thoughts on the handmaid’s tale (episodes 1-3).

When I’m not writing one of my soul-sucking essays on library processes, I’ve been watching a few television shows. My two current favourites are Brooklyn 99 and Bob’s Burgers. I’ve also started watched The Handmaid’s Tale which I’m enjoying very much. I read and reviewed THT on this blog back in February, and since I heard that OITNB’s Samira Wiley would be playing Moira I was 100% hyped for the show. I’m going to be writing my thoughts on the show – if you don’t want spoilers, here’s your warning to stop reading!

I have seen three of the six episodes that are currently out and overall I’m a fan. The acting is incredible, and the show is true to the book entirely. The show does still include a few elements we didn’t see in the book. Offred’s name is revealed as being June, and there are characters such as Ofglen who are being focused on far more than they were in the book. The Commander and his wife Serena are significantly younger than they are in the book, but this change works.

The tension is spot-on, and the world of Gilead is perfectly chilling – maybe because it manages to feel like a possible world we could find ourselves in. As the show is mostly from Offred’s perspective, you generally only know as much about the world as she does, which adds to how scary the show feels. The only thing that felt jarring to me was the choice of songs that would play at the end of each episode – they all have felt like strange or inappropriate choices so far.

There’s one thing in the show that feels very different to the book to me, which is that the Handmaids are very clearly human. The book makes you feel detached from all of the Handmaids but Offred, as she’s the only one whose voice you’ve been able to hear. They seem to fit into their awful roles so well.

In the show, the Handmaids’ facades don’t feel as strong. As risky as it is to take the wrong route through town, or speak of anything other than the weather, the Handmaids can’t help but reveal aspects of their identity and their past. In an early scene in the show a Handmaid at a supermarket speaks to Offred and Ofglen, and accidentally reveals that she has been listening to the news. She’s instantly horrified by her mistake, and tries to cover it up.

That sort of thing never happened in the book. I think I prefer seeing the show’s portrayal of Offred’s fellow Handmaids – it’s interesting to see that even though these women are the only ones strong enough to have survived so long, they still are human and they still are afraid.

lucy’s book. (review)

Lucy’s Book by Natalie Jane Prior is an adorable read about a little girl and her favourite book. This is one of the cutest picture books I’ve seen – the story and the illustrations work so well together.

Lucy and her mother visit the library one day and the librarian introduces Lucy to a brand-new book. Lucy falls in love with the book and reads it everywhere – then she starts sharing the book with her friends. The book travels from friend to friend; it becomes a banana sandwich, it goes to a wedding – it even goes to China. When Lucy’s book becomes so well-loved that it gets taken off the library shelves, she must find a way to be reunited with her book.

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This is such a nice picture book; the colourful illustrations and the focus on how books can bring people together make this really special. If you ever had a favourite book that you read constantly when you were a child, this book will make perfect sense to you.

☕[5/5 cups]

two books about girls in paris.

For whatever reason, I have read two young adult novels this April about girls and their adventures in Paris. I don’t know why this happened but it makes it quite easy for me to write a list-style blog post about books in April, so that’s a win. I wanted to write about them today, to discuss which ones I prefer and their similarities and differences. Here we go. Please note that many spoilers will follow!

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

According to Goodreads, Anna and the French Kiss is by far the most popular book of the two, with over 272,000 ratings. If I was up-to-date with popular YA novels I probably should have read this about five years ago, but I’m not, and I haven’t.

Here’s the synopsis for you. Anna has been sent to a school in Paris for a year by her father, who is described as being something along the lines of John Green but with a fake tan and less likable personality. For whatever vague reason, Anna isn’t happy about this arrangement, and presumably this is why she doesn’t learn a word of French before going.

Anna arrives in Paris and almost instantly forgets to be a reluctant protagonist. It is Paris, after all. She finds herself quickly drawn into a group of friends at said French school. This friendship group is surprisingly fleshed out character-wise, and their conversations are brimming with plentiful banter.

The YA Love Interest Dude makes himself known quickly. Etienne St. Clair is, I have to admit, a much more realistic character than you usually find in a young adult novel. He has a fear of heights, daddy issues and is saddled with the burden of having at least four girls attracted to him at any given time.

St. Clair is honestly a better character than Anna. Anna’s character isn’t developed as much as I would have liked; the book is made up of her having communication issues with people, her learning that Paris is cool, and her eventually starting a relationship with St. Clair.

I found it really easy to get into this book; it’s a light and fluffy read. I had a few issues with it however, including the plot relying too much on miscommunication between characters, Anna’s fear of looking like an American tourist, and her dating someone in the middle of the book to make St. Clair jealous, which was a cliche I didn’t think this book would stoop low enough to make. Having said that, Anna and the French Kiss was an enjoyable read that I would possibly read again, with plenty of great characters and some really engaging dialogue.

☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ [ 4/5 cups ]

2. Just One Day by Gayle Forman.

This was definitely my favourite. While there were a few elements that I also noticed in AatFK (protagonist is reluctantly traveling in Europe, protagonist is American and judgemental of other American tourists and their ungodly white sneakers), Just One Day is far more my style. Here’s why.

The main character of Just One Day is a girl named Allyson. She’s in Europe on a tour for teens that her incredibly overbearing parents bought her, and on a whim she decides to stay an extra day. The whim is in the form of a mysterious Shakespeare performer called Willem approaching her, giving her a nickname and offering to take her to Paris for the day.

