Where did the time go?

Where did the time go?

Holy Moly, how is it 2018? One of these days, I will figure out how to make this whole blogging thing a regular part of life but I admit that full-time work, full-time graduate school and general adulting has left me exhausted. However, being now officially done with my MBA (woohoo) I can get back to enjoying the subtle niceties of life….aka copious amounts of reading. I’m not sure I even want to know what the page count from between Christmas and New Year’s is as I felt like I was searching for a new book almost every day.

I’m pleased to say that I’m back on the book challenge bandwagon and managed to burn my way through both Bossypants by Tina Fey** and I feel bad about my neck by Nora Ephron. 2 more down and yeah, still several to go. But hey, I have, like 3 months until I’m 35 and have to hang my head in shame for failing this noblest of endeavors.

I enjoyed reading Bossypants immensely. The clever witticisms that I would expect of Tina Fey are sprinkled throughout the memoir along with advice that is darn good regardless of whether or not you happen to possess a pair of boobs. A few key gems:

  • “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
  • “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”
  • “It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
  • “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

And in a beautiful response to scathing fan letter:

“To say I’m an overrated troll, when you have never even seen me guard a bridge, is patently unfair.”

I appreciated the no-nonsense manner in which the book conveyed the trials and tribulations of her youth, complete with awkward adolescent years, and the sharing of potential closet skeletons that frankly we all have from our youth but not all are courageous enough to own. As a woman, who sometimes laments being female everytime I have to restock my supply of feminine hygiene products for the next go-around of my body punishing me for not being pregnant (this comic illustrates the relationship with my uterus perfectly), I was more amused by Tina’s rambling regarding the fact that she didn’t realize her period would involve blood since TV commercials always showing a bright blue liquid. Whether this is actually true or merely an amusing anecdotal story, I can identify with the confusion and wonder about the marketing mind that decided we mustn’t make the masses squeamish with the sight of a little blood.

Musings on the joys reproductive cycles and marketing tactics aside, reading this book made me want to hug Tina Fey until she got a restraining order against me or (instead) figure out how to bottle that indomitable spirit and sell it for tons of money on Amazon. Seriously, read this book and decide how to channel your inner Tina Fey. With feminist hat firmly affixed, I’ll venture to say that we need more Tina Fey’s in the world.

Now, Nora Ephran’s book…well, I just don’t know what to make of it. I’m not sure if I feel this way because I read it much too soon after the rollicking ride of Tina’s Fey’s life and feminist views and so, by comparison, there was a missing joie de vivre element but this book simply did not resonate with me. Many chapter openings pulled me in but then there were abrupt endings or a lack of final wisdom conveyed. Sure, I also don’t understand obsessing about one’s purse or paying hundreds of dollars for a glorified rucksack where one will inevitably store dust mites, forgotten scraps of paper and even a black hole portal but then there was no real sense of closure to the chapter. When I finally read the last page and gently closed the back cover, I sat staring at the book in befuddlement. Where was the grandiose message of sage wisdom? Where was my adult empowerment that you know what, everything is going to be ok? While there were a few gems, overall I am still pondering why this book was written. Perhaps, as I age, potentially ungracefully, Nora’s writing and the message will resonate with me more but for now, someone please let me know if I merely missed the cereal box decoder that was necessary to unlocking the hidden message?

Happy 2018 all! Soon to come, thoughts on Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

** Disclosure: Book links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and decided to purchase one of the books.**

Image credit: Pixabay.com

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Freedom, like everything else, is relative.” 

I’m sorry to say that I have never read this novel by Margaret Atwood prior to now. Perhaps it was fortuitous that I had seen ads for the TV series adaptation on Hulu and an otherwise dry spell of books led me to select this as my next free Kindle title. Fortuitous and yet heart-wrenching as the chilling similarities between the story the author pens and the calamitous political storm our nation faces today are brought side-by-side.

