5/5 Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

5 years sitting in my bookshelf; 5 wasteful years when I should’ve enjoyed this sooner.

Series: N/A

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (1986), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1986), Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (1987), Audie Award for Fiction (2013), Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction (1986), Governor General’s Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général for Fiction (1985), Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Nominee for Best Book in Caribbean and Canada (1987), CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2002)

Rating: 5/5

Recommended for: Dystopian lovers

As I contemplate on which book to review next (there are lots of them, waaa), I decided on The Handmaid’s Tale (THT) just because the hashtag for Women’s March in the US has been consistently appearing in my twitter feed. While I have the faintest idea on what that was really all about, I figured why not? THT is one of my best reads last 2016 (but I failed to include it in my 2016 Best Reads post, I know. Boo!). Might as well try to review a book that consumed my womanly insanity. Haha!

I was a sucker for YA dystopian series a few years ago, and now I am very picky. Finishing THT was a harsh wake up call on what I know of dystopian society portrayed in YA. Atwood’s world in the form of Gilead was rigid, stiff, gritty, terrifying. I will not be an Offred, though. I am a Moira!

This is the worst world a woman can get stuck into. Women are not allowed to learn how to read and write. They can go out of the house to do some shopping in the market; they have pictures of food (meat, bread, vegetables), that they can show to communicate with vendors. They go out in twos (Ofrred is paired with Ofglen), and were not allowed to talk to anyone in the streets, especially men. Handmaids like Offred were taken care of, in the possibility of bearing a child, and so there’s a schedule for her and the Commander for sex. It was a transaction, as tasteless as waiting for your receipt after doing your groceries.

More than these traditional (ridiculous) restrictions set upon women, what burned in my mind the most is Offred’s (reliable? unreliable?) memories of her life before Gilead. She feigns ignorance but she can read and write; she blanks out her face during sex with the Commander, but was constantly reminded of her affair with Luke; she refuses to think that she really had a daughter, for what kind of a mother would subject her daughter to that kind of horrible life with a commander and her unfeeling wife?

This is my first Margaret Atwood book, and I am happy to say that I am looking forward to reading more of her work. The writing was so effective in playing with my emotions – being a woman has never been this hurtful or shameful. The late nights with the Commander added a layer of complication during their sex sessions, because what if Serena Joy notices that she’s liking it, because she knows the Commander more so everyday? Offred’s affair with Nick was the element that I can see that made her pause, and think that maybe, what her situation is right now, she does not want to take it lying down anymore. It was heartbreaking, this affair-turned-escape-from-reality. Let the rebels worry about Gilead’s future, she thought. I cannot go back to Luke and my daughter, I know that. But here with Nick? This might be something, at least. Sigh.

The uncertainty of the ending made me think that whatever happened to Offred, I hope she makes it. I really, really hope she makes it.

Sorrowful at most, The Handmaid’s Tale made me ache. It was beautiful in its tragedy.

 

Paperback Edition, 400 pages

Published by Seal Books

 

maria

5/5 Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I prefer this series over Throne of Glass… by a mile!

17927395Series: A Court of Thorns & Roses | Book 2

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2016)

Rating: 5/5

Recommended for: Team Rhysand, and those who lost interest in Throne of Glass series after Heir of Fire

If you are Team Tamlin, this sequel is not for you. You are better off not continuing with the series.

***

(I have written off SJM’s Throne of Glass series after Queen of Shadows, because she wrote off Chaol brutally, completely. So now she has this new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, still about Fae, and I am guessing still with a love triangle, but I still read it. ACoTaR was okay, but after my experience in loving Crown of Midnight after my lukewarm feelings over Throne of Glass, I decided I can still bet on a good story on ACoTaR’s sequel.

I have to admit, when I saw one review saying Rhysand is all over ACoMaF, I perked up. See, there’s this last scene between Feyre and Rhysand in ACoTaR that had me itching, itching to know what the heck Rhys was so freaked about when he saw Feyre. He was a High Lord of the Night Court, so why would he fear a mortal huntress such as Feyre? I want to know about that. So I read ACoMaF.)

***

(It’s been a long while since I’ve been consumed day and night by a book.)

Love – love was a balm as much as it was a poison.

I believe that Feyre loved Tamlin, and vice versa. The ending of A Court of Thorns and Roses left Feyre desperate, broken, spent. SJM started A Court of Mist and Fury with a reality check: Tamlin’s love was a promise to protect her, but it only succeeded in isolating her, caging her, leaving her even more vulnerable with her nightmares after her stay Under The Mountain.

I’m thinking that I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety.

Tamlin disappearing before I am 20% done is a clear indicator that that ship has sunk. Him entering at the last 1-2 chapters? There’s the nail at Feyre-Tamlin coffin. *fist pump* so I started to hope for Rhysand’s chance. I know it was like Heir of Fire all over again. Fortunately for me, for this series, I was not into Tamlin. SJM veering away from Tam to (maybe) Rhys got my seal of approval. I might even forgive her to what she did to my Captain Chaol.

I was a wolf.

And I bit when cornered.

