Please note all the reviews found on this blog are simply MY OPINION on the books that I read. There are many people out there who will disagree with my assessment of a book and that is fine - read my review - decide for yourself whether or not you want to read the book. If you do read it, by all means comment on my review with your own thoughts on the book!! I was not an english major, I judge the books based on my own taste and opinions, so read them with that in mind! Debate and discussion on the books I read is welcomed and encouraged!!
Got a book you think I'll love? Let me know!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

ISBN: 978-0-7352-5330-8     Page Count: 358


"Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead.  She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read.  She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.  Offred can remember the days before, when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge.  But all of that is gone now ... " (from the back of the book)


I enjoyed this book in as much as any female living in 2018 could.  If you have ever read the book or watched the television series based on the book you should understand exactly what I mean about this.  Margaret Atwood is a famed Canadian author, so there isn't really much criticism I can give to her writing, except to say that I find her a tad wordy.  I do recall this to be her style from previous books of hers that I have read years ago in school.  Not to say that wordy is bad, it just makes the reading a little bit slower. 

Having said that, while reading this book a great many emotions were going through my head.

Anger - SOOO many parts in this book were infuriating (intentionally so).  Lets talk about some of them shall we.  Take the main characters name: Offred.  Not her name.  It is a combination of the word "of" (possessive) and the man to which this Handmaid is assigned (so Offred is the assigned property of Commander Fred).  When they are assigned to a new man, they are given a new name.  Property.  That's pretty much what these Handmaids are.  The fact that women are not allowed to read or write, so all words have been removed from any place where a Handmaid may see it.  Signs are simply pictures.  I can't begin to imagine a world where I was forbidden from reading and writing.  There is also the obvious - the rapes of the Handmaids themselves.  The rational used by those in power as to why it is allowed and how it is not to be seen as rape.  Even Offred herself mentions in the book that she can't really say she is raped because she "chose" this - chose in that it was either this or something far, far worse.  That's enough of anger - I'll leave the rest for you to come upon yourself.

Sympathy - I use sympathy instead of empathy on purpose, because to empathize with someone is to put yourself in their shoes, and personally that is something that I cannot do with Offred.  I have NO IDEA what it would be like to live that life.  I sympathize with everything she is going through - every horror - every mundane thing that we take for granted.  But I cannot empathize, for I cannot begin to imagine what life for a Handmaid might be like.  I suppose this is a good thing.  Although thinking about this in turn brings me back to anger.  Because although it may be hard to find someone in North America who has been through something like this, those women are out there.  In third world countries, but I'm sure, also in this country.

Terror - one thing that struck me throughout the entire book is how PLAUSIBLE this entire thing seems!  Let's make something clear, Margaret Atwood wrote this book YEARS ago.  Like years and years - long before the political climate we find ourselves in today.  Even so, the way she explains how the events in the story come about is eerily comprehensible.  Toxicity and pollution causing infertility and declining birth rates - isn't this already happening? (Obviously to a much lesser extent than in the book).  Political turmoil and a push by some to return to "wholesome family values" - again, I see this happening now, in news stories daily.  The reliance on technology that led to the quick and easy downfall of the modern society.  Again, I can totally see how this could all be possible.  The fact that Margaret Atwood wrote about these things soooo many years ago and with such accuracy is absolutely terrifying.

Anyway, I guess the main idea I am trying to get across is that this is definitely a book worth reading.  Just prepare yourself because while loving it, you will also HATE it.  And this is the genius of Margaret Atwood's writing.

Television tie-in:

This is another example of where I wish I had read the book before seeing the show.  After reading the book I found that the show was very similar, yet very different from the book version.  Allow me to explain.  As I watched each episode, I had the same flood of overwhelming emotions as I would later have while reading the book.  Each episode was horrifying and infuriating and cringe worthy all at the same time.

The acting in the show is amazing - it sucks you in to the story and keeps you hanging on every word for fear of missing any little thing.  If you were like me and watched it as it originally came out, you couldn't wait for the next episode to be released.  If you have not yet seen the show you are in luck - you are able to binge watch the entire series in one sitting - although with such disturbing content I doubt you will be able to stomach it all at one time.

