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

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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!

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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

Begin Again

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It’s been three years.

What do I write? It seems I cannot compose coherent thoughts about anything outside my 6-3 job. It’s sad, really. Blogging is one of the things I truly enjoy doing for myself, another role to play outside being a wife, a mom, and a daughter. I also like to think that writing book reviews made me sharper at work, you know? When I must prepare performance appraisals. No wonder I struggled this month in writing evaluations. I was rusty. No practice. It was disappointing.

  1. I’d like you to be the year that I return to my blogging activities. Somehow, I need to find a way to insert blogging again in my Mommy schedules, in between running after my 17-month old son, tutoring my 6-year-old, and managing a team of 9 people back at work. I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions, but commitments? That I can do. So, I will commit to creating a blog post at least once a week this year. If I pick up the pace sooner than I expect, good.

A lot of books that I need to backtrack for review! But I’m excited. I am! I am! And I hope you join me again as I rave and rant over books.

Enjoy the last day of the year, yeah? I pray that you have an awesome start this 2017. Cheers!

maria

 

 

Official Blog Tour | Book Review: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

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Young Adult > Paranormal | Horror

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

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All the creeps, man. Horrible, frightening, awesome. 🙂

So I picked up this book from NetGalley out of curiosity. Blurb caught my eye, seemed interesting, so I decided to give it a try. 6 hours later, I was done with The Girl from the Well. I was also done watching horror movies for that month. 😀

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End of Chapter 1 – goosebumps. End of Chapter 2 – double goosebumps.

I closed Illium a couple of times just to pause, you know just like in movies? You cover your eyes when the scare gets too much? Haha, I was horribly scared, but enjoying it the same time. (I’m crazy, aren’t I?)

I love how the story was fast-paced, how the main character has no remorse over her killings, or how detached she was from everything. And it’s how she should be, she’s a vengeful ghost! Then the boy with a dark spirit comes along. And the fun just escalated for me. The scarier, the better. Woohoo!

Ghosts, little girls who can see them, and terrible spirits out for more evil – how can I refuse?

I thought The Girl from the Well was entertaining. There are similarities I saw that are trademarks of some asian horror movies, but I didn’t mind. The serial killers being stalked by this vengeful spirit is too much fun for me.

The climax  was good, although a bit mild. I was expecting more shock or bigger destruction. Still, it was enough for me. But the ending, oh my, I thought it was very well played.

I wish there’s more horror stories like The Girl from the Well out there. Makes me think if I’m missing something worth the scare for a night or two. 🙂

Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for granting my galley request.

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THE GIRL FROM THE WELL by Rin Chupeco

Kindle Edition, 304 pages

Published August 5th 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire

5/5 stars

Book Review: The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #4)

Heavy rains have burst the banks of the Willamette River; several people have died in the furiously rising waters…but the latest victim didn’t drown. She was killed before she went into the water. Soon, other victims are found, and Police Detective Archie Sheridan realises that Portland has a new serial killer on its hands.

Reporter Susan Ward is on the story, but she’s got other leads to chase, and some secrets can be frightening for prying eyes. With Archie following a bizarre trail of evidence, and Susan close behind, the pair must unearth the identity of a vicious murderer, and uncover the truth behind a mystery more than sixty years old…

Book 1: Heartsick review     Book 2: Sweetheart review       Book 3: Evil at Heart review

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The flood was more terrifying than the killings.

Gretchen Lowell is nowhere to be found in The Night Season. Well, up until the last minute. And as minute her appearance was, it made me excited for the next installment of this series.

Philippines has always been an ‘unwilling home’ to typhoons, which almost always result in floods. I guess you could say it is nothing but a common occurence to us Filipinos. When the city of Portland was submerged in a flood they haven’t seen in ages, I understood it, how scared they were. And the terror was doubled when Archie Sheridan realized someone is using the deluge to get away with murders.

I saw little of Henry Sobol (I actually liked this guy), but got compensated with Susan Ward‘s maturing character, and increasing weirdness (she constantly mouths useless trivia, and I found it entertaining). As for Archie, I am starting to warm to him again. His defiance to not let Gretchen control his life was getting stronger. Just a bit more, and I believe he can defeat The Beauty Killer in her own twisted game.

Looking forward to the next book, Kill You Twice!

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THE NIGHT SEASON by Chelsea Cain

Paperback, 388 pages

Published 2011 by Pan Books

4/5 stars

Book Review: Rogue by Gina Damico

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Young Adult > Paranormal

(Croak #3)

Lex is a teenage Grim Reaper with the power to Damn souls, and it’s getting out of control. Her boyfriend, Driggs, is dead . . . sort of. She’s a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they’re joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: Fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it.  The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed . . . but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.

Book 1: Croak review       Book 2: Scorch review

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I hate this book. Made me cry twice (or thrice?) while riding the bus, no less.

