Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

2017 Reading Challenge: Reading for Fun

A Book You’ve Read Before

handmaidIf you’d never heard of this book before, the odds are good that if you live in the US that you have now. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published in 1985 has seen its sales soar and at this moment, sits at #3 on Amazon’s hourly updated best seller list.

I read this book most probably in the early 1990s and enjoyed it enough to search out other books by Atwood. But I enjoyed it then as a dystopian novel that was just fiction. Just Fiction.

Did she portend the future? With a group of men making decisions about women’s healthcare, her book about a theocratic military dictatorship taking away all rights of women seems more relevant today than it did when I first read it. I read it more carefully this second time around and found it more horrifying.

Written in first person by Offred (pronounced Of-Fred), she describes her situation and day to day activities assigned as a handmaid to The Commander. As a handmaid, her sole responsibility is to become pregnant by The Commander, carry the baby and then hand it over at birth to him and his wife, Serena Joy. What she can and cannot do is strictly regulated with her only freedom being daily shopping trips for the family’s provisions with a fellow (assigned) handmaid.

In between chapters describing her current life, Offred describes what life was like before government was overthrown, her life with her husband and daughter.

Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.

~Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood considers this book speculative fiction vs science fiction because nothing is in the books that either hasn’t happened in society before or that is possible. And there is really nothing too science-y about it anyway. In fact, it seems that society has moved backward in scientific development. Sounds like something that could happen with climate change deniers, the removal of scientific information from government websites and the potential dissolution of some government agencies.

This week, a group of women in Texas donned red capes and white winged bonnets to protest proposed anti-abortion measures in the Texas senate. This really happened. I’m thankful that women and men are outraged enough about what is happening in regard to health care to take action and be seen, and if making a point about losing women’s rights by wearing costumes from the imagination of Margaret Atwood, then more power to them.

The Handmaid’s Tale is not the only dystopian speculative fiction novel to see an increase in sales. 1984 by George Orwell is currently #1 on Amazon’s Science Fiction best seller list and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley has also found some new readers.

Be careful what you wish for.






Book Review: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

2017 Reading Challenge: Reading for Fun

A Book You Chose for the Cover

2017-02-04_23-26-09_000Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. That’s a sentiment I’ve always tried to live by, so when the reading challenge has “read a book you chose for the cover”… Well, that’s a bit of a head scratcher. And so technically becomes like the free space on the bingo card.

Since I’m trying to get all 24 books read without repeating a category (not to say that I won’t repeat a category) some books may just have to fit into more than one. I have already read the juicy memoir, so I’m putting Amy Schumer’s book The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo into the cover category. According to Amy, this book isn’t a memoir anyway because she is too young to have written a memoir. It is simply a book of stories about her life.

PotAto. PotAHto.

If you know anything about Amy Schumer’s stand up comedy, you know that she is unapologetically raunchy and will say almost anything about sex and her sex life. (She does not give out the names of her partners.) Her book is no different. In fact, if you catch her Leather Special on Netflix it is the equivalent of a musician going on tour with their new album. Many of the stories in her book are retold in shorter comedy-style bites on her special. The special on Netflix is a hour long.

It takes longer than an hour to read her book, and if you are sensitive to her preferred topics and language you may need a palate cleanser between chapters. If you are offended in any way by her topics and language, you’ll want to give this book a pass.

Her book is not all raunch. Amy was deeply upset by the Lafayette theater shooting during a showing of her movie, Trainwreck, leaving two young women dead and others injured. This has prompted her to become an advocate for gun control. She mentions it on her special and has promised to speak the names of the two women whenever she can. Promise delivered. In the book she goes into much more detail about her efforts and provides more information at the end of the book about how others can get involved.

Amy Schumer is a hard working comedian who has earned her moment in the sun and I respect her for that. I also admire her ability to say what she wants to say without censor. In a society where women especially are afraid to offend and afraid to speak their minds the ability to speak up and stand up for yourself and others is invaluable.

However, I’m not really the demographic she’s playing to. Her hour-long special was plenty for me, and it’s unlikely I’ll pay money to see her in person. And I while did enjoy her book I didn’t love it and I suspect she’s okay with that.

Oh, and the lower back tattoo? You’ll have to read the book to find out if it’s real or not.

