Good Reads // February 2015

ReadingBench

Hello friends and fellow bookworms!  It’s time for my monthly book reviews post!  Enjoy!

Rating System

★★★★★ = Amazing!
★★★★ =  A great read
★★★ = It’s good
★★ = Just ok
★ = Not for me

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Book5Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: NA
Published: 1983
Pages: 311
Category: Fiction, Dystopia
Overall Rating: ★★★½

The first lines: “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.  The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone.  A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “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….”

My thoughts I kept teetering between 3 and 4 stars.  Here’s why – my thoughts are mirrored in this reader’s review from Goodreads: ‘Imagine the near future where power is overtaken by the religious right under the guise of protection from Islamic terrorism.  Imagine the future where the roles of the women reduced to those assigned to them in Old Testament – they are no longer allowed to read, work, own property, or handle money.  Imagine that due to the pollution and man-created viruses, the fertility rates are so low that the few fertile women (the Handmaids) are now a communal property and are moved from house to house to be inseminated by men of power under the watchful eye of their wives.  Imagine the future where women can only be the Wives, domestics (the Marthas), sexual toys (the Jezebels), female prison guards (the Aunts), wombs (the Handmaids), or, if they are unsuited for any of these roles, Unwomen who are sent off to the Colonies where they harvest cotton if they are lucky or clean out radioactive waste if they aren’t.  Well, after you’ve imagined that, you can imagine very easily how much I was terrified by this book.  As a modern woman, I am horrified by the notion that at some point in time I can become nothing more than a servant, a toy, a reproductive organ. {…} To say I am impressed by this novel is to say nothing, really.  This book is one of those that stays in your brain and you keep coming back to it over and over again.  Having said that, I have to note, that this is definitely not an easy read.  Offred (the protagonist Handmaid) is in many ways a frustrating narrator: she is broken, she is passive, she is desperate and her only goal is to make it through another day.  The ending is ambiguous.  The narration is complex with constant switching from present to past and back.  But it all worked perfectly for me.’  I also recommend that if you do pick up this book, you read the Historical Notes at the end.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BookRosieTitle: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman #1
Published: May 21st 2013 by HarperCollins
Pages: 329
Category: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Humor
Overall Rating: ★★★★★

The first lines: “I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.  As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect.  But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would have discovered it.  The sequence was initiated by Gene insisting I give a lecture on Asperger’s syndrome that he had previously agreed to deliver himself.  The timing was extremely annoying.  The preparation could be time-shared with lunch consumption, but on the designated evening I had schedule ninety-four minutes to clean my bathroom.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “Narrator Don Tillman 39, Melbourne genetics prof and Gregory Peck lookalike, sets a 16-page questionnaire The Wife Project to find a non-smoker, non-drinker ideal match. But Rosie and her Father Projectsupersede. The spontaneous always-late smoker-drinker wants to find her biological father. She resets his clock, throws off his schedule, and turns his life topsy-turvy.

My thoughts:  Totally – completely – utterly – enchanted with this book!  Honestly.  The story is complex, intricate, profound and yet fully entertaining!  The story has adventure and enlightenment and emotional exploration on a whole new level.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #7
Audiobook Narrated By: Lorelei King
Length: 10 Hours and 26 Minutes
Published: October 21, 2014
Pages: 336
Category: Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Humor
Overall Rating: ★★★★

The first lines: “‘I often question my sanity.  occasionally, it replies – T-Shirt.  If the woman howling from the backseat of Agent Carson’s black SUV weren’t already dead, I would’ve strangled her.  Gladly.  And with much exuberance.  But, alas, my ex-BFF Jessica was indeed dead, and ranting on and on about how her death was entirely my fault.  Which was so not true.  It was only partly my fault.  I wasn’t the one who’d kicked her off a seven-story grain elevator.  Though I was beginning to wish I had.  At least then I would’ve had reason to listen to her harp ad nauseam.  Life was too short for this crap.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “Twelve. Twelve of the deadliest beasts ever forged in the fires of hell have escaped onto our plane, and they want nothing more than to rip out the jugular of Charley Davidson and serve her lifeless, mangled body to Satan for dinner. So there’s that. But Charley has more on her plate than a mob of testy hellhounds. For one thing, her father has disappeared, and the more she retraces his last steps, the more she learns he was conducting an investigation of his own, one that has Charley questioning everything she’s ever known about him. Add to that an ex-BFF who is haunting her night and day, a rash of suicides that has authorities baffled, and a drop-dead sexy fiancé who has attracted the attentions of a local celebrity, and Charley is not having the best week of her life.  A tad north of hell, a hop, skip, and a jump past the realm of eternity, is a little place called Earth, and Charley Davidson, grim reaper extraordinaire, is determined to do everything in her power to protect it.  We’re doomed.”

