The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale delves into the oppressed world of Offred. Her life’s purposes as a Handmaid are to pick up groceries, keep herself healthy, and once a month try to get pregnant with the Commander. Anything else could get her killed.

So Offred doesn’t do anything else…for the whole…entire…book.

The Handmaid’s Tail isn’t a story about how Offred grew and changed. It’s a story of how the world she lived in changed. That’s what was so off-putting for me. I prefer character driven stories, and The Handmaid’s Tale serves as more of a political/religious critique.

I kept waiting for Offred to do something to challenge society, to rise up and find a way out. She’s given several opportunities and I rooted for her to take them, but Offred does what she is told and little more.

She remembers her life before Handmaids existed, a life when she was allowed to read, wear makeup, and dream of a future with her now missing husband and daughter. These flashbacks of “life before” break the story flow. Because Offred is such a passive character, she spends a lot of time thinking about the past. The frequent jumps from far past, to present, to recent past muddle the timeline of events and make the story drag.

If you are interested in fictional reflections about government/religion, then you might enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale. It wasn’t the book I expected, so I was disappointed.

This is one of the first audio books I’ve listened to while I was working. Not going to lie, it’s really hard to pay attention to an audio book while you’re writing emails. I had to rewind so many times because I tuned out the book!

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Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor
Published: March 16, 1998
The Handmaids are a class of oppressed women. I took these photos the day after I chopped off my hair…#notoppressed
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What’s Your Favorite Book? (Careful with Your Answer)

Can we talk about one of my biggest bookworm pet peeves? It has to do with the simple question “What’s your favorite book?”
I often ask this question when I’m looking for a new book recommendation. I want something that I can check out from the library, read in three weeks, enjoy, and return. There are literally hundreds of thousands of options to choose from, but somehow when I ask, “What’s your favorite book?” so many people name a series instead of a single title.
Harry Potter is not a book title.
The Lord of the Rings is not a book title.
The Lunar Chronicles is not a book title.
The Hunger Games…technically is a title, but you know they’re not just talking about the first book.
I am by no means bashing on trilogies, sagas, chronicles, sets or series. In fact, a good chunk of the books on my shelf are boxed sets. All of the series listed above I’ve read and loved and own. (I own part of the Lunar Chronicles, but only because I’m poor and need to buy food instead of books.)
It’s frustrating to look up a title recommendation only to find there are five other books I’ll need to read in order to have the full plot resolved. That’s not a three week read, that’s an investment!
So please, the next time someone asks you, “What’s your favorite book?” answer the question correctly. Not books. Not book series. Just book.
The Lord of the Rings
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter…I’m missing book two!

 

The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers

The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers
When you use the word “exquisite” in your title, you’re setting the bar for your book pretty high. The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers delivered!!!! Not only are the flowers exquisite, but the instructions are clear and easy-to-follow and there are templates for each project in the back of the book. Let’s just say that thanks to this book, paper flowers are officially my new favorite hobby.
I first found paper flower crafts on Pinterest (surprise, surprise). While the step-by-step photo instructions seemed clear, my flowers never turned out like the ones in the Pinterest pictures (surprise, surprise). I looked at a few paper flower books and after flipping through their pages at Barnes & Noble decided that The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers looked like I was getting the most bang for my buck.
You can see from the pictures on this post that, while I am not going to be opening an Etsy paper flower shop anytime soon, the flowers actually look like flowers! There are 27 different types of flowers featured in the book. Each one comes with a template, a list of materials needed, step-by-step instructions, photos, and tips so that you can learn how to make poppies, roses, and sweat peas (to name a few).
I can’t say enough good things about this book! Instead, head over to my Instagram account @bookfaire to win a copy for yourself!
Title: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers
Author: Livia Cetti
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang
Published: April 8, 2014

5 Baby Names Inspired by Pride and Prejudice

 

There are few books that have inspired generations of baby names like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s a love story that still leaves girls swooning after Mr. Darcy, and it’s chalk full of great names.
Before I wrote this post, I looked up other Pride and Prejudice baby name lists. Most of them focused on famous FIRST names in the book: Eliza, Lydia, and even Fitzwilliam. While Regency Era names like Jane and Charlotte are both beautiful and timeless, these aren’t the names that I fell in love with when I first read Pride and Prejudice.
My top 5 baby names from Pride and Prejudice are actually all LAST names from the book!

 

5. COLLINS (Rev. William Collins)
While Mr. Collins has a bad wrap in the book for being a bit of an overbearing creeper, he has the good fortune of having a great name. One of the things I like most about the name Collins is that it’s gender neutral, and thanks to The Blind Side I wouldn’t mind having a daughter named Collins.
4. LUCAS (Miss Charlotte Lucas)
I have to admit that I fell in love with the name Lucas while I was serving a church mission in Brazil. Lucas is Portuguese for Luke (go figure, right?) and is such a solid yet uncommon name. It’s gaining popularity right now, so this might have to be my firstborn’s name!
3. DENNY (Mr. Denny)
Mr. Denny is a minor character in Pride and Prejudice. His role in the militia may have been overshadowed by Mr. Wickham, but his name definitely was not. This is a nice change from the more common Daniel or Danny. I really like how changing one letter (the “a” for the “e”) creates a fresh new name. Denny is a great name a boy could grow up with as it suits toddlers, teens, and adults.