Feyre‘s road to self-recovery and forgiveness was a harsh terrain. Nightmares, low self-worth, and (the feeling of) betrayal. Not once did I sneer at Feyre, for being weak, or when she let herself be degraded by the Spring Court. It was realistic. When she decided to push back, and shove the darkness that threaten to succumb her, I thought yes, it’s time to be strong now, Feyre. You don’t need another High Lord to protect you. You can protect yourself. and then some.

That I might be a little bit vicious or restless. That I might crave peace, but never a cage of comfort.

(Who run the world? Girls!) Rhys acknowledging a strong woman like Feyre is very crush-worthy.

It’d just been a relief to think that for a moment, he might have been as lonely as me.

Rhysand. He’s climbing up my BBF list way faster than I’d hoped. Sure, I like bad boys, but his back story was so layered, so massively different from what was portrayed in ACoTaR, and yet, it felt justified. It’s like all the hints and misses with Feyre in ACoTaR rightfully led to what was now here, in ACoMaF. And he believes in Feyre. He lets her decide, supports what she wants, and willing to damn himself just to save her. (Unlike *ahem* Tamlin *ahem*)

“Amren and Mor told me that the span of an Illyrian male’s wings says a lot about the size of… other parts.”

“Did they now.”

“They also said Azriel’s wings are the biggest.”

“When we return home, let’s get the measuring stick, shall we?”

The sexy yet purposeful bantering between Feyre and Rhys is a joy to read. Hot and heavy with promise of things to come, it was the chemistry that I was hoping for between Feyre and Tamlin in ACoTaR, but did not happen, that’s why I am Team Rhysand!

Rhys’ inner circle is the next best thing in ACoMaF. My favorite was Amren, she’s an enigma! Mor, Cassian and Azriel are a riot, but knowing the sadistic histories that entangles the three, it’s a surprise that they can even smile and love at all.

The action scenes are even better. The Bone Carver. The Weaver. The watery grave. The Court of Nightmares. The cave attack against the Hybern soldiers. The Attor in Velaris. I was salivating with so much delight on how each of these scenes packed so much punch! I say SJM is a master of writing action-packed scenes.

I waited for the blush, the shyness, to creep in.

But I was beautiful. I was strong.

I cannot remember being hot and bothered with Feyre and Tamlin in ACoTaR. In this sequel, I was anything BUT. Dear me, I think SJM was high when she was writing these, because Feyre and Rhys are consistently setting the pages on fire! Don’t get me wrong. The first half of the book, it was just shameless flirting on Rhys’ part, and Feyre is almost always ready to strangle him. But Rhys staying by Feyre’s side every time she doubts herself, that paved the way for Feyre, that instead of feeling empty, Rhys is making her feel alive… and then hot.. and then really hot and bothered. You’ll probably guess the rest, but isn’t so much better if you read the truth? Haha! (SJM’s repetitive “apex of my thighs” phrase has me rolling my eyes for a bit.)

The throne room scene in Hybern got me cringing, and biting my nails. I have this gut feeling it’s going to end bad, bad, bad. and it did. The ending, though? It promised a completely different story of scheming and plotting. That had me sobbing because I would have to wait a year for Book 3. (I hate you, SJM.)

Should SJM introduce another love interest after Rhysand, I will winnow her into the Court of Nightmares. But until then, I will savor the giddiness of what ACoMaF gave to me: A broken heroine who learned to be a wolf. A love interest who sacrificed his self-worth and happiness to protect what’s his. A fae world so beautifully built, and spectacularly expanded, that for sure, I will be lost in it a few weeks more after I finish (re)reading it.

And then-then I learned your name. Hearing you say it… it was like an answer to a question I’d been asking for five hundred years.

Kindle Edition, 626 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

maria

2016 Best Reads

Let’s get to it!

2017_0101-2016-best-reads

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Spy Who Came in From The Cold by John Le Carre. A must read for those who love espionage thriller books.
  • The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski. A solid ending for a series that is both cunning and swoon-worthy. Yaaas!
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Did you not like The Grisha Trilogy like me? Try this. Definitely worth risking again. The atmosphere is reminiscent of The Lies by Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
  • The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger by Rene Ahdieh. Read if you are favoring romance at the moment. The story was made richer by it, I think.
  • Wanderlove by Kristin Hubbard. If you want to go on solo travel soon, this will really put you in the mood for that. A feel-good book, this one.

Top Reads:

  • The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May. Post-apocalyptic world brought by Fae. Similar to the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (but Jericho Barrons is still No.1!). Ending was brutal!
  • Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman. It draws a combination of emotions that should not be there while reading it. It was incredible!
  • The Lies by Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. High Fantasy at its finest. I am such a sucker for Locke’s brilliance!
  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. Yeah, it was all Rhysand. 🙂 I’m shallow like that. Ha! But if you ask me, what about the storyline? That was awesome too. Pick this up, if you got tired of the Throne of Glass series (or just plain icky over Aelin & Rowan =P).
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Let the awards speak for this. Fantasy lovers, this is a MUST read.
  • The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I love the “fixer-amidst-politicians” plot. The second half of the book left me reeling in shock. Recommended for suspense thriller genre lovers, YA style.

 

maria