Review: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, I can see why this dystopian classic has made such an impression on so many. This is a book that definitely hangs with you, haunting your thoughts, long after you finish the book. It is thought-provoking and terrifying.

The story centers on the heroine, Offred, who is a “handmaiden” in this futuristic world created by Ms. Atwood. As a handmaiden, Offred’s sole purpose is to produce a baby for the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Once she has served her purpose, she will be reassigned to another high-ranking man for the same purpose. This pattern will repeat over and over, until she is no longer able to bear children. What happens then, nobody really wants to talk about. Worse yet, if she fails to produce a child then she will face a fate reserved for the lowliest of women.

This is the world that Offred and others are left with after a brutal civil war stamped out the rights that citizens like Offred had taken for granted. The overthrow of the democratic government was gradual…until it wasn’t. The changes that took place were very insidious.

One moment, people like Offred were consumed with trivial problems, like where they were going to go out for dinner that night. The next thing they knew, a civil war was raging. Soon, their every movement was monitored closely. Of course, this was for their own “protection” and “safety”. Then, women weren’t allowed to hold jobs or manage their own money. (After all, the poor little dears shouldn’t have to bear that burden. A man should handle those sorts of things.) Next, anyone that dared to oppose the new regime was eliminated. Before long, citizens like Offred cannot even recognize their new reality. They are stuck under the rule of an incredibly oppressive, misogynistic regime.

Worst of all, their complacency paved the way for this gradual overthrow. Little by little, they handed over their rights with little resistance. They refused to see the writing on the wall and wanted to believe the lies that they were spoon-fed. Once they wised up, it was too late. Now, they are a people broken. Women, especially, face a grim fate.

This book is remarkable! Although it can be rather slow-moving at times, the message was powerful. This story serves as a cautionary tale and a necessary reminder. Civil rights are hard won and easily lost.

It is easy to draw comparisons to many of this books’ events and the events of the past and present. Ms. Atwood highlights many important issues and offers a great deal of social commentary. There were so many important topics that she touched upon that I can’t even begin to list them.

This book is considered to be a classic for a reason. It is a book that needs to be read and taken in by readers. While it isn’t necessarily the most entertaining read, it is certainly one of the most enlightening and thought-provoking. I highly recommend that everyone read this book, at least once.

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Review: The V Girl: A coming of age story, by Mya Robarts

The V Girl: A coming of age storyThe V Girl: A coming of age story by Mya Robarts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I knew it would deal with some pretty “heavy” subject matter. After all, the blurb is pretty forthcoming about the fact that rape is commonplace in this futuristic world that Mya Robarts created. While it proved to be every bit as gut-wrenching as I expected, there were also more moments of simplistic beauty than I had anticipated.

Given the dark, gritty and downright gloomy existence that the heroine lives, these few exquisite moments provided her with the inspiration necessary to keep living another day. For the reader, they served to keep the story from becoming so depressing as to not be enjoyable. Even in the darkest of times, there is light to be seen if you look hard enough. Finding that light is the essence of the human drive to survive against all odds.

Lila Velez was a girl that managed to find the light in a very dark world. Coming of age in her town meant being eligible for recruitment by the army. While this sounds deceivingly honorable, don’t let the fluffy language fool you. “Recruitment” is really a nice way of saying “rape” that is completely legal and sanctioned by the government. There is nothing nice about it or this life that Lila was born into. It is raw, brutal and horrific.

If you can picture that, then you can imagine the morose feeling that pervades this book. The vast majority of this book takes place in the months preceding the recruitment ceremony. (Yes, they actually have a big ceremony to celebrate these traumatic, and very public, mass rapes.) There was a strong sense of impending doom and the clock ticked down to the time that Lila would face a certain and brutal rape.

Fully aware of what the future holds in store for her, Lila is determined to take control of her own first sexual experience–to the extent that she can when she is faced with an ever-shortening timeline. She sets out to lose her virginity before it can be taken from her. She has no illusions of romance, but refuses to let the soldiers take that part of her. At least she can be sure that her first time will be with someone that she cares about, even if it isn’t with someone that she is in love with.