Sunday Showcase – Kristria Designs


I used to have a shop on Etsy, and along the way, I met a number of wonderful women artisans that I feel privileged to know and honored to call them friends. This being the holiday season, I want to give a shout out to one of them, Kristin, from Providence, Rhode Island.

earringskasKristin is the mastermind and designer behind Kristria Designs and a few years ago I was lucky enough to meet her and do a little shopping in her dining room! Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway) I am a huge fan! I have a pair of the earrings that are pictured here and I wear them at least 3 or 4 times a week. The patina on the copper pair I have has only gotten more beautiful over the years, and I see she now has a pair of them in sterling silver. The Egyptian spiral is one of her signature designs and shows up in bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

I also own several of her necklaces which get so many compliments.

If you are looking for beautiful and affordable unique jewelry for yourself or for a gift, I recommend you check out Kristin’s shop. I always have several pieces on my wish list!

Happy shopping! You can click on the pictures to get straight to those fantastic items.

P.S. This is not a paid or sponsored post, I just wanted to share!





Biscuit Bulletin: Morningside Kitchen

Roland and I had brunch yesterday at Morningside Kitchen and of course I had to have a biscuit.

morningsidekitchenThe only evidence on the menu that biscuits were available was the Spicy Chicken Biscuit which I didn’t want. I ordered the Morningside Omelette which came with grits or hashbrowns, and when asked my choice, I boldly asked if I could have a biscuit instead (with butter).

The omelette arrived with the biscuit but no butter. Omelette, delicious! The biscuit had been sliced in half, and then toasted (?) grilled (?) slightly on the inside. I prefer them unsliced, but light toasting is acceptable.

But no butter! That meant by the time our waiter checked on us and our food,  I was halfway through my omelette. No matter, butter and jelly did eventually arrived and I had my biscuit for brunch dessert.

The biscuits do not seem to be meant as a specialty but more of the thing that makes a spicy fried chicken breast more brunch-y. With sausage gravy of course. I find that people are less picky about their biscuits when covered with gravy, but those people can be really picky about their sausage gravy. And you would need to toast the inside of the biscuit so the gravy doesn’t make it super soggy. Love biscuits, not really a biscuit and gravy fan, so that is inconsequential to me.

Bottom line: Now that I’ve had the MK biscuit, I’ll give it a pass, acknowledging that it is on the better side of average. I’ll give it a B+. Browned correctly, fluffy on the inside, not too big.

Just don’t miss Morningside Kitchen for brunch or dinner. We sat on the patio with some delightful company, and the inside dining room is one of our favorites dating back from when it was Rosebud. Stop by if you’re ever in the Virginia Highland area of Atlanta.


Book Report: The Book Thief

**no spoilers**

the_book_thief_by_markus_zusak_book_coverThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the most beautifully written book I have read this year. Billed as a Young Adult novel, I believe that is too specific a categorization. I would argue that any age could read this novel, and they would be moved.

The story is a simple one. Set in World War II in Nazi Germany, a young girl, Liesel, is sent to live with a German couple, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, after her mother could no longer care for her. She brings with her a book that she found after her younger brother’s funeral. This conceit of the stolen book carries through the novel.


Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.

~p. 80, The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Most of the action takes place on Himmel Street and the immediate surrounding area and we learn about the other residents intimately as they interact with Liesel and the Hubermanns. Still, the black cloud that is WWII hovers over the entire story. No one remains untouched by at least some element of the war. Love, survival, acceptance and humility are some of the other themes that thread through the story.

I won’t say any more about The Book Thief for fear of spoilers. I will say that Zusak makes use of a most unusual narrator and for me, the realization of who the narrator is and the treatment he is given throughout the novel is genius.

The Book Thief has been made into a movie, which was released at the end of 2013. The reviews are mixed, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t say either way.

Book Report: A Mother’s Reckoning

Meadow Green Columbine Mountains Purple Wallpaper Mountain 1920x1080

From the book jacket:

“In A Mother’s Reckoning, Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, she [Sue Klebold] chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible.”

If I had to sum up this book in one sentence, that would be it.

Columbine. No longer is it merely the state flower of Colorado. It is the name of the high school where unspeakable tragedy took place. You hear that word, and you know what’s coming next. Columbine has become the standard against which the latest mass shooting tragedy, especially if it happens in a school, is measured. To a few disenfranchised youth, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are heroes.

Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan, has spent the years since April 20, 1999 trying to understand. A Mother’s Reckoning takes you on the journey with her as she has wrestled with the question, how did she, how could she, not have known what was going on with Dylan.