There were a lot of similarities between the plot points in the book and in the television show - this makes sense seeing as Margaret Atwood herself was a contributor and writer for the show.  Having said that, the show takes many liberties with the book.  It expands a great deal on the events of the book itself.  Many of the things that happen in the show were at the very least mentioned or referenced within the story - although sometimes it is a very subtle one sentence mention, or the events happen to a different character than in the book.  Normally, I would not be a fan of taking such liberties, but considering the fact that the author herself helped to write each episode, I know that they did not take any liberties that Atwood did not agree with or see as part of her overall vision for the story.

The best/worst thing about the show is that it takes all the horrors of the story and puts them in your face, in living colour.  Things that were talked about in the book that you had a hard time comprehending or imagining because they are such foreign concepts come to life right in front of your eyes.  More than one episode gave me nightmares, I'll tell you that much!

The series ends at the same point as the story - with the exact same parting line in fact.  It is my understanding that there is to be a second season of the series, which I for one and really looking forward to, for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, I loved the show, and the book.  So to get more of the stories and characters is great.  Second, I hate when books end at a cliff hanger - a non-ending as I like to call them.  I am one of those people who likes the story to be wrapped up in a neat little bow - here is exactly what happened to the characters.  All loose ends are tied and no questions are left unanswered.  This book (and show) DEFINITELY do not do this for you.  Many, MANY questions are left unanswered, so the idea of a second season to continue the story is great.  Best of all, Margaret Atwood will be coming back to help write and produce the second season - which means her original vision for where the story would have gone, and what she thinks would have happened to the characters will be included.  It won't simply be some random writer or director deciding how the story should go - the original author is on board to help make the story continue on authentically and organically.

In summary, definitely read the book.  THEN, once you have read the book, definitely watch the TV series.  I don't promise enjoyment per se, but I do promise a good read, an emotional roller coaster, and serious thought provoking

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More to come!!

So as with my other blogs, this one kind of fell by the wayside.  I kind of knew it would - as this is the way I tend to be with writing.  But I am going to make an effort to get back into it and keep at it this time!!  I have read TONS of books since the last time I posted and I promise that as soon as I have a chance I will do as many reviews as I can.  Keep checking back - more to come, I promise!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

ISBN: 0-7679-1606-9 Page Count: 299


American writer Frances Mayes purchases an old abandoned villa in Italy and emerses herself in the renovation of her new home and the culture of people and places around her. A memoir of her experiences summering in Tuscany and discovering herself in the process.


I have very mixed feelings about this book. Italy is a country I have always wanted to visit and was very eager to read a book about a woman's experience living there part of each year. I feel a little disappointed now that I have read it. Considering that Frances Mayes is an actual writer and this book is about her life, I found it to be EXTREMELY dull and hard to get through. I am a fairly fast reader and if I am really into a book I can finish a book of this length (and even longer) in under a week. Under the Tuscan Sun took over a MONTH for me to get through. Every now and then I would get to a chapter, or a part of a chapter that was very well written and I felt like I was transported to Tuscany and seeing the Italian scenery through her eyes. However, those rare parts were few and far between longer, duller, harder to follow chapters on a variety of subjects. Switching topics, sometimes within the same sentence, I found it hard to follow her thinking and to see the picture she was trying paint for me because it was so muttled with details that didn't need to be included. Also, I found that she listed things a lot in this book, and intermixed English and Italian names for things, making it very hard to follow. For example, in one chapter she lists all of the churches that she visited, and by the end I have no idea what she was talking about BEFORE she started listing them. Also, occasionally she starts talking about something, which then reminds her of something ELSE from years ago which she then switches to talking about. Then she goes back to what she was originally talking about, but without telling you she was, so you are left wondering how the things are related and where she is going with it.

I don't know, maybe it was just me, and maybe if you are really into memoirs or travel diaries you will really like this book. And it's not that it was BAD, generally speaking it wasn't a BAD book, I just found it very hard to follow, which was disappointing because I was really looking forward to reading it.

