Book Club Review: The Power

the-power-naomi-aldermanTitle: The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: October 27, 2016
Pages: 341
Format Read: ebook/audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Amazon & Library Libby app
Date finished reading: July 9, 2019

Goodreads Description: In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

My Review: This is a great book that led to an interesting book club discussion. The book club I’m in liked this book but did not love it. The women in the group admitted that we all made the assumption that once women became more powerful than men due to their supernatural powers, we believed the world would be a nicer, kinder place and were a bit disappointed that that was not the case in this story. However, this led to a great discussion related to human nature. Everyone seemed to have a different favorite character, so this book did not lack great characters.

However, not everyone in the group enjoyed the fact that this was a book within a book. I thought it was a unique format, but it was discussed that all it was was a ploy to emphasize points that were already clear in the story – that it did not add to the storyline. Also, I want to stress that there is a huge trigger warning for graphic violence and sexual abuse. That is always something that I find difficult to read about.

Overall, it was a great book club choice!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Club Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

 

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Reading Kurt Vonnegut – May 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). May was spent reading as many works by Kurt Vonnegut. My first experience with Vonnegut was reading Mother Night a few years back after my husband recommended it. I absolutely loved it! A little while later, I read Cat’s Cradle for an IRL book club, which I didn’t enjoy as much as Mother Night. 

9780385333849_p0_v1_s550x406Title: Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 31, 1969
Pages: 205 pages
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Husband’s book collection
Date finished reading: May 22, 2019

Goodreads Description: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

4980Title: Breakfast of Champions
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 1973
Pages: 303
Format Read: Audiobook/Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app & husband’s book collection
Date finished reading: May 28, 2019

Goodreads Description: In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

Galapagos by  Kurt VonnegutTitle: Galapagos
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 195
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library book sale in Maryland
Date finished reading: June 5, 2019

Goodreads Description: Galápagos takes the reader back one million years, to A.D. 1986. A simple vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race. In this inimitable novel, America’s master satirist looks at our world and shows us all that is sadly, madly awry–and all that is worth saving.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: When my husband convinced me 10 years ago to finally read Kurt Vonnegut. I did not know at all what to expect. Vonnegut was like nothing I had ever read before. I think you could make the argument that if you mixed Joseph Heller and Margaret Atwood together, you may get something that comes at least a little close to what reading a Vonnegut book is like. There is satire and there is darkness. If those elements were not enough, Vonnegut also throws in some science fiction. He created lines that would forever be used as catch phrases in regular conversation. An example of this is that my husband always says the phrase: “so it goes”. I have started to use that phrase as well and realized where that phrase came from when I picked up Slaughterhouse-Five a few weeks ago. Vonnegut covers dark topics (like war) with a bit of humor that makes the story engaging and entertaining. I also enjoy how Vonnegut recycles characters but without forcing the reader to read his stories in a particular order. For instance, Kilgore Trout is fleetingly mentioned in many of Vonnegut’s books, but in Breakfast of Champions, the reader finally gets to learn more about Kilgore Trout.

Vonnegut stories are almost in a genre by themselves. While I really enjoyed Mother Night (my first Vonnegut read many years ago) and Galapagos (my most recent Vonnegut read), I didn’t quite love his more popular books like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. While they are still amazing, I just never can quite get into the science fiction parts that are a little out there. I fully admit that this issue is probably because I don’t tend to enjoy science fiction.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Reading Margaret Atwood – April 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). April was spent reading as many works by Margaret Atwood. Previously I had only read The Handmaid’s Tale, which I loved.

I got to start my Margaret Atwood month off by seeing her live at Jones Hall in Houston. She talked about her life and career, which was just fascinating. She read aloud a collection of alien poetry, which was amazing. Unfortunately, she could not give away any spoilers for her upcoming sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Needless to say, seeing her live just made me want to read her books even more.

 

The following are the books I managed to complete:

StoneMattress
Title: 
Stone Mattress
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Short Stories
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publication Date: August 28, 2014
Pages: 273 pages
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: April 6, 2019

Goodreads Description: A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy.
A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire, and a crime committed long ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite.