 

2. BENNETT (Miss Elizabeth Bennet)
You probably noticed the spelling change from the Pride and Prejudice‘s famous Bennet family. It’s just a personal preference adding an extra “t” on at the end. I’ve always loved the nickname Ben but was never in love with Benjamin. Bennett adds a foreign feel to the full name while still letting me keep my more traditional Ben.
1. DARCIE (Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy)
This name is hands down my favorite, and the proof is in the fact that I couldn’t wait for a daughter and ended up naming my dog Darcie. I opted to change out the “y” for a more feminine “ie.” This name is both strong and delicate, which makes it the perfect girl name! Now…will my daughter be named after my dog or Pride and Prejudice?

The Art of Not Breathing

The Art of Not Breathing


The Art of Not Breathing has an intriguing plot line that’s part murder mystery part adventure story. Elsie Main’s twin brother drowned five years ago, but even though she was with him the day he died, she can’t remember exactly what happened. Her parents have forbidden her to go to the beach, but it’s only when she’s in the water that pieces of her memory return. Little by little she realizes that her family and friends have all been keeping secrets from her. Only if she dives deep (literally) will she be able to answer the question: What really happened the day Eddie died? 

Intriguing, right?

Well add in the fact that Elsie’s mom is an alcoholic, her dad hates the world, her brother is anorexic, her “boyfriend” randomly disappears, she’s bullied at school, and has self-esteem issues. Oh, and her dead twin brother, Eddie, talks to her in her mind. Ya. There’s a LOT of heavy subplot going on.

Things that seem important at the beginning of the book (Elsie hearing Eddie’s voice in her head) end up being trivial (he’s all but silent by the end). The fact that every character is dealing with their own drama made me wish that SOMEONE could have had their life together. It’s a little draining hearing how awful and unhappy everyone is all the time. 

I was so excited to explore the country of Ireland! But, the accents disappeared after the first chapter and the vague descriptions of the town and ocean made it sound like this story could just as easily have taken place in New England. Luckily, the only time I’ve ever been to New England was when I was a little kid. New England is just as foreign as Ireland, so The Art of Not Breathing was still a nice escape for me.

Title: The Art of Not Breathing
Author: Sarah Alexander
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Published: January 5, 2016
There is one particular quote in the book that I really take to heart:

“Go with your heart, not your head, because your head doesn’t know what it wants. It only thinks about the moral high ground. And if your heart isn’t happy, when you try to share it, you’ll make others unhappy too.”

Isn’t that beautiful?



The Hobbit: Apple Turnovers

Hobbits are known for their ability to eat. I mean:
  • Breakfast
  • Second Breakfast
  • Elevenses
  • Luncheon
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Dinner
  • Supper
And if they can eat that much, it must be some pretty delicious meals that they’re cooking up! So when I think about hobbits I can’t help but think of hearty country meals. I didn’t have any roast chicken on hand, but I decided to make apple turnovers. 
While we were honeymooning in New Zealand I ate more than my fair share of fish and chips…and apple turnovers. And now I crave apple turnovers all the time!
Here’s a great recipe (perfect for a first time apple turnover baker like myself).

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 4 granny smith apples (peeled, cored, and sliced)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 (17.25 oz) package frozen puff pastry sheets
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  1. Place apples in water lemon mixture (prevents apples from browning)
  2. Melt butter and add just apples
  3. Cook and stir 2 minutes
  4. Add brown sugar and Cinnamon
  5. Stir 2 minutes
  6. Add corn starch and 1 Tbs water
  7. Cook 1 minute until thickened
  8. Cool slightly
  9. Preheat oven to 400°
  10. Trim puff pastry sheets into squares
  11. Spoon apple mixture onto center and fold corners over into triangles
  12. Press edges with fork to seal pastry
  13. Cut 3 vent slits into top of pastry and place on baking sheet
  14. Brush beaten egg over top of each pastry and sprinkle with sugar
  15. Bake 25 minutes until lightly brown
Enjoy for breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, supper (or dessert!) It’s delicious hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends

A quiet rural town is getting back into routine on the first day of school. The students and teachers are gathered together in the auditorium for the principal’s annual “Welcome Back” pep talk. Everything is normal, until the assembly ends and the teachers realizes that all the auditorium doors are locked from the outside.