Movie tie-in:

As with my other blogs, I have to appologize for not keeping up with this one. I have ready many books since my last posting and I regret not reviewing them. Interestingly enough, the last book I did talk about on my blog was also a memoir that was turned into a movie. I promise you, this is entirely accidental. I think this is actually the first memoir I have read since that one and it just so happens that today is the day I decided to pick up with my blog. What does this have to do with the movie tie-in? Well, just like the last posting, I saw the movie before I read the book, and, just like the last one, I LOVED the movie, not so much so the book. Now the movie I saw for the first time years and years ago when it was in theatres (2003 to be exact, thanks to a quick Google). I think I was still in high school at the time and the thought of reading the book probably didn't cross my mind (if I was even aware there was a book). I can vividly remember seeing the movie though. As I have mentioned, Italy is a place I have ALWAYS wanted to visit and seeing it come alive on the big screen was amazing. This movie was definitely shot to show the best of the countryside and all Italy has to offer. To be honest, after watching the movie I wanted to buy a villa in Tuscany too! (Infact, if I had the money, I probably WOULD). So lets just say I fell in love with Italy even more after seeing this movie.

Now, having read the book, I have come to the conclusion that movies need to better clarify how closely or loosley based they are on the books of the same name so that people are not surpised as I was. The book is NOTHING like the movie. Basically, the movie is about a woman named Frances who buys and restores a villa in Tuscany. ANNDDD that is where the similarities stop. I will admit that every once in a while during reading, I would come across a sentence (not a paragraph or a chapter, but a SENTENCE) that made it's way into the movie but it was a rare sentence indeed and often was taken completely out of context. Mayes herself even comments at the end of the book on a few of the sceens in the movie she mentioned in the book.

I don't know, maybe my expectations are too high when books are made into movies but you would think, ESPECIALLY with a memoir, that the movie would follow the same path as the book did, but not in this case. Like I said, I loved the movie, and unfortunately in this case if the movie more closely followed the actual book I don't think I would have liked it nearly as much as I did. Similarly, if the book was more like the movie it might have sold a few more copies. Just my opinion though. Ironically enough, after re-reading my last review (of Riding in Cars with Boys) my last paragraph is entirely relevant to this review, so as they say, no point in reinventing the wheel!! ->

In this particular instance, it really doesn't matter whether you see the movie first or read the book first because they are so vastly different that they are almost unrecognizable as being based on the same woman. Strange!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Riding in Cars with Boys by Beverly Donofrio

ISBN: 0-14-029629-8 Page count: 204


The catholic daughter of a police officer, teenager Beverly Donofrio finds herself pregnant and married to a loser - not the life she dreamed for herself. This book follows the life of Bev as she tries to make the best of a bad situation. Teenage pregnancy, divorce, drugs, college, and family all play a huge part in the woman Bev becomes and the son she never wanted.


The critics quote on the front of this book is this: "A classic. Unless you hate to laugh, read it now."

I have to completely disagree with this quote. I did not find this book funny - in fact, I don't think I laughed or even cracked a smile once while reading it. Does that mean it's a bad book? Definitely not! Quite, the contrary actually - I really enjoyed this book. I'm just letting you know that it is definitely not a comedy. I found this book to be extremely sad, and at some points, down right depressing.

Beverly Donofrio writes with a blunt honesty rarely seen in books. She was not afraid to write exactly what she was thinking and feeling, even though sometimes it did not exactly paint her in a great light. For example, she is very open about her bitterness towards her pregnancy and the fact that although she loves her son, he definitely was not wanted. In one part, she actually talks about wishing her husband would die before she was 35 because by then her son would be 18 and she could start her life over again. Not exactly the words of a perfect mother or wife. Not really something too many women would be willing to admit out loud, let alone put in print.

Overall, a brutally honest novel filled with the dashed hopes and dreams of a woman who found herself in a situation she never imagined.

Movie tie-in:

As a general rule, I prefer to read a book before I see a movie based on a book. In my experience, the movies usually don't compare to the book and sometimes if you haven't read the book, the movie is hard to follow and just doesn't make sense (I'm talking about you Twilight!)

This is one of those situations where I happened to see the movie first. Let me be honest, I loved the movie. I thought it was hilarious. Now, having read the book, I am a little confused as to how both the book and the movie could have been based on the same woman's life. Minor characters in the book become major characters in the movie, and major characters in the book are not in the movie at all. Also, major events in the book either did not happen in the movie, or were completely different - taking place in a different order or in different contexts.

