Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Once again - The Handmaid's Tale; Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale; Margaret Atwood
read by Claire Danes (excellent)

I first read this book back in January of 2010, but since everyone seems to be talking about the television series or the book lately, I decided to try it again, but this time on audio -- read by Claire Danes (who did an awesome job). Once again, I really enjoyed this book, which is clearly outside of the kinds of books I am normally drawn to -- happy reading surprise.  Below is my review from 2010.

Margaret Atwood's, The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead, formerly the US, a place now run by a conservative Christian dictatorship.  It is here where the men are in charge, everyone is being watched over, and all offenders of ANY laws are prosecuted.

The narrator, thirty-three year old Offred, is a "handmaid". (a handmaid is a fertile woman whose life is one of isolation. She is forbidden associations with other men or friendships with other women). Previously, Offred enjoyed life with her husband and child. She use to have her own job, own money, and own interests.  Since she is presumed fertile, the new leadership has taken away her child, her money and she is being offered to the Commander of the government as a "handmaid" for the purpose of being him a child.  With birthrates declining dramatically, women are prized only for their fertility and their ability to reproduce. They are forbidden to work, own property or even to (GASP) read. If no baby is produced within two years these "handmaids" are sent to colonies for "unwomen".

MY THOUGHTS - Can you imagine such a scary thought -- women being stripped of their identity and having their existence justified by their ability to breed? Without giving away too much of the plot, I'll just say that there is even a monthly "ceremony" ritual that made me scratch my head in disbelief. How about a repressive society where order is maintained by terrorizing its people?  A chilling, but thought provoking read that drew me in from the very first page. I did not expect to enjoy this book, however by the end I was amazed at what an effect this book had on me.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

I haven't seen the television series yet, have you? If so what did you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Kinship of Clover; Ellen Meeropol

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

Kinship of Clover; Ellen Meeropol
Red Hen Press - 2017

Chapter One

"The first time Jeremy saw the plants go crazy was at the cat's funeral, held in the family greenhouse crowded with teas and herbs and medicine-plants growing in pots and flats, their vines spiraling up wooden stakes against the walls. The air was earthy and moist and candles--dozens of them, hundreds maybe--shimmered and the plants danced in the flickering."

What are your thoughts on this intro? I can't wait to begin this one. The reviews seem very positive.

Monday, July 16, 2018

84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff
Penguin - 1970

This book was such a lovely, charming and even sometimes funny memoir. A story that began with a simple letter inquiring about the availability of some used books.  Helene Hanff lived in New York City and worked as a freelance writer, she initiates a book inquiry letter. Frank Doel, is a proper Englishman who managed a used book store, 84, Charing Cross Road in London, the bookstore where Helene's first letter is sent. 

Helene and Frank never meet but correspond for over 20 years. Initially their letters seem to be mostly about books, but as the years go by the letters begin cover a variety of topics.  Where Helene is often witty, Frank is generally serious and proper. It was wonderful to see how over the years their letters change and a very special friendship develops. I found the ending unexpected and sad but, I was so happy I finally decided to read this slim gem of a book.

I immediately decided to watch the movie version of this memoir, staring Anthony Hopkins and Ann Bancroft, and, although I did like the movie, I loved the book even more.

Here is a paragraph from of the letters that Helene writes that made me chuckle ---

"Trust you and Nora had a fine holiday. Mine was spent in Central Park, I had a month's vacation from Joey, my dear little dentist, he went on his honeymoon.  I financed the honeymoon. Did I tell you he told me last spring I had to have all of my teeth capped or all of my teeth out?  I decided to have them capped as I have got used to having teeth. But the cost is simply astronomical.  So Elizabeth will have to ascend the throne without me, teeth are all I'm going to see crowned for the next couple of years."

Have you read this book or watched the movie?

Rating - 5/5 stars

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Tin Man; Sarah Winman

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

Tin Man; Sarah Winman
GP Putnam - 2017


"All Dora Judd ever told anyone about that night three weeks before Christmas was that she won the painting in a raffle.

She remembered being out in the back garden, as lights from the Crowley Car Plant spilled across the darkening sky, smoking her last cigarette, thinking there must be more to life."

This book is just 213 pages and, although I've only read a few pages, I'm really enjoying the writing. What do you think, pass or read more.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders & the Birth of the FBI; David Grann

David Grann - Penguin Random House - 2017

In the 1870's the US government drove the Osage Indian tribe off their land to a small reservation in Oklahoma. 