When Lila’s best friend, Rey, first turns her down, she is disappointed but not deterred. She is certain that she will be able to convince Rey before the troops arrive in their town. If she can’t she is sure that she can find somebody. After all, anyone would be better than the soldiers.

General Aleksy Furst immediately takes notice of Lila when he arrives in town. An awkward, rather comical, first meeting ensures that he won’t soon forget Lila. Despite her initial protests, Lila eventually comes to consider Aleksy’s offer to rid her of her virginity.

While reading this story, it was easy to draw many parallels between this fictional futuristic dystopian America and factual past and present war crimes of the world. This book forces readers to evaluate their values and sheds light on many unpleasant truths that are not discussed in polite society. From homophopia, rape, government-sanctioned war crimes, genetic modification, gender-specific roles to hypocrisy, this book touches on so many controversial topics that I couldn’t begin to list them all.

That is really what makes this book so moving and memorable. Of course, I enjoyed the love story that evolved between Lila and Aleksey. However, the beauty of this book was in it’s ability to make readers think about these controversial topics. The best books are those that force us to reevaluate our beliefs and behaviors, sculpting us into better, more compassionate, individuals. This is one such book.

While this book certainly isn’t a feel-good type of story, I highly recommend it. Like ‘1984’ and other dystopian classics, ‘The V Girl’ is a thought-provoking social commentary. I especially liked the questions for discussion that the author included at the back of the book.

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Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1), by Amie Kaufman

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This book certainly took me by surprise. I’m still digesting exactly what transpired in this book.

‘Illuminae’ was unlike anything that I’ve read before. For starters, I’m not a big Science Fiction fan. However, this story had a strong romance element and so it managed to draw me in and hold my attention. That being said, I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone with this book.

The writing style was also very unique. The story is told through the transcripts of recordings, e-mails and other communications between various characters. Admittedly, this style took me quite a while to get used to. Yet, once I adjusted to this unique perspective, I was completely hooked on this story.

‘Illuminae’ tells the story of battling mega-corporations in the future. They are fighting over a speck of a planet at the edge of the universe, with little regard for the lives of the people that are caught in the crosshairs.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are two of those people. High school sweethearts, the two had just broken up the morning that their worlds would be turned upside down. They find themselves under attack and fighting for survival.

In the wake of the attack, the world that they knew is changed irrevocably. A virus has broken out amongst the survivors, turning friends and neighbors into murdering zombies. Kady and Ezra are separated, but work together to try and save everyone.

As the story progressed, there were plenty of twists and turns. Every time that I thought I had everything figured out, the story would turn in a completely different direction. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

It did take me a little longer to get into this story, but once I did, it had me completely focused. I even found myself liking AIDAN, the ship’s artificial intelligence that was arguably a “bad guy” for much of the book. This book ended up being surprisingly good for me.

I listened to the Audible edition and I have to give kudos to the narrators. They did a fantastic job of keeping this story engaging and keeping the multiple characters straight. This was a great audiobook selection.

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Review: The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1), by Joe Hart

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1)The Last Girl by Joe Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘The Last Girl’ is not my usual type of book, but I’ve been branching out a little more lately and trying different genres. I’ve been lucky enough to find some gems recently as I’ve explored other genres. Unfortunately, ‘The Last Girl’ is not one that was a big hit with me. If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be “underwhelming”.

A dystopian-themed book, ‘The Last Girl’ centers on Zoey, a girl that has been held captive by a militarized, government “research” group. There has been a “plague” that has caused only male babies to be born. The few females remaining are hunted, to be used as guinea pigs…or far worse. Zoey is one of those girls. She has been raised in a research facility as a test subject, in the search for a cure.

Zoey and the other girls at the center have been lied to for all of their years of captivity. They’ve heard rumors about the horrible things that await them on their twenty-first birthdays, but most choose to believe the fairytales that they are fed. Zoey doesn’t believe the lies. She knows that something is amiss and begins to plan her escape.

Eventually, Zoey succeeds and manages to break free of her captors. She joins forces with a group of rebels that want to free the remaining girls at the center. Against all odds, they plan their attack.

