Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: The Handmaid's Tale

Title: The Handmaiden's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Fawcett Books
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
395 pages
Release Date: 1986

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.
-taken from Goodreads

I've recently decided to expand my horizons here in NYC and get out there to try and meet new people. One of the ways I'm doing that is I've joined a book club! I'm very excited about it and the book for this month is The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

I'd never heard of this book, even though it appears to be very popular, especially in the feminist community. It's a dystopian story written before dystopian became the craze that it is now. What set it apart for me is that the big change in society only happened 3 years ago. Most dystopian novels I've read occur years after the world as we know it ends, but Offred (the main character) remembers a time when she had a normal life with a husband, a child, and a regular job. It was odd to focus more on the people involved in The Change* and what they would have to go through.

Offred's way of telling the story was kind of disjointed with rapid changes in topic and even a few different versions of one story. But I thought it worked - as a Handmaid, she had a lot of time on her hands, and whose mind doesn't wonder when you're just sitting with nothing to do? And also, who doesn't think of alternate endings to moments in your life? We do it all the time as humans, so it was interesting to see that aspect of human nature played out.

Offred was an interesting character in that she seemed both beaten down and yet strong at the same time. She's clearly given in to her circumstances and yet she's willing to go against the rules here and there...but only a little. I can't imagine her ever taking large steps in helping herself, unlike her friend Moira who rebels against everything. This is no hero story, merely a person telling you a story. In fact I would imagine the ending is very controversial with people either loving it or hating - I loved it. Although the end of the book startled me, I thought it was very appropriate to the tone of the rest of the book. In fact, looking back, I really should have seen it coming.

Well done, Atwood.

*official dystopian term

Buy it: AmazonBarnes and Noble

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: Matched Series

Title(s): Matched/Crossed/Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Series: Matched Series
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA/Dystopian
Release Date: 2010, 2011, 2012

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

-taken from Goodreads

Once again, I'm going to review a series as a whole instead of doing each book individually. When all the books in the series have already been published when I start reading them, then I usually finish them in under a week - it seems silly to post a separate blog post for each one 3 days in a row.

The Matched series was very interesting for me in that I finished it having no idea how I felt about it. I don't think I've ever finished a book or series and not been sure whether I liked it or not.

Matched, the first book, had me completely hooked from chapter one. The idea of every aspect of your life (from the food you eat and the clothes you wear to the person you marry and how many children you have) being decided for you by the government was so intriguing. I was fascinated by these people's lives and the way they seemed to just blindly accept everything they were told.

Condie does a wonderful job of making the reader see how easily our own world could turn into this one. As a result, the poignancy of Cassia's feelings toward creativity and what little art she's allowed to experience was amplified by my own feelings toward art - I couldn't help but think about how I would feel if I were limited to only 100 paintings or 100 songs. Thanks to our technological advances, our world has become indundated with art...anyone can write a story, sing a song, or draw a picture and thousands of people could see it online somewhere by tomorrow. The Matched series reminded me to try and truly appreciate the opportunities I've been given to be able to freely create and view beauty in my world.

I leave you with a quote from Crossed - it's my favorite little passage in the whole series because it's about love and it's so true.

"Everyone has something of beauty about them. In the beginning for me, it was Ky’s eyes I noticed, and I love them still. But loving lets you look, and look, and look again. You notice the back of a hand, the turn of a head, the way of a walk. When you first love, you look blind and you see it all as the glorious, beloved whole, or a beautiful sum of beautiful parts. But when you see the one you love as pieces, as whys—why he walks like this, why he closes his eyes like that—you can love those parts, too, and it’s a love at once more complicated and more complete."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Review: A Sea of Stars

Title: Sea of Stars
Author: Amy A. Bartol
Series: The Kricket Series
Publisher: 47North
Genre: YA
320 pages
Release Date: March 2015

Eighteen-year-old Kricket Hollowell was looking for her place in the world when she discovered that the universe was bigger—and more dangerous—than she had ever dreamed. Now, whisked across space to the planet Ethar, Kricket learns that her genetic ability to see the future makes her a sought-after commodity…and the catalyst for war between her star-crossed parents’ clans. According to Alameedan prophecy, one house will rise to power and the other will be completely wiped out, and Kricket’s precognition is believed to be the weapon that will tip the scales.

A target of both the Rafe and the Alameeda houses, Kricket finds protection—and a home—in the arms of Trey, her Etharian bodyguard-turned-boyfriend. But her visions of what’s to come disturb her deeply, especially since she must discover whether the gift of foresight will allow her to rewrite the future, or if her fate is as immovable as the stars.

-taken from Goodreads

This is the second book in The Kricket Series. I read the first one, Under Different Stars, months ago and really enjoyed it. It led me to read Bartol's Premonition series, which is all about angels and fallen angels and lots of other creatures, but I personally think The Kricket Series is a lot better. It's better written with stronger characters and just feels like the author didn't have to work so hard make a YA book relatable to teens.

The story involves a sister planet in another dimension that's similar to Earth. I loved the terminology Bartol came up with for this other world's vocabulary. There are lots of slang words and I can't even imagine how she came up with them. I love Kricket and her whole attitude of not allowing things to just happen to her. She takes control of her life as much as possible and gives in to circumstances when she knows she needs to.

This particular book, as opposed to the first book in the series, is packed with action. Literally packed. I think at least the first half of the book is nonstop craziness with no breaks in between. It was good in that it was fast paced but I almost had to sigh with relief when Kricket finally got a break from running around and got to relax for a just a second. Still, at least it didn't fall into the Middle Book Syndrome category. I enjoyed it just as much as the first, the storyline wasn't weak, and I can't wait for the last one to come out!