Fast forward to 1920 and the Osage were some of the richest people in the world once oil was discovered on their land.  However, it wasn't long before members of the tribe were ending up dead. Some had been poisoned, murdered and others dead under mysterious circumstances.  Those who attempted to investigate also found their lives cut short. When over 20 members were killed, the newly formed FBI took matters into their own hands. The FBI uncovered until a conspiracy of vast proportion which revealed coverups, greed and other injustices done to members of the Osage tribe.

A moving, chilling, eye opening, well-written story that will stick with. The audio book was well done and narrated by Will Patton..

Rating - 4/5 stars

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Chalk Man; Tudor and The Outsider; King - a couple of creepy reads - mini reviews

 The Chalk Man; CJ Tudor
Crown and Random House Audio - 2018

I wasn't actually sure what to expect when I first started listening and also reading this book but, it wasn't long before it started to feel like a story Stephen King might write.  It had a small town setting, gritty, some nail biting moments and even a bit a horror.

The story begins in 1986 and follows Eddie Adams and his buddies as a young boys when the gang would draw chalk figures leading others to a particular location.  One day someone else leaves an unrecognized chalk figure drawing leading to a body in the woods.  Fast forward 30 years with the guys now in their 40's, when a letter arrives with a chalk figure drawing. The letter arrives while one friend is visiting another to work on a book about that terrible year, 1986. When a friend ends up dead with a chalk figure drawing attached to the body, finding the identity of the "chalk man" killer is critical.

The story alternates between flashbacks of 1986 and the present day, the characters are great, a nice dose of creepy and enough twists that led to an ending that I didn't expect.  This was a nice surprise by a new to me author, it's worth reading or listening  to for fans of creep fiction.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars
(eGalley and Audio)

The Outsider; Stephen King
Scribner - 2018

In this 58th King novel in the last 44 years, a young 11 year old boy is found brutally murdered. All evidence seems to be leading to Terry Maitland, an English teacher and youth sports coach.  Terry is a well respected, family man who seems like an unlikely suspect but, the evidence against him is strong.  Yet, there is one opposing piece of evidence that seems to contradict all the other facts that have been gathered including DNA.  How can this be? Has Terry been living a lie?

I loved the first half of this 500+ page novel. I also liked that the strong central characters from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy reappeared in this book.  I found myself quickly turning pages and thinking that King plot style was about to change and soften a bit but, then by the second half the old King style had returned with some blood, gore and supernatural elements at work.  I should have known better.  I loved the set up, the small town mystery elements and the characters but, I ended up a bit disappointed by the end -- don't get me wrong it was still worth reading just headed into territory I wasn't expecting.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July and a few short book reviews

Wishing everyone a peaceful day!

Right Behind You; Lisa Gardner
(Book #7 of the Quincy and Rainie Series)
Brilliance Audio - 2017

The story begins with when Sharlah May Nash was just 5 years old and living with her older brother Telly Ray and their alcoholic and drug abusing parents.  One terrible night, in an attempt to protect his little sister, the parents end up dead and the siblings separated in foster care.

Now 13, Sharlah is about to be adopted by FBI profilers Quincy & wife Raine, and the brother Sharlah hasn't seen is 8 years is on the run after he is wanted for questioning for the deaths of his foster parents and some store clerks.

While Quincy & Rainie try to protect Sharlah from harm, they try to piece together what has happened in the last 8 years to Telly.

Although this was book #7 of a series, it wasn't necessary to read the previous books to enjoy this one. There were good plot twists and it was a fun story to listen to on a recent road trip.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

 The Banker's Wife; Christina Alger
GP Putnam & Sons - 2018

A private plane carrying Swiss United banker, Matthew Weiner and his assistant crashes as they fly to Geneva.  He leaves behind his young widow, Annabel whose life soon turns chaotic when it appears she is being followed.  As Annabel delves deeper into Michael's business she soon realizes that that her life might just be in danger.

Back in New York, Marina is engaged to the grandson of a presidential candidate and, although she planned to stop working as a journalist, the unexpected death of her mentor makes her want to find out more.

Readers who enjoy political intrigue, international conspiracy and mystery might want to try this one.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

The Waiting Room; Emily Bleeker
Lake Union Publishing - 2018

Veronica Shelton is a children's book illustrator now suffering from postpartum depression. She hasn't even been able to hold her baby for the last 6 months so her mother has taken on that role.  She's in therapy as she's also dealing with the loss of her husband.

As things seem to be improving slightly, her infant daughter goes missing and Veronica becomes the prime suspect.

This is a story that hooked me immediately but, soon began to feel like just another story with an unstable, unreliable narrator.  I do think that readers who like twisty, psychological fiction might want to try this as it was a very quick read.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars