The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood

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 years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; 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…

I read an adult novel. Not only that, I read an adult novel that’s technically a classic and I liked it. (that’s two adults in a row. This is a rare and strange thing)

I don’t know if like is the right word though. Because it’s an uneasy and occasionally hard read, and not exactly enjoyable. But it was interesting and fascinating and I read it in two days.

I mean, I find it hard to believe we could ever make the leap between what we are now to that type of world – but then, the characters in the book didn’t think that either. I actually loved this way of looking at it; in most dystopian books, its years after society starts to change and no one knows any different. In this, it’s still in those first few years – every character knows of before even if they can’t talk about it. And it gave an extra part of horror to the whole thing – because things can change that quickly. Really, hopefully not that much but like… you could kinda see someone like Trump going yeah you know what lets stop women accessing their money without their husbands there. 

Talking of husbands – I often say the reason’s I dont like adult fiction is because in every book I’ve read there’s been cheating and alcoholics. That… doesn’t technically stop in this book (I mean, the whole idea of a handmaid is so they have sex with other peoples husbands to have children…) and the men still like to drink… but the actual story and way it was written made me not-as-annoyed as normal.

It is, overall, one of the best and most chilling dystopias I have ever read and I think I will be reading more Atwood at some point.

five stars

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

I don’t actually think I have enough words to explain how much I adore this book.  I love everything about it.

From the cast of main characters, each of them wonderfully unique and strong enough that you can always tell who is talking. And each of the characters has motive (no really, how many books have you read where all the characters seem to revolve around Mainy and every secret they have is actually about that one character?) and secrets, relationships and backgrounds that make them jump off the page.

Linked to that is the diversity. Oh my god, no sci-fi or fantasy can ever say that their worlds cant be diverse… or whatever excuse it is they use.  There are so many different beings in this book. Every alien species has a different language, set of myths, way of living, and you know the even nicer thing? No one is hated because of it. It’s a far less judgemental place than our own world seems to be.

There are aliens that upset the gender binary – finally, theres an author who says that, you know what, just because we use ‘female’ and ‘male’ doesnt mean every other planet would. (also, not every character is straight. YAY)

Its not just the aliens though; despite the fact that there are human characters in the cast, some were born and raised in spaceships, others on Mars, others around Earth, and each of them is vastly different too.

Seriously everything about this book was perfect.

I don’t often read sci-fi. I find that many books are all the same; spaceship, evil aliens, fighting. (Don’t get me wrong, I do like that some times, Star Trek is one of my favourite film franchises after all) so this is an amazing breath of fresh air in the genre. Because its not all about fighting and war (though there are a few conflicts within) its more about the day to day life of a long voyage through space, and a mismatch of characters that count each other as family.

It’s honestly brilliant, and I cannot wait to read the authors other book A Close and Common Orbit.

five stars

Who Runs the World, Virginia Bergin

Welcome to the Matriarchy.

Sixty years after a virus has wiped out almost all the men on the planet, things are pretty much just as you would imagine a world run by women might be: war has ended; greed is not tolerated; the ecological needs of the planet are always put first. In two generations, the female population has grieved, pulled together and moved on, and life really is pretty good – if you’re a girl. It’s not so great if you’re a boy, but fourteen-year-old River wouldn’t know that. Until she met Mason, she thought they were extinct.

Publication Date: 1st June 2017

I don’t… I don’t know how to talk about this book without getting really pissed off.

I don’t even know where to start.

I get what the author was trying to do. Problem is, I feel like she attempted something that she had no idea where to start, and she just added onto that and kept going without really thinking about what she ended up saying in it.

Heres the thing. We are a very ‘gender-structured’ world. We all know the ridiculousness of the whole pink is girls blue is boys thing. And the stereotypes of girls should wear dresses and make up boys should never cry. But gender- it’s not all black and white. It never has been, even if in history we were shoved into boxes and told to shut up if we thought it was wrong. And while we are not perfect, and no where near being so, the world is slowly opening its eyes to realise that gender- it’s a word that really, that means nothing. 