The Handmaid’s tale is told from the point of view of a woman named Offred, who had another name prior to the collapse of society in America. Offred is what is known as a Handmaid – a woman that is a sanctioned mistress.  Her entire existence is based solely on her ability to have children by the man she is leased out to- generally a high-ranking military or political figure- and she goes to whichever home she is ordered to. Failure to produce a living, breathing normal child after three attempts means a fate worse than death. And even if a Handmaid has a healthy child, she is sent quickly after giving birth to the next man to produce another child.

As Offred narrates her current existence and shares flashbacks of the time “before,” the novel dances between despair and hope. Reading this today, 30+ years after it was first published, I am chilled less by the story that came after the fall of the government and more by the events of how it all took place.

In the beginning, a staged attack kills the President and most of Congress. An extreme Christian movement launches a revolution, suspends the Constitution and begins to take away women’s rights under the pretext of restoring order. Offred arrives to work one normal day only to be let go because it was now a law that women were not allowed to work….or have their own bank account…or vote. Women were further stripped of their rights and dehumanized as it became illegal for them to even read printed words amongst other actions.

Atwood describes the reaction of society to this appalling movement as well…almost nonexistent:

” There were marches, of course, a lot of women and some men. But they were smaller than you might have thought. I guess people were scared. And when it was known that the police, or the army, or whoever they were, would open fire almost as soon as any of the marches even started, the marches stopped.”

Normally, I enjoy books with not necessarily happy endings but closure and the Handmaid’s tale does have closure in a sense. The reader is left knowing that Offred makes it somewhere safe to record her tale but not where or how she spent the remainder of her days. While I prefer to be optimistic when faced with the open-ended fate of Offred, this novel has left me a bit haunted. It is raw, dark and I feel almost paralyzed due to the parallels I can see in the political dictatorship that is unfolding every day and the society that lead to and was present in Offred’s tale.

Who wants to believe, that as a society, we could ever be so blind or passively willing to let our rights be taken away? But isn’t that what is happening to many? Isn’t that what has happened in other countries in a not-so-distant past? Aren’t we witnessing the rise of a power that seems to embrace and ignore that their version of “better never means better for everyone…it always means worse for some?”

I’m not sure what the future will hold or that posting this silly blog will have any impact. I am still searching for the inner political firebrand that hides inside me and letting her voice rage. But I have to remind myself that some action is better than no action; not everyone’s rise against this tide will look the same but the collection of our will and the desire to not stand by silent in these ignoble times is what is required of us. If we believe in the rights of others, and that we live in a country meant for a better destiny than the one currently being crafted, the time for silence is over.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

2 for 1 book plots

Over my long 5-day holiday weekend, I unabashedly indulged in two of my favorite activities: napping and reading. I think I made it through 4 or 5 books and as many hours curled up on the couch or bed napping. Ahh…glorious staycation.

I had an interesting observation with two of the books I picked up over the weekend and that was the plots seemed to be combination of at least two plots from other books/movies. For instance, Twisted by Andrew Kaufman seemed to be a blend of “Silence of the Lambs” and “Shutter Island.” Take one psychologist working with a serial killer in the wing of a asylum reserved for the top level crazies (the description of some of the other patients instantly reminded me of SotL; the scene where Clarice first meets Dr. Lector….walking down a long hallway because of course the person of interest is located at the end…having to pass by the other “crazies” including the sex fiend jacking off…that chilling first look at the patient/inmate in the cell…key camera zoom in), said psychologist starts to have strange things happening to him at work and at home, starts to believe that the patient/co-workers are plotting against him, goes on destruction mode to prevent patient from accomplishing sinister plot and final twist of the book is the psychologist wakes up in a mental hospital to realize his mind had created an entire fantasy world for a year to avoid dealing with the death of his son and the crazy serial killer in his fantasy was a twisted projection of his own psychologist who was pushing him to come out of his shell and thus became the fantasy villain. AKA- Shutter Island- detective and his partner investigate a missing person on an island that houses a mental asylum, detective suspects there is some crazy, sinister plot afoot between the doctors at the hospital, that they are out to get him so he can’t expose the truth of what happens at the hospital, goes on the, you guessed it, destructive rampage, only for the plot twist to also be that he is a patient of the hospital, his partner is his therapist letting him act out the investigation in an attempt to help him come to terms with killing his wife who had drowned their children. (Side note- at the end of the move, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character ends up being lobotomized.)

