Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Title: The Testaments
Series: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Format: eBook
Pages: 378
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: ★★★★★

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her—freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” —Margaret Atwood

If you want to see inflammatory reviews, just go look at the reviews for The Testaments on Goodreads. Several people have panned the book majorly, stating that the book wasn’t necessary. I’m here to tell you that while those people might feel The Handmaid’s Tale was fine as it was, it really wasn’t.

What those illustrious readers and reviewers failed to understand was that The Handmaid’s Tale left off with so many unanswered questions. What happened to Offred in the end? Did she survive? Was she ever reunited with her daughter? How long did Gilead exist after Offred’s story ended? How did Gilead fall? We needed answers. This book provided them.

I was ecstatic to hear this book was coming out. I immediately set out to obtain a copy as soon as it was released, although it took me a few days to get to it. This book was amazing. It answered all the questions I had.

The book is written from the perspective of three people – Agnes Jemima, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia. Anyone who has read The Handmaid’s Tale or even watched the series on Hulu knows who Aunt Lydia is. The other two, perhaps not so much. However, if you catch the clues, you’ll figure out who Agnes Jemima is pretty quickly. Yes, there are clues. No, I won’t tell you what they are.

This book had some very interesting twists in it. While I won’t tell you the gory details, just know that Aunt Lydia has a very big role to play in this story. She gives more information about how the “Aunts” got their start in Gilead. She also does some things that might surprise you, considering her role in The Handmaid’s Tale and how faithful she was to Gilead in that story.

Agnes Jemima was pretty easy to figure out once a couple of clues were given, but Daisy took a tiny bit longer to figure out. I had Daisy’s true identity worked out long before it was stated in the book, but it didn’t matter.

There is action and adventure in this book. There is heartache and there are horrors that we see in our world today. You will laugh at some of the antics, be horrified by some parts of the book, and wonder what is wrong with these people in most parts of the book. It’s a must read if you’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale and had any questions about Gilead, Offred, or Offred’s daughter.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars because I honestly didn’t want to stop reading it. I had to know what was going on. I had to see what would be revealed next. I know to get to the end. When I did, I was so happy because even after all this… they still treat Offred and other characters from The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments as though they could be myths. It’s awesome and I highly recommend this book.

Book Review: It Won’t Be Christmas Without You by Beth Reekles

Title: It Won’t Be Christmas Without You
Author: Beth Reekles
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins/One More Chapter
Release Date: August 30, 2019
Format: Kindle
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

From the author of the smash hit Netflix romcom The Kissing Booth!

Eloise, a self-confessed Christmas obsessive, can’t wait for the big day. Devoted to her Michael Bublé playlist, she’s organising the school nativity play and even her gorgeous Grinch of a neighbour, James, can’t get her down.

Her workaholic twin sister, Cara, on the other hand, plans to work over the holiday. The sisters used to be close but since Cara moved to London, everything’s been different.

Eloise isn’t giving up just yet. With James’s help and a white Christmas on the cards, Cara can’t fail to be moved by the magic of the season … can she?

I admit, I’m not usually one for romance or adult fiction. I’m more of a mystery, thriller, horror, and YA person. But this book seemed like it was going to be too cute to pass up. I was right.

Christmas is my second favorite holiday after Halloween. It should be – my birthday is Christmas Eve. So I know how important it is to be surrounded by loved ones for Christmas. So I can see why it is that Eloise is so disappointed when it seems that Christmas might not include her twin sister.

The writing style in this book might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Mind you, the book is set in the UK, so UK terms are used and might confuse some readers from other countries. The writing style itself kind of mish-mashes the story lines together. But it works. I didn’t find myself confused or wondering what was going on.

I found myself alternating between wanting to smack Cara and wanting to smack Eloise. They both seemed to be playing selfish – Eloise demanding her sister spend Christmas with her, Cara wanting to work as opposed to being with her family. But at the end of the day, aren’t we all at least a little selfish?

I was surprised to see how little the romance played into the story. It was there and it fit well into the story. Yet I can’t help but feel that with the exception of some dialogue between sisters, it honestly could have been left out with little consequence to the main theme of the book.

All in all, this was a vet quick, very cute read. I recommend it for anyone looking for a cute., holiday themed read.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Review: The Zombie Stories of H.P. Lovecraft

Title: The Zombie Stories of H. P. Lovecraft
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Genre: Horror, Fiction, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Dover Publications
Release Date: September 16, 2015
Format: Kindle
Pages: 100
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and other experts on horror fiction deem H. P. Lovecraft the master teller of weird tales. These six chilling stories ― all published between 1921 and 1933 ― offer compelling journeys into the land of the undead.

The collection begins with “The Outsider,” the tale of a recluse whose overwhelming loneliness emboldens him to seek out human contact. Subsequent stories include “Herbert West―Reanimator,” written as a satire of Frankenstein and used as the source for a popular horror film; “In the Vault,” in which an undertaker experiences supernatural revenge; “Cool Air,” an account of a doctor’s fanatical obsession with defying death; and “Pickman’s Model,” focusing on an artist’s gallery of nightmares. “The Thing on the Doorstep” concludes the compilation with the compelling tale of a man whose body is preyed upon by a spirit that refuses to die.