There’s a shooter in the room, and this first day of school will tear the town apart. 
I have never read a school shooting novel before. I like to read to escape real life, and unfortunately violence, hate, and bullying in schools are all over the news and social media sites. For some reason though, I picked up this book and decided to read it. It was a good choice!
This Is Where It Ends is written from four different character perspectives (with a few special sections interspersed throughout). Jumping from view point to view point normally makes the story too jerky and disjointed for my liking, but Marieke did a wonderful job of keeping her timeline in order. In fact, the timeline was one of the things I thought was brilliant. 
The entire span of the book only takes place in one hour. Each chapter is broken up by different time increments (i.e. 10:32-10:35 A.M.), so you’re reading in real time. The different narrators are located in various places: inside the auditorium, outside the auditorium, outside the school, so you’re able to get a full spectrum of what’s going on. Brilliant. 
The plot is violent (it’s all about a school shooting), and every single character feels misunderstood (typical teenager). Despite the heavy subject matter, it didn’t weigh down the flow of the story too much. Marieke did a good job of balancing dark backstories with hope and determination. 
While this book isn’t a new favorite that I’ll reread over and over again, I am glad that I gave it a chance. It reminded me that I need to be part of the good in the world. It doesn’t take much to be kind, but it can make the biggest difference in the life of someone I’m kind to.  
Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Published: January 5, 2016

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus
Lily is a twelve-year-old dachshund with a tumor…I’m sorry, “octopus” on her head. Her owner, Ted, can’t bring himself to acknowledge Lily’s illness and does everything in his power and imagination to save her. 

I have never read a “dog novel” in my life, because whenever a dog is a main character it can’t end well. Am I right? 

Lily and the Octopus received such great reviews that I broke my own rule and read a “dog novel.” This was NOT the book for me to start with. Rather than being a moving fictional read about a man’s love for his dog, this book was more magical realism about a man’s obsession with his dog’s tumor.

I understand that everyone handles grief in different ways. Ted’s reaction is denial, and rather than being able to enjoy the time he has left with Lily, (she is really really old) he breathes life into her tumor. His imagination turns it into a talking octopus. 

I liked the parts where Ted had flashbacks of his life with Lily, or when he and Lily had conversations. They were just so fleeting and always overshadowed by the octopus. 

Between the talking tumor, the self-pity, and an entire section (whole chapters) about a really weird dream, this book didn’t trigger any tears from me (and I have a four-year-old dog that’s going blind for reasons the vet can’t explain, so my baby’s death has crossed my mind more than once.)

This was a book that just wasn’t meant for me.


Title: Lily and the Octopus 
Author: Steven Rowley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Published: June 7, 2016
Maybe subconsciously I read a “dog book” just so I could post pictures of Darcie here on the blog. Here’s a little #tbt to when she was a newly adopted street mutt. 

Things Not Meant for You

Last year I had a reading resolution of over 30 books. This year, my resolution is a whopping 15 books. I love reading (hello, I started a book blog), so why did I cut my goal in half?

Well, it turns out that I’m a really picky reader…and by really picky, I mean it’s more likely you’ll find me in a library than a bookstore because it’s easier to return the books I don’t want to finish. It’s more likely for a book to get an Erika rating of 2 stars than 4. It’s more likely I’ll prefer the movie than the book. (That last one probably made a lot of you cringe.)

I used to think there was something wrong with me. After all, how could I not love the book that was recommended by Oprah, 5-starred on Goodreads, and listed as a New York Times bestseller?

Buddha had the answer for me:
“In the end only three things matter: how much you love, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

I’ve applied this to multiple aspects of my life, including my reading habits.

According to Forbes, there are between “600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone.” That’s a lot of books.

With so many options on the bookshelf, why would I want to force my way through a book I don’t enjoy? Not every book was meant for me. Apparently a lot of books weren’t meant for me, and that’s okay. Every person has different experiences in life. Books touch those experiences on various levels so what might ring as life changing text for one person might be a throw away read for another. And that’s okay.

Rather than trying to force myself to read 2-3 books a month, I’m going to give myself the time to let go of the books not meant for me. By lowering my reading goal, I don’t have to finish every book I start. I can take the time to start books that intrigue me and finish books that continued to intrigue me, hopefully turning 2017 into my best read yet.

Winter

Winter

As the final book in the Lunar Chronicles, I wanted to love this book.
Cinder was such a great and engaging opener to the series, but this end book just didn’t meet my expectations.

I think what made Winter a miss for me were the 50 million subplots throughout the book, most of which involved a romance of some sort. Every book in the Lunar Chronicles, builds off of the prior book adding a new subplot and a new set characters.
Cinder– Cinder & Prince Kai
Scarlet– Cinder & Prince Kai, Scarlet & Wolf
Cress– Cinder & Prince Kai, Scarlet & Wolf, Cress & Thorne
Winter– Cinder & Prince Kai, Scarlet & Wolf, Cress & Thorne, Winter & Jacin
That’s a lot of subplot! It made the story a little jerky to me because every other chapter followed a different group of characters. 
I’m glad that I read it though, because the basis behind the series is so clever. I loved being able to see traditional fairy tales get such a unique twist.


Title: Winter
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Published: November 10, 2015