can bear their couple a healthy baby.

The Handmaid’s Tale is part warning, part narrative. Offred is our guide through this terrifying world. She’s trying to survive so that she can find her daughter (also taken away) and escape.

I loved how well thought out the world was. Pretty much everything from the shopping stores to the clothing was carefully designed to fit into the story and it completed the picture perfectly. I particularly loved their dialogue and scripted answers to greetings. It depicts cults perfectly and gives a very real impression of what total control of government/cult can look like.

I also have to add that the book was actually written in 1986, where computers, the web and all our technological advances were mere figments of the imagination. The book still does a very competent and accurate projection of what the future will look like. There were no jarring shocks of mistakes along the lines of computers or technology.

To boot, there’s a new series on TV based on this book running right now and it’s getting great reviews. I saw the first episodes of it and it seems like a great adaptation of the book; really faithful to the writing and storyline.

So, absolutely, this one is a book I’d highly recommend. If you’re into dystopian society or just interested in a fun, entertaining read, check it out. I honestly couldn’t put the thing down until I had read the last page. It was mesmerizing.

(credit: amazon.ca)

Note: click on cover to go to site.