But in this book, though the blurb reads like it is set in a ‘genderless’ world, it is completely the opposite. Sure, it makes comments about how free they are to wear hair whatever length they want, to wear what they want, thats… that’s about 1% of everything that ‘matters’.
In the book, no one could work out why Main Character River wanted a running machine. No one knows why Mason likes to play video games- They dont even have video games, and the women are horrified to see what he plays? (Like, really? GUYS ARE NOT THE ONLY GAMERS?)
My personal favourite, though, was a comment about when women took over, all wars stopped. It turned out, none of us really wanted to fight anyway. Like…I just. I can’t. Okay, firstly, women aren’t all these, peace seeking people? Not every women in the world doesn’t fight, just as not every man does? Peace, war, all this crap, it’s a non gendered thing. (Like jesus christ I have one of the worst tempers out of everyone I know. I can argue for England when I want to. Most women I know can. If all men suddenly disappeared, war wouldn’t stop all of a sudden, and everything wouldn’t suddenly be quiet.)
Added to that, despite that line, when Mainy first comes across Mason, shes all ready to stab him with a knife? Like isn’t that the opposite of what the above statement is about?!

A lot about this book annoyed me, but I think my main issue with it was the attempted- yet failed- thought of diversity. Like, at the start when you start to learn about the world, its mentioned that it’s only male-born people that suffer and die because of the virus. And that though everyone in the world is female-born. There is a passing comment about those who don’t identify as a women- yet no one knows the ‘He/him’ pronouns (or even ‘they/them?’). They constantly misgender Mason when he first appears, because it confuses them- yet it shouldn’t do, if there are transgender people around.

(Of course, theres no actual trans characters in the book. Which, you know, would have made it more interesting- because what would this world be like to live in for a guy?)

Secondly… in a world where women are the majority, it would be much more accepting for them to be falling in love, getting together etc. And I’m pretty sure this happens- Main character keeps telling another girl that she loves her and they kiss, but on the next sentence it will be talking just about their friendship. Seriously? In the future where there are no men and lesbians are still being ‘gal pal’ed?

I just… I can’t with this book. I’m actually too angry at it to form real thoughts on anything but the fact it is horrifically ‘straight’. It had so much promise but like… why do all men have to die so women lead? Why is there so much fuss about only friends or anything else and just WHY.

I read this book in March. I wrote this review between March and April, having to come back to it every few days because I just couldn’t form words in the beginning, and I still cant.

I just… cant.

one star

Noah Can’t Even, Simon James Green

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Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos

This book is hilarious.

And before I write a review, I want to convince you to read it in two pictures:

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and

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And if that didn’t make you cackle and cringe, there’s plenty more (of both) in this book that will make you.

It’s awkward. Oh my god, this book is full of awkward teenagers and even more awkward moments that honestly makes me feel like my own teenage years were almost normal.

I mean, the book is ridiculous. It jumps from one ridiculous thing to another, but the best thing is that the main character and his wonderful mess of a life makes it believable. From his panicking talking to anyone else to his attempts to be cool to the numerous plot twists that make everything worse, this book is a masterpiece of bumbling through the awkwardness of teenage years and sexuality and school and embarrassing mothers.

I was laughing (out loud) so much through sections of this book that my colleague ended up grabbing a copy off the shelf and reading it too – half an hour later she bought it.

This book is just a wonderful friesh of breath air. It’s funny and clever and over the top, but it’s also light hearted and good… and an lgbt book where all the lgbt characters survive (wow the fact that my bar is so low for gay characters says a lot). And its also a book with more than one gay character – I’m sure you all know what I mean. In 90% of  books there is just the one lgbt character… which is so not true to real life.

Basically, you should go out now and buy this book and you will not be disappointed. I would talk about this book for ages but I don’t want to spoil anything for people, so please, please, go and read it.

five stars

The Bookshop Girl, Sylvia Bishop

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This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret… she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

Honestly, its books like this that makes me believe that childrens books are often the best and most creative books in existence. And the funniest.

I mean, here you have a girl called Property who lives at a bookshop but cant read because she never admitted the fact that when her mother gave her a book (assuming she could read) she thought they were just staring at the pages and not actually doing anything. And also here you have a bookshop where each room is a different theme and is mechanical and I really want to live there? It sounds like the best bookshop ever. Oh, and a creature that might be a cat but might also be a demon.

And a whole lot of other stuff that just makes it a brilliant book.

I feel as if the whole book was a love letter to bookshops. Everyone (well, mostly) in the book loved books and the shops. Both shops in the book were intriguing and lovely and fun, and strangely convincing enough that even the Emporium sounded as if it was real.

But more than that, the book had a gentle message in it that reading isn’t everything. Property can’t read, yet she’s the one that notices things and saves the day. It’s a nice message for anyone – but especially for the 7+ that the book is aimed for, because it’s telling them that they don’t have to be good readers, or good at anything, to be wonderful.