While there was plenty of action and suspense in this book, I never really connected with Zoey or the other characters. The story just lacked that special something that pulls you in and holds your attention. I can’t think of any one particular thing to point to, but it just didn’t work for me as a whole. It was okay, but failed to elicit any real emotion from me.

Overall, this was a mediocre read for me. This wasn’t at all my usual type of story, which may have something to do with it. I need a lot more romance and emotion in my stories. This just wasn’t that type of story…at all.

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Review: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4), by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With every one of these books, I’ve been amazed with the evolution of the characters and storyline. ‘Queen of Shadows’ has upped the ante for this already incredible series. While the third book in the ‘Throne of Glass’ series might have had Celaena tentatively exploring her royal heritage, this fourth book has her finally embracing her queenly role. She doesn’t do anything small, and the same can be said for her transformation from assassin to long-lost Queen Aelin.

However, Celaena isn’t the only character that undergoes a drastic transformation. Chaol morphs into a completely different person, becoming mostly despicable for the greater part of this story. Dorian is also fighting against the demon within him, becoming a bystander to his body’s own actions. Celaena’s childhood rival, Lysaendra, also proves to be an unexpected ally. It seems that everyone is changing.

This book shows major shifts in power and foretells of the great war to come. Supernatural beings return to the forefront. A great king’s dynasty falls. Past wrongs are avenged.

With everything going on, Aelin still has time to find a new love interest. As much as I love this story, I have to admit that this is my biggest gripe. She changes her men out more often than she changes her underwear! After a while, it becomes hard to believe that any of her romantic entanglements are sincere. There’s already been Sam, Dorian, Chaol and now Rowan…and the series isn’t finished yet!

Despite her rapidly changing love interests, I still am completely enthralled with this story. It is far heavier on the action/adventure side than my usual reads, but I’m enjoying the change of pace. I am completely hooked on this series and cannot wait to see where the next installment will take me.

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Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just love this series! Each book proves to be better than the last. This book was packed with action and adventure. There is never a dull moment while reading this story!

More so than the earlier books, this one focuses on Celaena’s story. She is forced to face the past that has haunted her for years and the magic within herself that she fears. There is no hiding from who she is any longer.

Along the way, she forms new friendships and comes to terms with her destiny. No longer content to hide from her true self, she prepares to take a stand. Finally, her people have their queen back.

I cannot wait to see what the next book in this series has in store for me! I am completely addicted to this saga. With each chapter, the story grows more complex, but I cannot get enough! Love it!

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Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2), by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like the first book, ‘Crown of Midnight’ proves to be an action-packed, addicting, thrill ride. Having won the king’s competition, our favorite femme fatale has begun her work as the king’s assassin. However, she’s got a trick or two up her sleeve.

As this story progresses, Celaena delves deeper into the forbidden histories of the people that the king has conquered. Knowledge is power and she intends to get to the bottom of the bizarre, magical happenings around the castle. She discovers timeless secrets and underground alliances working to win freedom for the thousands of oppressed people under the king’s rule.

Meanwhile, relationships are changed drastically. Distancing herself from Dorian, Celaena and Chaol grow closer. A series of betrayals rocks Celaena to her core and causes her to doubt everything and everyone.

More truths are revealed, as Caelena digs deeper into the mysteries around the palace. Supernatural forces come to light. Celaena and Dorian each have powers that are revealed. The truth about Celaena’s heritage is also shared at last, greatly changing the dynamics of this story.

Overall, I loved this story. It continues to hold my attention and keep me on the edge of my seat. I will definitely be continuing this series.

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Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1), by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the Audible version of this book and it was fantastic! I loved every minute! Take a badass femme fatale, add in a brutal competition, and you’ve got a gripping story. On top of that, our heroine has two powerful, sexy men enamored with her.

The first book in the series, ‘Throne of Glass’ definitely pulls you in and leaves you wanting more. So much remains a mystery, despite the revelations that were made. I am hoping that this series will show an end to the King’s tyrannical reign and further exploration of the paranormal elements.

I am definitely intrigued and have already started the second book in this series. Sarah J. Maas has gained another fan!

