Posted on | September 26, 2013 | 2 Comments
I always love hearing what people think about different novels. Sometimes, I love one, and I’m shocked by the negative reviews I find on Goodreads. But it never fails that after reading what others think, I come away with a different opinion of the book. I may not always agree, but I can view the book with a more or less critical eye. So, I thought I’d share a few of my most recent reads and my reviews of them. I’d love to hear what you’re working on now and what you think of your current reads! Or, if you’ve read one I’ve recently tackled, let me know what you thought of it.
An old classic, I don’t know how I made it through all those AP English classes and my English minor courses without having read it. Imagine a world where women cease to exist as humans. Instead, they are seen as property and assigned specific jobs according to their value to society. You have the Marthas (domestics), the Aunts (female guards who also deliver punishment or executions to offenders), the Jezebels (sex toys for men), the Handmaids (breeders), and the Unwomen (women who can’t fulfill any of these duties and are forced into manual labor). Handmaids are given new names that represent the Commander who “owns” them. They become “of”-insert whatever jackass they are working under at the moment. Atwood’s story follows our protagonist, Offred, as she moves through her new life. Once a mother and wife, Offred has lost all that she loved. The Religious Right has taken over the United States, seemingly over night, and her normal life is replaced by one as a handmaid to a Commander in power. And also, dun dun dun, there is a huge infertility crisis due to pollution and radioactive waste (apparently), and most women and men are left unable to bring children into this world. Or they bring “unbabies” into the world that are mutations and disposed of immediately. This world is supposed to be one where women no longer have to fear rape or abuse, and they are protected from the evils of men. Though, of course, the reader is aware that this world is not safe at all, and women have no freedom or ability to speak or even think as they choose.
Offred once states, “We used to have the freedom to. Now we have the freedom from.” I loved that line.
It’s all very pleasant, no? I enjoyed this novel despite the cringe-worthy events and the clear political agenda Atwood is imposing on her reader. We are supposed to relate the Religious Right to the conservative right in our country today. Abortion and contraceptives are hot topics throughout The Handmaid’s Tale, and we also learn about how women are forced to dress modestly because they encourage men to rape and abuse them should they dress otherwise. Offred is passive, unhappy, and quiet. Atwood writes in a strange way, using run-on sentences and leaving out quotation marks to show which character is speaking, but it doesn’t take long to pick up on her style. I think this book is a good, albeit unrealistic, warning that asking our government for safety in place of freedoms is a scary proposition.
Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
When Jacob was growing up, he formed a strong friendship with his eccentric grandfather over tales of magical children, his grandfather’s role as a Soldier in World War II, and the monsters his grandfather fought to keep the world a safer place. They pour over strange pictures of levitating girls, invisible boys, and head mistresses who can turn into birds. At the sudden death of his grandfather, Jacob seeks to learn more about his past. What he uncovers leads him to believe that, perhaps, his grandfather’s stories were not as far-fetched as they once appeared.
The best part of this book is that it combines a fantastical, tense, and haunting story with pictures to describe the strange events. We meet the characters who could appear in a circus side-show act through vintage photography. It’s not a horror story, but more of a thriller with fantasy and adventure added to the mix. Marketed for young adults, it is certainly mature enough for any adult to appreciate. I love historical fiction, and this book had enough history to really make me happy. It is one of my favorite books this year, though when reading reviews, I think it’s one you tend to love or hate. As long as you don’t go into it expecting to be “scared” per say, I don’t see how you could be disappointed. It won’t keep you up at night, but it will give you some spine tingling moments. This is Riggs’ first novel, and I was truly impressed.
The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
A psychological thriller, The Boy Who Could See Demons leads us on the journey of Dr. Anya Molokova and her newest patient, Alex. Anya is struggling with the anniversary of the death of her young daughter, Poppy. Poppy suffered from childhood schizophrenia and committed suicide in front of Anya. When Anya hears of Alex, a young boy suffering with similar symptoms to Poppy, she leaps whole-heartedly into trying to help Alex overcome his demons (pun-intended). Alex’s schizophrenia presents itself in the form of visualizing demons, particularly one named Ruen. The story leads us through their quest to rid Alex of Ruen, and the reader is left questioning whether or not demons truly exist or if they are simply a figment of Alex’s mind.
Set in Belfast, I picked this novel up because of the setting alone. I’ve always loved reading about the lives of the war-torn Northern Irish folks, and this novel did not disappoint in that Anya often speaks of the psychological damage the “Troubles” have had on the families and their children. But the real interest is in Alex and Ruen. The novel jumps from the perspective of Alex and Anya between chapters, and I loved “getting to know” both characters. In Alex’s world, demons are very real. They speak to him. They tell him to do terrible things in a way that would be convincing to even the most moral of people. Anya’s sadness and her projection of Poppy onto Alex is painful but believable. They are two very disturbed characters, flawed and damaged, but I grew to love them both.
This book may keep you up at night. It may have you questioning your sanity. And the ending? Well, it will probably leave you reeling. But I recommend it, even if you’re not into these kinds of novels. I found it gripping, and it has stuck with me even weeks later.
Next up on my reading list is Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews (a far cry from my usual reads, for sure!) and Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know much about Stardust other than that it is supposed to be a fairy tale, but he is the author of Coraline, and I’ve read that his writing is a work of art, so I’m looking forward to trying his works on for size. What about you?