It is a quick read, but it’s a book that will make you snigger and give children and adults alike joy, so I really recommend it, no matter your age.

five stars

Letters to the Lost, Brigid Kemmerer

 

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Taken at face value, this book might look like your average YA high school book. You know the ones; friends to enemies, Bad Boy with a Rep meets Gentle Loving Girl. With just a bit more angst than maybe normal. (I say maybe. High School/College Romance style YA/NA books seem to compete with each other for most amount of angst possible in one page)

But take that face value and… I dont know. Throw it out the window, or something just as fun. Because this book is more than that – and hell, while most people would count it as a romance (since the main characters are a boy and a girl talking to each other. That all it seems to take nowadays) I don’t.

This is a book about two people, who have both lost someone in their family, and that one thing has shaped each of them every day of their lives. Its a book about anger and friendship and love- not just romantic love – and mainly, grief.

Grief being the main thing the whole plot centres around.

I know grief. It and I have shaken hands on more than one occasion, and sometimes it likes to pop up again, just to remind me that now we are acquaintance, it will never truly leave. And reading this book – it was hard, at times. Because I understood how both characters felt. Their helplessness and anger and denial – not necessarily that the person is dead, but that you’ve lost them.

There was a part about a quarter through the book when Juliet’s dad pulls out all her mums stuff and starts talking about selling them, and Juliet screams at him and just starts crying. That bit, strangely, was one of the hardest parts for me to read, because it still happens.

People don’t understand grief. Not even those that have been through it. Because everyone copes (or doesnt cope) differently, and I think this book was amazing and putting that across. Not even six months after her mother dies and all her teachers and friends don’t understand why Juliet isn’t back to ‘normal’. They keep making comments about it, trying to stop her from going to the cemetery or hoarding her mothers things. Because people don’t get over things like that so quickly.  And this book – the grienf doesn’t just disappear to make way for a romance and oh mt god the fact that is so rare is wrong. It was wonderful to read and see how both characters struggled with emotions, both positive and negative, and watching their journey through the chapters to see how each changed the other.

The only thing I didn’t like was the formatting – in most double narratives, the chapters start by being headed by the character name. In this one, that doesnt happen, so the first few chapters can be hard to navigate through, especially as each chapter starts with a letter from the opposite character. But you do get used to it after a while so its not that bad.

five stars

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Over two years ago, I wrote a review for Laini Taylor’s other series Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was, actually, the first book review I ever did on this blog (wow, have I improved since then) and I stand by my thoughts back then; Laini Taylor is a stunning writer and her stories are always filled with magic and mystery and everything I love.

But the thing was… this book was dull. Not dull in a completely boring way, but dull enough that I couldn’t sit and read it all in only a few sittings. In fact, I read two chapters, then put it down for the day. And I don’t read well like that. If I have a book that I really like, I read it all in one day (or never!)

I was expecting it to be slow; after all, DoSaB isn’t exactly a fast read. Laini’s books have always been about the writing and watching the story uncurl along with the pages. But there is a leap. With her other series, there is always something happening. With this series… nothing happens for pages and pages, then it gets interesting, then it gets boring again.

I’m admitting this now – I am writing this review while just over half way through. Because its taken me over two weeks to get to this point, and I don’t know right now if I want to continue. Because I already know it turns into a romance and… I kinda don’t want it to?

Like, don’t get me wrong. I adore Lazlo, our adorable main character. I understand him more than I do with most other characters in books- like him, I spent my childhood stuck in the clouds (until I was told to grow up) and like him I ended up surrounded by books but mostly in love with fairytales. And like him, people laugh at me for it (no really, I was ordering a copy of Peter Pan for a customer at work and when I told them what edition I have – this stunning, like, pop up version for adults – they sneered at me and went ‘Well you’ve had that for years, I expect’ and I was like… no since last year at which point they went ‘You’re an adult so why are you buying childrens books like that’). I also love that its his love and knowledge of those tales that ‘save the day’ essentially.

I even like Sarai and her little gang of mini-gods. Their chapters were some of my favourites – I loved their interactions and seeing their powers, and I loved Sarai’s longing for the world below them.

However, once you got the hint that these two would end up as love interests… it kinda put me off slightly.

The writing, the backstory, the whole book (of what I’ve read) is stunning. It’s lyrical and beautiful and just like the title, it reads like a dream. I’ve never read anything as beautiful as Laini’s words.

So it is wonderful, it really is. But I just got bored. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t in the mood when I started it. Maybe I had been waiting for it so long that once I had it, it was always going to be ‘eh’. I don’t know. I just don’t really mind not finishing it – and thats kind of heartbreaking when I did love the characters and the idea behind it.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll try it again at some point.

THIS IS ACTUALLY 3.5 BUT LIKE, I CANT BE BOTHERED TO EDIT THE PICTURE.

three stars