Taken separately, the book is great and the movie is great. Compare them and some major continuity issues come up. So is the book the real story or is the movie how it all happened? I don't know. I almost hope the movie is the truth, just because the book is so sad and depressing, however, I think that probably the book is more accurate and the movie changed things to make it more interesting for audiences.

In this particular instance, it really doesn't matter whether you see the movie first or read the book first because they are so vastly different that they are almost unrecognizable as being based on the same woman. Strange!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Secrets of a Former Fat Girl by Lisa Delaney

ISBN: 978-0-452028924-6 Page count: 243


As a "former fat girl", Lisa Delaney takes you through the tips and tricks that helped her become a size 2. Tackling everything from exercise and diet to the mind games we play with ourselves this motivational book attempts to teach you how to drop the pounds for good.


I admit, this is not normally the type of book that I would buy, or even READ for that matter. However, as someone currently trying to lose weight, when I found this book at a used book store for only $2 I thought it might be worth a read.

Good Points:

There is actually some really good information in this book. For example, there are tips on activities you can do no matter how athletic you are, help with figuring out portion control, and lists of websites for further information. As a fat girl myself, there were actually several parts of the book that I could really relate to, and some of the stories she tells about herself and her life as a fat girl do sound familiar.

Bad Points:

With the above points in mind, there are also some absolutely STUPID suggestions in this book. For example, it suggests lying to your friends and family about your attempt at losing weight so that you don't feel "pressured" by them. While this may seem logical, for those of us with an eating problem, we need all the support we can get. And hiding behind lies isn't going to help us. We need to learn to deal with life as it comes.

Final Thoughts:

If you are the type of person who really gets a lot from self-help books then I'm sure you will really enjoy this book. Having said that, even if you are not really into self-help (like me) it is not a bad read - just take the advice with a grain of salt. Should you listen to everything this book tells you to do? NO! If you can read it and apply the parts that make sense in your life then it is worth the read. Take it or leave it really - I wasn't overly impressed with this book, but at the same time I wasn't overly disappointed either. Had I paid full price for this book, I may think a little differently, but I think I got my 2 bucks worth out of it.

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

ISBN: 0-7434-1873-5 Page count: 353


Nina Frost is an assistant DA who sees hundreds of cases of child abuse every day. But what happens when the abused child turns out to be her own? She knows the legal system inside and out, but what she does with this knowledge will shock you.


This isn't the first book of Jodi Picoult's that I have read and I will tell you right now, I really like her work. Therefore, this review might be a tad biased. There are definitely some books of hers I enjoy more than others and this happens to be one of them. There are several traits that all her books seem to have in common: 1) A main character with some sort of relationship to the legal system, 2) at least one major plot twist you don't see coming. Perfect Match is no exception to these rules. This is a very well written book that drags you inside the drama and keeps you up at night wanting to find out what happens next. I pride myself on being one of those people who can figure out the end of the book by the 4th chapter, but this one has several surprises that I just did not expect. It keeps you guessing until the very end.

Playing House by Patricia Pearson

ISBN: 0-679-31266-8 Page count: 280


Frannie Mackenzie is a Canadian living in New York City when she sleeps with a guy she hasn't known for very long. When he leaves the country for work, she travels home to Toronto to spend time with her family when she discovers she is pregnant. When a mishap with customs at the airport strand Frannie in Canada she tries to figure out her life, and how this new baby (and it's father) fit into it.


While there are some definite laugh out loud moments in this book - overall I found it to be extremely unrealistic and at times, ridiculous. Although the author is Canadian, her writing at times sounds almost like she is trying to make her characters seem British. As a Canadian myself I can tell you that there are several phrases in the book that I have never spoken, or heard said by ANY Canadian I have EVER met.

The characters in the book are easy to like, but sometimes it is frustrating reading about their lives because some of the things they say and do make no sense or are opposite to what they are trying to achieve. Their story does have a vague resemblance to a couple who have found themselves in such a situation, however they act like teenagers might and you are left with little sympathy for them because any logical person would not behave the way they do.

If you are looking for a quick and easy read, and don't care about things like continuity or character development then you might enjoy this book. Like I said, there are definitely funny parts in it, and it wasn't so horrible that I felt I couldn't finish it. But once I did finish it, I was more than a little disappointed. However, this is just my opinion - take it or leave it.