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Review: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished ‘A Court Of Thorns And Roses’ I knew exactly what I wanted to see happen…or so I thought. In this follow-up book, I can honestly say that Ms. Maas gave me absolutely nothing that I expected, but everything that I didn’t know I needed. I loved the way things played out in this book!

In most cases, I don’t do well with my main characters changing love interests. However, even though I didn’t see it coming at the end of the first book, it worked for me. Why? Maybe because the characters had grown up some and grown apart in the process. Maybe because Tamlin morphed into an unrecognizable douche. Maybe because Rhysand was just impossible not to love. Regardless of the reasons, I was never so happy to embrace an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude.

With that being said, a part of my heart still holds a spot for the Tamlin I fell in love with in the first book. Lucius too, for that matter. With the exception of Feyre, all of my favorite characters seem to have lost themselves in this book. As a result, the story turned in an entirely new direction, with a new cast of supporting characters.

However, I loved the direction this story went. The new cast of characters were fantastic. Feyre really shined in this book, as she came into her own as a powerful immortal. Tamlin may have broken my heart, but Rhysand mended it.

Overall, I loved it! It does end with another twist, so I’ll be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next book. I’m sure Tamlin will try to redeem himself, so it’s bound to be interesting. I can’t wait!

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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I loved this paranormal fantasy! Although this isn’t my usual genre, I find myself reading a fair amount of paranormal reads lately. Luckily, I saw some great reviews for this book on friends pages, or I might have missed this gem.

From a young age, Feyre has had to bear the responsibility of providing for her crippled father and two helpless sisters. On her deathbed, Feyre’s mother made her promise that she would keep them together and take care of them. When her father’s poor choices cost the family their wealth and status, Feyre is forced to take drastic measures to ensure her family’s survival.

One day, Feyre is hunting in the forest when she kills a large wolf. Unknowingly, she sets off a chain of events that will alter the course of history for the Fae and humankind. The wolf was no regular wolf, but rather a faerie in disguise.

When the faerie’s friend, Tamlin, comes to Feyre’s home to seek justice, she sacrifices herself. She agrees to live her life in the faerie’s territory, forsaking her family, or else she faces certain death. Knowing that she will be unable to fulfill her promise to her dead mother, Feyre leaves with a heavy heart.

From early childhood on, human children are told stories, warning them of the Fae’s cruel treatment of humans. Expecting to be tormented and live a life of unknown terrors, Feyre is surprised to find that her captor provides her with a life of opulence and plenty. No longer does she have to scrounge for food or wood for heat. In fact, she isn’t expected to work or do anything other than whatever she wants within Tamlin’s lands.

Soon, Feyre realizes that there is more going on in her new home than the innocuous activities that meet the eye. There is a darkness that is slowly seeping into Tamlin’s territory, slowly draining his powers and holding his subjects captive. Feyre is not the only one imprisoned in this strange land.

As Feyre spends more time with Tamlin, she finds herself growing fond of her captor. She can relate to the sacrifices that he’s made for the safety of his subjects. Begrudgingly, she comes to realize that her hatred for the Fae may have been entirely unfounded.

In time, Tamlin and Feyre act on their desires. However, just as they are beginning to explore a romantic relationship, the troubles in Tamlin’s lands come to a head. He chooses to send Feyre home, rather than see her become a victim of the same magic that has cursed his lands for years.

Back at home, Feyre realizes the danger that Tamlin is in and knows that she cannot leave him to face that fate alone. She would rather die with him than live without him again.

From the start, I loved every minute of this story. Even when I thought Feyre was acting like an ungrateful, petulant child, I understood why it was necessary for the storyline. The supporting characters, such as Tamlin’s best friend, Lucien, were also captivating and well-developed.

Overall, I loved this story! There was plenty of action and suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat. There was a beautiful love story. Feyre and Tamlin were intriguing characters that had me rooting for them from start to finish. I wouldn’t change a thing!

Now, I’m dying to read the second book. Unfortunately, it isn’t due to be released until May of 2016. If it’s half as good as this one is, it’ll be well worth the wait.

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