Incredibly sad, incredibly moving, I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and hold her hand as she told her story. The first chapter begins at 12:05 p.m. on April 20, 1999 with a phone message from her husband telling her to call him immediately, it’s an emergency. There were so many passages that made me cry. She describes the anguish she and her husband, and Dylan’s brother go through in the immediate aftermath and the months and years that follow.

Everybody should read this book. If you think that something like this could not, would not happen to your own family, you should read it. Her message to the world is that it is possible to not know your own children. It is possible to miss signs of mental illness (or brain illness, her term in the book).

I know this is not so much of a review, as a “go read this book” message. Sue Klebold is now a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide awareness and intervention. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a conference for long-term survivors of suicide loss this past September and her strength and resilience are palpable.

Challenged Books: Looking for Alaska


John Green is a very popular author of Young Adult books, and apparently a very popular vlogger. I just found that out after a quick google. He seems like a downright nice guy that (holy moly) wrote a book that some called pornographic.

looking-for-alaska-aLooking for Alaska is Green’s first novel. He based the fictional story on an incident that happened at the boarding school that he attended in Alabama. It is hardly pornographic. There is a sex scene, talk about sex and bad language spoken by the high school students in the story. The drink and smoke a LOT of cigarettes. If that stuff bothers you or might bother your children, then please don’t read it, but you will miss out on a much deeper story about diversity, life, death, acceptance and more.


So, here we go. Forget about the challenge nonsense because that’s not what this book is about. It is divided into “Before” and “After” and the “Before” part is pretty standard. Five juniors in a boarding high school become friends and do stuff that teenagers do. Mostly, they try to stay one step in front of the Dean of Students “the Eagle” and not get expelled. They do not go on a field trip or run away to Alaska. Alaska Young is one of the 2 girls in the group and the fantasy girlfriend of all the boys in the school.

We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken.

~John Green, Looking for Alaska

Two of the 5 friends, Lara, the girl from Romania and Takumi, the boy from Japan, are more peripheral. Besides Alaska, there is the Colonel and Pudge (both nicknames). The story is told from Pudge’s point of view and he is the new kid at the school.

It is the “After” part of the book that is the most interesting and intriguing (and the saddest). Alaska dies in a horrible single car accident. This happens in the wee hours of the morning. Alaska, the Colonel and Pudge have been drinking. Alaska gets a phone call (or makes one to) her boyfriend during which she remembers something that sends her spiraling into a hysterical state and she insists that the boys must help her leave by distracting the Eagle so she can drive away. She escapes, gets to the interstate, and drives straight into a stopped police car with sirens and lights blaring, stopped because it was at the scene of a jack-knifed semi.

We know that Alaska has these hysterical episodes which she never explains to her friends, she blames herself for her mother’s death that happened when she was a child, she is generally self-destructive and a risk taker, and to the question that Simon Bolivar allegedly posed when he was dying, “how will I ever get out of this labyrinth”, Alaska answered “straight and fast.”

Was her death an accident or a suicide?

In the aftermath of Alaska’s death, the Colonel and Pudge need to know the answer to that question and they go about “investigating” each in his own way. John Green does an excellent job taking us along with each boy as they go through different phases of grief.

They cry, drink, get angry with themselves and with Alaska, and they isolate themselves. They talk to the policeman whose car she ran into and find out her blood alcohol level was .24. The Colonel drinks until he hits .24 to see if he could have even driven and he could barely walk. They drove through the location of the accident to see what Alaska saw last and they decided to pull the prank Alaska had come up with as a memorial to her.

So does it even matter which it was? Pudge calls it the suident at one point.  I have never had anyone I loved die by accident, but I am a survivor of suicide loss and I suspect the grief process is similar (just without the stigma of mental illness, suicide or failure). The after section illustrates the anguish and angst that such a survivor goes through not knowing the answers. It is a natural inclination of humans to want to know why an unexpected death happens, and if we know why, then perhaps we can piece together if any of it was our own fault. If it is an accident, then at least you can have the feeling that your friend did not want to die because if they choose to die does that mean your relationship meant nothing to them?

John Green does a great job documenting the emotions these teens are going through, and what they do to come to some kind of reconciliation with this tragedy. I’ve spoiled enough. I won’t tell you what they figure out in the end.