Uncle Mort!
Lex!
DRIGGS!

Gina Damico you cruel, cruel woman. Give me back my happiness!!!

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Have you read Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins? Rogue ended up just like Spell Bound: both finales are heartbreaking, it’s as if all the laughter and humor that launched both series stopped in the middle of their second books. I had high hopes for Rogue! But it gave me more sadness than joy. =(

Lex always feels guilty. Guilty that she cannot save the sister she loves the most, the best (boy)friend she loves the most. Now, she cannot save the future she wants for herself. I love Lex, and I always will. But the heroic acts Gina Damico imposed on her young character is too much for me to bear. I thought that her transition from being a problematic teenager to a world-saving Grimm is too quick to give her due credit.

At the end of Scorch, I was hoping against hope that Lex and Driggs will have a happy ending. If Rogue‘s ending is a happy one based on Gina Damico‘s standards, I don’t think I would want to read any more of her stories. It is just too depressing. *cries again*

It’s times like these when I get too attached to characters that, no matter how unique the world-building was, or how neat the story was wrapped up, the reading just felt heavy for me. And from the (humorous) impression I got from reading the first book, Croak, the morose ending of the series was not palpable for my taste.

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ROGUE by Gina Damico

Ebook, 384 pages

Published September 10th 2013 by Graphia

3/5 stars

Official Blog Tour: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

My blog is the pit stop for The Girl from the Well Official Blog Tour on September 29th!

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The Girl from The Well  ●  Author: Rin Chupeco

Sourcebooks Fire ● August 5, 2014 ● ISBN: 9781402292187

Hardcover/$16.99 U.S. ● Ages 14+

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well.

***

Praise for The Girl From the Well:

“[A] Stephen King–like horror story…A chilling, bloody ghost story that resonates.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Chupeco makes a powerful debut with this unsettling ghost story…told in a marvelously disjointed fashion from Okiku’s numbers-obsessed point of view, this story unfolds with creepy imagery and an intimate appreciation for Japanese horror, myth, and legend.” –Publishers WeeklySTARRED

“The Girl from the Well is part The Ring, part The Grudge and part The Exorcist…A fantastically creepy story sure to keep readers up at night… Okiku is one of the most interesting YA characters to date.” RT Book Reviews,4 ½ STARS-TOP PICK!

“A dark novel that will appeal to horror fans, lovers of Elizabeth Scott’s ‘Living Dead Girl.’” –School Library Journal

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About the Author:

rinDespite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living.The Girl from the Well is her debut novel. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.

maria

July 2014 Wrap Up

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It’s been a fantastic reading month!

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (5/5) – this is beyond words. My 2014 best read so far *2 thumbs up*
  • Ruins by Dan Wells (4/5) – satisfying finale for one of my favourite sci-fi/post apocalyptic YA series
  • Lola and the Boy next Door by Stephanie Perkins (3/5) – different from Anna and the French Kiss, but cute
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (5/5) – a gem! The writing was just mesmerizing =)
  • Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (5/5) – fun and entertaining from beginning to end!

(Ebooks, not included in image above)

  • Deception by C.J. Redwine (4/5) – intense. surprisingly emotional. I’d go as far to say that this sequel is one of the most mature YA reads out there
  • Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews (3/5) – my Kate Daniels fever kind of tapered down a bit after this one. I love the myth, though
  • The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade (4/5) – something light and funny. Right up my alley!
  • On Her Watch by Rie Warren (4/5) – I liked Liz Grant’s POV better than Cannon from In His Command

 

The thing I love the most about my books last July is this: It was a mix of genres (YA and others) and a mix of book formats (printed and ebooks). It only means that seven months after I made my reading resolution, I am adhering to it without any effort at all. =) Aja!

It’s already August 2nd here in Manila, and of course, my daily thought is that, it’s one more month until the “ber” months. Heh. I’m such a kid. Getting excited for Christmas as early as now.

Happy weekend, everyone!

June 2014 Wrap Up

You want to know why I haven’t posted anything for four weeks?

Two words.

KATE DANIELS.

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There’s no stopping because it was impossible. I just need to keep reading. Kind of like when I read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series last year. I had no social life for two weeks back then, so now with Kate Daniels, it was for a month!

I breezed through books 1-5. I also went through Curran’s POV collection (I think there was 5-7 e-novellas). There’s also 2 other e-novellas that I read, Magic Mourns and Magic Dreams. I was so out of there, in magic-filled Atlanta!

So yeah. It was not about me being lazy to blog, I just did not bother to even think of reviewing my finished books. There’s only reading, and reading for me. Ah, Curran. =)

I am on page 50-ish in Gone by Michael Grant. I think I need to sit that one down for one hour or two, so I can finish it. And soon.

Kate Daniels is one badass chick! Have you tried this Urban Fantasy series?