When I think of zombies, I think of undead beings who stagger around, moaning and groaning, and looking to consume human (or non-human) flesh and/or brains. I think Night of the Living Dead, The Walking Dead, etc.. What I don’t think of, are scientific reanimations of corpses, black magic being used to take over others’ bodies, or any of the other things that happened in this book.

H. P. Lovecraft is one of the authors that is considered “must read” for any goth – and being a goth I felt that I must give this a try, at least once. I find that I’m not particularly entranced by H. P. Lovecraft’s writing style, nor am I particularly impressed with what the author and publisher chose to consider zombie stories. These were relatively creepy, but not downright scary and quite frankly, didn’t spark anything past mild interest.

I finished the book for the sake of finishing it as it isn’t a particularly long book. The stories were all right, but not worth more than 3 stars.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 338
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about this book. I mean, I rated it 4 stars, so I obviously I liked it, but I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the book.

Little Fires Everywhere is a wonderful novel. I’m not going to say it isn’t. It’s thought provoking. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you angry. You’ll find yourself taking sides on issues raised in the book. You’ll find yourself heartbroken for characters who have lost something. You’ll find yourself hoping that characters get what they are looking for in the end.

I went out of my genre comfort zone for this book. I don’t normally read books that are in the “Fiction” or “Adult Fiction” category unless I’ve been seeing them everywhere – which I’ve been seeing a lot of people talking about this book. I’ve seen where people say it’s slow moving, which I suppose you could say that it is, but I read it in 2 days, so it can’t be that slow moving. Usually when I think of a slow moving book, it takes me over a week to read the book because it moves so slowly that I can’t get into it. I think it is more a matter of the book moves slowly if you simply aren’t interested in it.

I fell in love with the kids in this book – Pearl and Izzy especially. I keep wondering if Trip & Moody really are named that or if they are nicknames for which we simply are never given their proper given names. The kids are just so genuine and I know how Izzy feels because I’ve felt that way on more than one occasion with my family (although in my case it is extended family who make me feel that way, not my parents).

The May Ling Chow/Mirabelle McCullough story line tugged at my heart. I can totally see how both sides felt, but I must admit, I sided with Bebe Chow. You’ll have to tell me which side you chose in that debate.

All in all, the book is a really good read and I do recommend that you check it out if you’re into adult fiction.

Book Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

Title: Camino Island
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: June 06, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 290
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★☆

A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.

Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.

Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.

But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.

While I kind of panned the last John Grisham novel I’d read, it was more because while it involved law and lawyers, it wasn’t what I was expecting.

This novel was a departure from what I recall John Grisham doing previously, but this novel worked. It really did work.

The character development wasn’t completely there, but it also didn’t really need to be. Most of the characters, even though they appeared multiple times, didn’t need the development as they weren’t the main focus of the novel. The characters who did need development had it – Mercer and Bruce Cable. The rest of the characters were more or less window dressing, regardless of how much time you spent reading their words and actions. The only characters that truly mattered in the plot were Mercer and Bruce.

And it was a great book. It was hard for me to put it down to do the other things I needed to get done, but I managed. This book just flowed and I was constantly curious to see how the story would turn out. It turns out a bit differently than you might expect, but that just makes the novel even better.

This one got 4 out 5 stars only because there were some parts of the book I thought could have been taken out and the book wouldn’t have been any less interesting.

Book Review: A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett

Title: A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett’s long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press,; to the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series.

Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas,all of it shot through with his inimitable brand of humour.

With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself, this is a book to treasure.

This was my first foray into reading Terry Pratchett and I have to say, although the stories were good, they weren’t GREAT.

Part of this is due to some of the stories having been written a long time ago, when he’d first started writing. Part of this is also due to my not being particularly knowledgeable about Discworld, and so the Discworld stories didn’t really make any sense to me.

Terry Pratchett’s writing style is very good. He knows how to tell a story. I’m not denying that. He knows how to develop characters in just a few short sentences so that a short story can get on with it. But some of the earlier works – I’m just not sure why the editors and publisher were willing to have them in there… and Terry himself was rather embarrassed by some of the stories.

All in all, it was a good introduction to Terry Pratchett and I would recommend it to those who haven’t read his works as a way to introduce themselves to his writing style. Just keep in mind that some of the stories are from way back when and could use a little work.

Book Review: The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Title: The Rooster Bar
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right? Well, yes and no . . .

Pull up a stool, grab a cold one, and get ready to spend some time at The Rooster Bar.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a John Grisham novel in years. I was really into his novels when I was in high school, but to be honest, after high school I kind of lost interest. I think the last time I’d read one of his novels was back in the early 2000s when I still lived in Texas.

The book was all right, but it wasn’t the type of story I’m used to from John Grisham. I’m used to his books being more like The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill. This one wasn’t so much like that and I guess I was just expecting another lawyer making a name for him/herself because he/she took on a case that was making big headlines.

The book was well written, although you might have to get a notepad to keep track of changing names and what’s going on with each person’s family because it can get a bit on the complicated side. I don’t think this book had quite as much character development as previous novels and to be honest, I think that was part of why I didn’t like it. It just didn’t have that John Grisham feel.

All in all, it was a good book but not one I’d really recommend to long time fans of John Grisham.