The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This was on one of my lists to read, but I ended up watching some of the show first. After about two episodes I decided it was worth it to hold off and read the book. The book is not quite as intense as watching it, but it's still pretty heavy at times. And while exaggerated a bit, I don't believe the irony is lost on anyone that the show is premiering in this particular political climate.
It is from the point of view of Offred, a handmaid in a bizarre new government system that is the result of a plummeting birth rate. What truly makes the book disturbing is that it's new reality is not impossible, which is really impressive in dystopian literature. It's about 311 pages, which is just about the amount of time you want to spend in a terrifying reality before moving on to something else. I appreciated the cut and dry writing after spending a lot of time in really dense writing. It's one of those perfect pallet cleansers in between my series, that then needs a pallet cleanser for it. It seems like a lot of people read this when they were in school, but if you are interested in reading it and can't decide whether to watch the show first, it's a short enough read to get out of the way. Of course, I'm the kind of person that has trouble reading a book after watching the movie or show for it, but if you don't have that problem and like a more dramatic viewing experience, the show is a great start and there are actually quite a few differences and more depth into the experiences of other characters as well.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
I was quite pleased with this book after reading The Fiery Cross. Some reviewers complain of her later books in this series being too long or bloated, some abandoning the series altogether. I somewhat agreed with that sentiment about the last book. It took me so long to read, sometimes listening to it as an audiobook while I did other tasks. It is common for tangents to occur and I wonder if it is truly necessary, or a way to prove just how much knowledge Gabaldon has on a subject. I felt differently about Snow and Ashes. It was still "Bloated"so to speak, but I quite enjoyed the rich details.
Her writing is beautiful and the endless story arcs sustain interest. It was a calming read at times, giving opportunity to appreciate the everyday tasks of colonial homesteading without becoming a bore. Other times you get the visceral reactions caused by Gabaldon's love for violent plot twists and turns. There are no "Safe" characters, and that allows you to be completely blind to any impending outcomes.
While reading The Fiery Cross, I was distracted often, wondering how they could make a full season of the show watchable with a book that is compiled of medical tangents, a lot of descriptive details, and very occasional story arcs. It was the opposite with A Breath of Snow and Ashes. This book definitely put me back in the swing of the series and it was a much quicker read, all things considered. Next in the series: An Echo in Bone.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
It has been a minute since I read this, and now know to write the review right away. I bought this book as a palette cleanser as a break from the series I am reading. It's a quick read, easy to tear through in just a few sittings, and it does keep you interested. There isn't a single character that you necessarily admire or look up to, and while I like this change of pace for a short read, some may be turned off by it. I liked the different points of view and felt like it kept things fresh and gave more depth to each story. Id recommend if you're looking for a quick, interesting but easy read.
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
I went into this book with complete indifference when it came to expectations, which is why I enjoyed it. I didn't gain much knowledge like I had hoped. There were quite a few instances when the book felt more like an outlet to vent about French culture and parenting frustrations. Druckerman would marvel at the way French children behaved, but she didn't always give a solution or a way that the parents accomplished said behavior. I did gain some new tips and pointers, but there were a lot of things that I was already aware of/planning on doing/have already done. I did enjoy her writing though, and I'm always interested in learning of cultural differences and taking bits and pieces of what I like to do in the future. I really appreciate the respect French parents seem to have for their children as their own person without letting them call the shots. The cute little faces make it hard to remember that babies are growing beings with potential and will need more to grow than constant discipline or constant praise with a little dumb baby talk peppered in there. Something that really stuck with me was her account of French parents allowing their toddlers to take part in challenging tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. They give them the benefit of the doubt and let go of doubt and let them try. I was afraid to give up control of the spoon when Thatcher needed to eat on his own, so this is something I want to work on. This isn't an all-you-need-to-know guide to parenting, but I really don't think it was intended to be. It was entertaining and I learned a bit and for this instance that was good enough for me.
It by Stephen King
I believe It was the first scary movie I watched as a child. The concept induced years of nightmares, a fear of showers, and I actually had to return it to the video store when I thought I could give it another shot years later as an almost teenager. It's one of those movies that people review with fury as an adult because they don't understand why people find it scary, and it's not as an adult. If you watch it as an adult you'll probably laugh your ass off, but there are plenty of people who watched it as children who are still a bit jumpy when they see photos of Tim Curry as Pennywise, and will swear the movie scarred them in one way or another. (The new movie is coming out this Fall to scar a whole new generation!)
I was easily pulled into this book and hooked for the better part. I appreciate the homage King pays to most of his characters, giving them many dimensions, whether they are a part of the long haul or not. The antagonists were not always painted as multi-dimensional or sympathetic beings, but more as fuel for your emotional fire. And speaking of emotional fire, this book toys with all the emotions. The subject matter being an entity that uses its powers to prey on children is just one giveaway. The book is made up of two concurrent storylines about the same group of friends, one being in 1958 as children, and the present time of their lives in 1985.
This is a decent-sized book at a little over 1400 pages and I lost a little steam about 60% of the way through. I was still able to read it frequently, but by the end it I felt like King really wanted me to work for the conclusion, including a few fluff chapters that gave a little more insight on the history of Derry, a history I didn't particularly want. The ending was...different, but not bad enough to take away from the thrilling events in the first half of the book. Overall I really enjoyed the book and King's writing. It felt great to read a fresh voice after reading a series for so long and to fall in love with some new characters. It also feels like a passage back into horror, and there are other books of his that are still on my list.
This was a spread over the last couple of months, and I'm hoping to pick up, or at least keep a steady pace when it comes to reading. I'm still in a tired-prone stage, so I usually read to wind down at night and fall asleep, but I've been tearing through some graphic novels during the day, so I may just review some of those next. Thanks for reading!