In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood ventures into the shadowland earlier explored by fabulists and concoctors of dark yarns such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier and Arthur Conan Doyle – and also by herself, in her award-winning novel Alias Grace. In Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 

atwood
Title: 
The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd.
Publication Date: September 2, 2000
Pages: 637 pages
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: April 14, 2019

Goodreads Description: Margaret Atwood takes the art of storytelling to new heights in a dazzling novel that unfolds layer by astonishing layer and concludes in a brilliant and wonderfully satisfying twist. Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms and clichés of the 1930s and 1940s, The Blind Assassin is a richly layered and uniquely rewarding experience.

It opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge.” They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister Laura’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.

For the past twenty-five years, Margaret Atwood has written works of striking originality and imagination. In The Blind Assassin, she stretches the limits of her accomplishments as never before, creating a novel that is entertaining and profoundly serious. The Blind Assassin proves once again that Atwood is one of the most talented, daring, and exciting writers of our time. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, it is destined to become a classic.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

1297481929797_ORIGINALTitle: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: April 22, 2003
Pages: 378 pages
Format Read: audiobook & book
Standalone or series: MaddAddam series Book #1
Where I got the book: Library Libby app & library sale
Date finished reading: April 23, 2019

Goodreads Description: Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ¾

My Review: I only managed to make it through three Margaret Atwood books this month. Atwood’s books are ones that you tend to take your time with and read thoroughly. You don’t want to miss any detail or description.

Margaret Atwood creates characters that really explore the dark side of human nature, that there is a fine line between love and hate and good and evil. Everytime I finished one of her books, I found myself unable to truly express my thoughts about it. The characters, the scenery, the plot, and the message are always so complex in her writings. You always think you know what will happen and then feel disbelief that that is really what is happening but ascends anything that you could have imagined. I am in awe that Margaret Atwood can do this.

You can tell based on my ratings, that I prefer a more literary genre, since The Blind Assassin was most like that and also my favorite Atwood read of the month. While most of Atwood’s books of a mixed-genre (sci-fi, dystopia and humor) are not necessarily for me, I will always adore Margaret Atwood’s writing style and descriptions. She is a definite one-of-a-kind writer.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Club Review: All Systems Red

allsystemsredTitle: All Systems Red
Author: Martha Wells
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages: 144
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: The Murderbot Diaries Book #1
Where I got the book: Amazon
Date finished reading: March 19, 2019

Goodreads Description: In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

My Review: I love it when a book club meeting can help me appreciate a read much more than I had. All Systems Red was no exception. I went into this book club having not enjoyed this book as much as I had wanted to. The reason for my dislike may have stemmed from being a bit new to science fiction as a whole. It is not a genre I tend to read. I have probably only read a handful of science fiction in my entire life. This book irritated me, because there wasn’t enough description for my tastes; the plot was hurried at times; and the language just seemed a bit too simplistic. However, my fellow book club members helped me realize that there was actually a lot of depth to this book.

This is a unique story told from the perspective of Murderbot – a robotic machine with organic parts (human feelings). “Murderbot” was actually a name it gave himself, so just from that you get a glimpse of its personality and possible inner struggles. We discussed whether we had assigned Murderbot a gender during the book, if its actions or personality made us think of it as a female or a male, which can lead to an interesting discussion. Just discussing its personality as a whole can be enlightening. At the beginning of the story, the reader learns that Murderbot has hacked its own government module. By hacking its own system, Murderbot now has free will over itself and its feelings. As a reader, you witness its struggle with those feelings, as it tries to work for and with humans. Some of Murderbot’s actions can seem similar to actions of an autistic individual or someone who suffers from social anxiety. The reader can’t help but wonder if the author put some of her own feelings and thoughts into Murderbot.

Let me end this review by discussing the book’s simplicity. Even though that bothered me, to the rest of my fellow book clubbers, the book’s simplicity was a positive thing and is what makes it special. Martha Wells does not create this fantastical world that is hard to imagine, but a world that is easily imaginable – a world not that different from our own. In addition, there is a similarity to our own society at times, where money and wealth drives actions and creates conflict. It is not a stretch to be a part of this story that Martha Wells has created.

While my rating reflects my own lack of interest for All Systems Red, it did not bring down by too much the overall high rating that my book club gave it – many of which would highly recommend this book to others.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

Book Club Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ¼