I hate to use the word cliché as I feel that has some negative connotation to it but I also think it is fitting. Twisted was an enjoyable read and I wasn’t sure where exactly the storyline was going to go but overall, I was glad that it was one of the $3.99 or less deals for Kindle. Somewhat re-worked plot aside, I would be curious to give one of the author’s other novels a try. My biggest beef with Twisted was at the end when the main character wakes up out of the fantasy and is ready to start living in the real world again, his wife basically says ‘oh honey, it’s ok that you retreated into yourself for an entire year, leaving me alone to deal with my own grief and reality but I don’t have a single iota of resentment against you so now we can just go back to our puppies and sunshine life again.” Ugh. Now before anyone starts posting comments that I’m being insensitive to the effects grief can have a person and that people don’t necessarily consciously choose to retreat from life in such a fashion, I’m more irritated that the author wrote an entire novel dealing with some very serious, deep issues and then tied the book up with a pretty, pink bow at the end in about 3 pages. I’m an absolute hopeless romantic and, generally speaking, love a happy ending but something about this one just bothered me. Anyone else read this story and feel the same?

The other novel, the Einstein Prophecy, well, I think you could argue that it’s a mish-mash of several similar plots- Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy, and Monument Men. If you have seen all three movies, then you can essentially weave together the plot of this book. If you haven’t, honestly, watching each movie will be more entertaining and feel more original than reading this book. Again…thank you Amazon for the $1.99 pre-lease kindle deals. I might have cried if I had paid more

 

Old but New

There are times in every avid reader’s life when one hits a dry spell; a barren time of desperation when one’s favorite, go-to authors are busy working on their next new novel that doesn’t release until sometime in the far off future, the trusty standbys are almost memorized from so many repeated re-readings and every back cover synopsis perused with single-minded determination to find something new and fresh ends in disappointment. Please, universe! Give me something new to read!

This was my state of mind last week as I wandered the aisle of my small, local library. With an upcoming move, most of my books had been tucked safely away into boxes and with the newest books from my current “love-to-read” authors devoured in less time than it takes to watch all the Lord of the Ring movies, I searched in vain for something to soothe the restless beast in my mind that needed its daily fix of written word. Feeling too cheap to buy a kindle ebook and with the closest book store being more than 40 min away (Side note: I don’t know how the people of my current location survive without a book store being closer than 40 min away. I can’t be the only one who needs a book fix…), I hoped that the library would provide me with solace.

Luck was with me that day as I glanced down and saw a novel entitled “The Dream Thief” by Shana Abé*. Marked as sci-fi/fantasy and intrigued by the spine artwork, I read the back cover description and decided to give it a try. It was love in 25 pages. Set in the mid 1700’s Abé spins an intriguing story line of fantasy, romance and drákon who are humans sometimes blessed with the ability to Turn into dragons and/or smoke. The atmosphere created by Abé flowed off the pages and at the end of the novel, I found my way to her website eager to find out if she had written more novels. Surprisingly, her first novel appeared to be published in 1998 and as I know I have been reading romance/fantasy novels at least since 1998, I’m shocked that I haven’t discovered her sooner! 

There is a certain excitement and delight with discovering what I term an “old but new” author. New to me but old in that they have several books written and if I happened along a book within a series, than there are few things better than being able to easily acquire other books in said series because they have been published for years. We all know the endless waiting for the next in a series to be published (Game of Thrones…”shudder” with the torment of pushed back into the unknown release dates) and if this can be avoided, then all the better.

If you have yet to pick up a Shana Abé novel and you enjoy the fantasy/romance genre, than rush to your local bookstore, library or ebook site and find a copy. The first of the drákon series begins with “The Smoke Thief” and at this time, there are 5 in the series/storyline so pages aplenty to keep one occupied! Check out her website (listed below) and please know that I have not been asked to endorse or review this author’s books or website. I simply enjoy her work and am excited to have found another author to add to my bookshelf.

*http://www.shanaabe.com/index.shtml