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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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After I was a little into listening to the audio book, I looked up reviews about the book to find out exactly what was going on because it was slightly confusing. I was shocked to find that this book was written in 1985, 30 ago, yet it is somehow a timeless read. Magically seamless and timeless.

This book reads as a memoir or diary from the point of view from Offred, a woman who was forced to become a handmaid after an attack on the US government gave way to new, crazy leaders forming the Republic of Gilead. Before the change, she (Offred wasn’t her real name but given to her once a handmaid) was married with a daughter and worked in a library. After the takeover, her life as a handmaid meant living in the house of a commander as a means for the commander and his wife (usually an older couple that wasn’t able to have children) to have a child. Similar to a book like The Giver where certain women are selected for giving birth to all of the babies that are doled out to families, but a handmaid does a two-year stint with one commander at a time.

My main issue with this book is that everyone seems to have forgotten most things from their life before (culture-wise) in only what seems to be 3 or 4 years. Maybe this is what makes it so timeless. Offred is very vague on time; I don’t think they have access to a calendar or and easy way to tell how much time has gone by. Or maybe she doesn’t want to think about it.

What I love about this book is how it made me feel. I react with more emotion to things that are not happy and wonderful and this book is haunting. We don’t get all of the answers or details that we want, and I think that makes me remember something longer and better because, since I don’t have the ending, I spend time thinking about the possibilities.

A few quotes that really stood out to me:

“The Fall was a fall from innocence to knowledge.”

“The past is a great darkness and filled with echoes.”

“How were we to know we were happy, even then?”

Night rises vs traditional night “falling.”

"Sinfully scrabbling."


5/5 Stars

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen le Billon

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You guys know how much I love my anything-to-do-with-France-but-especially-eating books!

When in France, Karen kept saying that her girls “can’t” or “won’t” do certain things. I didn’t feel like she was being fair to them and didn’t believe enough in them or their ability to adapt to their new surroundings. I found myself feeling embarrassed for her many times because I didn’t feel like she was embarrassed enough about certain situations. At the same time, I can only imagine how hard it would be to move somewhere and be made to feel like you’re not raising your children correctly, especially when it is the correct way where you’re from. 

I wanted to listen/read this book with the hopes that it could offer tips to retrain myself to eat better and in the French way. It did offer tons of good tips. I was mildly distracted by how much she put down her kids, but other than that I enjoyed it. I feel like Karen gives up on things easily; if it seems like it will be too hard then she changes her mind about wanting it. I have the same tendancies so possibly I am reflecting on myself.


Karen’s French Food Rules:
1. Parents: you are in charge of food education.
2. Avoid emotional eating. No food rewards, bribes, etc.
3. Parents plan scheduled meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat.
4. Eat family meals together. No distractions.
5. Eat your veggies. Think: variety.
6. You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it.
7. No snacking. It’s ok to feel hungry between meals.
8. Slow food is good, happy food. As in, eat slow.
9. Eat mostly real food. Treats for special occasions are ok.
10. Remember: Eating is Joyful! Relax.

3/5 Stars

Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard

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Continuing on my French memoir kick (it’ll last as long as the books do!), I read this follow-up to Lunch in Paris.

It was written I the same fun way that LIP was, complete with delicious-sounding recipes (I love how she tells a wonderful story surrounding food then shares the recipe), but this book mostly takes place after they move to a tiny village in provence and their quest to adjust and fit into village life.

One day, Elizabeth and Gwendyl get the idea to become business owners… of an ice cream shop! They spend months and month testing recipes and researching equipment. They open with great success and just announced the opening of another location in Paris!

Elizabeth also shares with us her struggle connecting with motherhood and with her son, Alexandre. It is a heart-breaking story but one that ends well.

4/5 Stars

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

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This book sounds awesome; set in Paris in a post-apocalyptic world that is ruled by The Fallen (fallen angels). There are several main Houses, kind of a gang for the elite, that always seem to be feuding or at war with each other.
So, yes, awesome story idea but I feel that it was poorly executed. It reads as though you’re at such a distance while you’re watching the story unfold. I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters, or really even the house, Silver Spires, that the book follows. It felt very impersonal and that made it extremely difficult to get into the book. There were also a LOT of details at the beginning of the story, making it hard to follow or get in to. It probably took between 50 and 100 pages to be hooked into the story and sold on finishing the book.
It also read like it was written by a non-native English speaker (and turned out it was) which was very distracting from the already hard-to-get-into story. There were no blatant errors, just words or wording of sentences that technically work but that no native speaker would use.
There were no “ah-ha!” moments, no big character changes, no revelations. Just people saying, “I suck at what I’m doing,” and, yes, they do suck at what they’re trying to do and THEY DON’T TRY TO CHANGE OR DO BETTER.
For the length of the book and the epic premise, I expected a lot more from this book and unfortunately it fell flat on it’s face.

2/5 Stars

This book was sent to me as part of the Ace Roc Street Team for review. All opinions are my own.