My thoughts:  Always love reading one from this series!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Book_BorrowersTitle: The Borrowers
Author: Mary Norton
Series: The Borrowers #1
Published: 1952
Pages: 192
Category: Fiction, Fantasy, Children’s
Overall Rating: ★★★★★

The first lines: “It was Mrs. May who first told me about them.  No, not me.  How could it have been me – a wild, untidy, self-willed little girl who stared with angry eyes and was said to crunch her teeth?  Kate, she should have been called.  Yes, that was it – Kate.  Not that the name matter much either way: she barely comes into the story.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “The Borrowers are tiny people hidden away in houses and safe places, living off what they borrow from human Beans.  Pod and Homily want daughter Arriety to be safe, never seen, but she feels lonely and trapped.  The Boy visiting Great Aunt Sophy brings doll furniture in exchange for Arriety reading, until mean housekeeper Mrs Driver calls the rat-catcher.

My thoughts:  One of my absolute favorite books as a kid – thought it would be fun to re-read as an adult.  This book is about a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards of a normal human home, surviving by pilfering things from the giants who inhabit it.  I love the creativity the author uses to create a totally new point of view on what would otherwise be very normal surroundings: bottle caps become serving trays, scrap paper becomes wallpaper, spools of thread become dining room chairs!  I think these details are what appealed to me as a child, as the story is otherwise what you would expect: the Borrowers live in fear of humans until one cheeky little girl is accidentally seen by a sad young boy, who doesn’t turn out to be so bad.  *Sigh* such a fun read! I can’t wait to re-read the others in the series!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Book1Title: The Silkworm
Author: Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)
Series: Cormoron Strike #2
Audiobook Narrated by:
Robert Glenister
Length: 17 Hours and 21 Minutes
Published: June 19, 2014
Pages: 455
Category: Fiction, Mystery
Overall Rating: ★★★★

The first lines: “‘Someone bloody famous,’ said the hoarse voice on the end of the line, ‘ better’ve died, Strike.’  The large unshaven man tramping through the darkness of pre-dawn, with his telephone clamped to his ear, grinned. ‘It’s in the ballpark.'” 

Summary from Goodreads: “When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.  But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.  When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before….”

 My thoughts:  I just love this author!  And although I was loving the writing and story line, I didn’t love it *quite* as much as Book #1.  Still a fantastic read, with great characters.  Amazing that the author unfolds just the exact level of details needed to properly unravel the mystery.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Author: B.J. Novak
Series: NA
Published: September 30th 2014
Pages: 48
Category: Children’s
Overall Rating: ★★★★

The first lines: “This is a book with no pictures.'” 

Summary from Goodreads:A’ book with no pictures? What could be fun about that? After all, if a book has no pictures, there’s nothing to look at but the words on the page. Words that might make you say silly sounds… In ridiculous voices…Hey, what kind of book is this, anyway?’ At once disarmingly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experience to share–and introducing young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.”

 My thoughts:  Bought this book for friends who recently had a baby because it was so highly recommended on many of my friends’ shelves. And ‘Oh my gosh’ – such a clever book! Not that I’m “qualified” to rate children’s books (as I’m not a librarian, I’m not a teacher, and I have no kids)…but the words and phrases had me giggling as I read to myself. Out loud. And in funny voices. Amazing.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Series: NA
Published: 1940
Pages: 98
Category: Children’s
Overall Rating: ★★★

The first lines: “When I was six years old, I came across a beautiful picture in a book about the jungle called True Stories.  It showed a boa constrictor swallowing a wild animal.'” 

Summary from Goodreads:Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.”

 My thoughts:  This was another children’s book that I never read as a child.  I always see it on my friends’ lists of highly recommended books…so I when I came across the book, I jumped at the chance to read it!  And…it was just ok for me.  I can’t imagine loving this story as a kid.  It is considered a classic of children’s literature, and I have a really hard time believing this was written for children, beyond the fact that there are things that are nonsensical, (yet makes sense).  There is a pilot whose plane is not working, and the pilot finds himself talking to the Little Prince who is not from Earth. The Little Prince tells the pilot about his adventures before reaching Earth – complete with philosophy and hidden life lessons within the writing.

What are you currently reading? 
Jen
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4 thoughts on “Good Reads // February 2015

  1. I’m currently reading Hope to Die by James Patterson. I’m a sucker for his Alex Cross series.

    I thought the Rosie Project was delightful. It deserves all the praise that it has received.

    Ok…are you ready for this…I’ve never read a book by J.K. Rowling. But, the Cuckoo’s Calling is on reserve at my library, so I’m getting to it soon. Looking forward to being late to the party.

  2. I’ve read the Handmaiden’s Tale, but it was back in high school, so I am sure it would be beneficial for me to read again. I’ve also read The Rosie Project and I really enjoyed it! Currently reading “Us” by David Nicholl’s. It’s about a man trying to rekindle his marriage during a family vacation through Europe. Pretty good so far!

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