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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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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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.

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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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