The Handmaid’s Tale Review

Please note that there are some serious spoilers up ahead. Please do not read on. Stay away and do not continue. That’s it. Not for your eyes. Go away.

I’ve rambled on about The Handmaid’s Tale on my little blog before. I have had a lot of trouble with the violence it showed and the grotesque, horrific ‘punishments’ the protagonist endured. Still, I’ve been mesmerized by the book and, surprisingly, the show.

It’s rare that a show or movie can capture the soul of a book. The Handmaid’s Tale came close…until this season’s finale.

First, I should explain that the show has been so violent and so dark, that I was ready for anything happening as a finale. We’ve been following our heroine for 2 years but I was ready for her to die (she has come close several times) or be tortured (again) or dismembered or some other hideous form of torture. I had hugged my doggies and I was ready.

What did happened was almost worst than anything I had prepared myself for. Not because it was terrible, but rather because it made no sense. After two seasons of the show faithfully portraying the dystopian society drunk in its religious fervour, happily abusing and torturing our heroine, she refuses to escape and stays there.

What?, you say. Oh, I hear you. If her sacrifice to stay had served some purpose, I would have been on board. If it had made sense because of who our heroine is, I would have been on board too. But the only thing this ending serves is as a way to keep our heroine in the middle of turmoil and birth another season.

In other words. I’m not on board.

Oh. And I’m not scared any more either.

Image result for nolite te bastardes carborundorum

If interested, here are some other reviews of the show and the seasons both 1 and 2.

P.S. Isn’t it also little coincidental that the very house that Offred ends up in had not just a sympathetic Eye but a Martha that is part of the Mayday escape route?

Where I’m terrified

I’ve been watching a series for a year or so. It’s the Handmaid’s Tale and it’s terrifying. The show is so scary, I can barely stand to watch it. I almost get physically sick at the thought of what might happen.

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But I can’t stop watching.

I don’t like to tell people what to do. So I won’t start here. But if I could tell myself what to do, it would be to never start watching. I’ve read the book and it wasn’t as scary and awful as the show. And I never once thought, this could become reality, with the book.

With the show, it’s a thought that doesn’t leave my mind. And I think that’s the most horrific part of the entire ordeal.

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.

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.

Review: Victoria

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is not my usual genre of books. It’s the story of Queen Victoria from the time she became Queen to when she married Prince Albert. It’s written by Daisy Goodwin who has a degree in history from Cambridge and has written other New York Times bestselling novels all about historical figures. I have never read a book by Daisy Goodwin and I rarely read nonfiction. I picked this one up for a moment, read a paragraph and was hooked. I tried to put it down, I actually did slide it back on the shelf, then I walked away and I knew that paragraph would be haunting me for the rest of the weekend and I’d have to return to find out what happened.

I bought the book instead.

I’m glad I did because Victoria was just delicious. I’ve gone and done a bit of searching since just to see if it was accurate and the truth is Daisy Goodwin got all the facts straight. On top of that, she wove them into a wonderful story. That certainly takes talent.

One of my favourite parts about this story is the transition of Victoria from the shy, protected girl we meet at the beginning of the book to the Queen we have in the end. It was quite the transformation. Her mother kept Victoria ‘protected’ while she was a child by not allowing her to see or meet anyone. She was carefully schooled by people she chose and saw only those she approved, which meant that, by the time she was eighteen, Victoria was so sheltered she was very ill equipped to reign.

Her mother’s plan had been to make her daughter dependent on her and so reign through her, but Victoria refused to become her mother’s shadow and to bow to her wishes. Instead, she tries to do things on her own. How she manages to not only succeed but to do so well is the meat of the story.

Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in England until Queen Elizabeth II just surpassed her only a few years ago. She also married Prince Albert not out of necessity but out of love, something unheard of in that time period and had 9 children with him though she hated being pregnant. She was an incredible queen, something that was due to her determination, perseverance and talent because she started off with odds severely against her.

This isn’t a romance story, it’s historical fiction. But I was looking for something different. I like women’s lit and, in spite of the time period change, this is certainly the story of a woman coming of age and finding her purpose and role from a very challenging set of circumstances. It’s incredible how fast those pages turned when I read this book. It seemed to end too quickly.

I would absolutely recommend it. It’s got a fantastic story of triumph over adversity, historical facts, a love story and historical kings and queens all in one great book. Plus, it has a ton of intrigue but not a lot of fighting, which I adore. If you’re a fan of fiction or history, this one is a great one to try. If you do, let me know what you think of it.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)