The following day is a magical experience for Allyson; she bonds with Willem who, while devoid of much personality, seems to see her as a person, which is something she doesn’t get much of at home. They meet intimidatingly sophisticated French people, go on a boat trip, and do many other magical Paris adventure-type things before settling down for the night. The story takes a turn for the worse when Allyson wakes up the next morning to find she has been abandoned by Willem. She panics and calls her tour guide who manages to help her get home. Allyson is heartbroken that the boy she has known for all of 24 hours would leave her.

Months later, she begins studying at medical school, which is what her parents want for her. However, she just isn’t feeling it. She’s horribly depressed (which her mother brushes off as her ‘sulking’) and can’t stop thinking about that one random Shakespeare guy. She also has absolutely no interest in medical school.

Here’s where the story got interesting for me. Allyson decides that enough is enough. She begins a quest. This starts with her standing up to her parents and taking courses she actually wants to study; she then begins to track down Willem while saving money to go back to France. She learns the language. She gets a job. She befriends the girls in her dorm, who up until then had been dismissed by her as annoying and over-enthusiastic. She even finds common ground with her mother.

Allyson’s motivation for traveling back to Paris is what makes me like this book. While she wants to see Willem again, the main reason she wants to return is because of how she felt as a person when she was there. Above all else, she is doing this for herself. She learns French for the sole reason of feeling independent when she’s in France. She is searching for the magical feeling that made that one day in Paris so special for her, which she realises was not just because a magical YA dream boy was escorting her.

While this book is a romance novel, Allyson’s development as a person is wonderful, and her focus is never entirely on Willem. She confronts a number of things that are troubling her, and she does them almost entirely alone. This book also gets points for LGBT+ representation. Mostly though I’m just impressed with how Just One Day puts Allyson before the romance; it’s something I wish I saw more of in YA fiction.

[☕ ☕☕☕☕ 5/5 cups]

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? [review]

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a collection of personal essays and stories written by actress and comedian Mindy Kaling. I generally don’t read memoirs, but I wanted to branch out – also I love Mindy in The Office, so I was looking forward to seeing what she had to say.

Mindy’s writing had a super friendly tone, and she’s a good storyteller. While I didn’t find the majority of her stories particularly interesting, she had a way of telling them that held my attention for the most part of the book.

Mindy talks about her childhood, her nemesis of a bicycle, her babysitting years and her rise to fame as a writer and actress. She serves up plenty of opinions while she’s at it, listing her top ten favourite moments in comedy, what she thinks the perfect guy should wear and do, and her favourite tropes in romantic comedies.

Once you’re three-quarters through the book and chapters such as Why Do Men Put Their Shoes on So Slowly? start to surface, it feels as though the book has run out of places to naturally go. Some of the essays seem to go nowhere and serve just as ways to fill up the second half of the book. After the first half of the book I began to lose interest as the essays seemed drawn out; I also wasn’t particularly interested in the essays on things such as how many pairs of jeans and shoes the ideal man should own, etc.

Overall I thought this was a fairly entertaining read, and if you’re into memoirs by relatable female comedians, this should be right up your alley. The author’s unique voice and chatty writing style make this stand out. Maybe this wasn’t my cup of tea so much, but it might be yours.

☕☕ [2/5 cups]

I’m pretty new to reading biographies; if you like, leave a comment with a memoir/biography that you’ve enjoyed!

world of tomorrow [review]

I just finished watching a short science fiction film called World of Tomorrow, and I really really liked it so I wanted to share it on here, along with a few of my thoughts on it. It’s 16 minutes long, and was created by Don Hertzfeldt.

The two characters in the film are Emily Prime, who is a young girl, and a clone of Emily. Emily’s clone contacts her from the future, and takes her on a journey through the Outernet. Together they go through a number of memories, and Emily’s clone explains how the world has changed. She also talks about a number of jobs she has had, as well as how she had fallen in love with a rock, a fuel pump and a clone of a man named David.

I absolutely loved watching this. It was funny and horrifying in equal parts, and the story was so clever and unique! The style, the music and the very different voices of the two Emilys made this a really incredible film. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Animated Film. Overall it has won 42 awards.

You can watch World of Tomorrow here:

the handmaid’s tale [review]

1308_the_handmaids_tale_cover-2-e1437454547809I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale last night and wanted to write down my thoughts on it while they were still fresh.

The world-building in this one was really something. The style of the writing was poetic in this unusual way that shouldn’t really work, but does anyway. I loved the way the story unfolds; as the book progresses the chapters get shorter and disordered, which adds to the building tension in the story. Offred keeps apologising to the reader. The story gets more erratic and unsure of itself because it’s Offred’s story. As time goes on she doesn’t lose control, but I think she does lose hope, and because of this starts to exercise control over her situation and make more and more risky decisions.

The ending felt abrupt, but it was meant to. We don’t know what happens to Offred in the end. So long as she was the narrator she was more to us than just another handmaid in a red dress, bowing her head and saying nothing, and I felt as though being robbed of the end of her story made her feel faceless again. The other handmaids didn’t feel like characters worth caring about because Gilead silenced them.

Moira was my favourite character but really she was one of the only characters; Offred knew her before Gilead and that’s the only reason why Moira has a name and a past and a personality. It’s only because of Offred that she isn’t another handmaid to us. The fact that we don’t know what happens to her really hurts, because she is given the same ending as the handmaidens who were stripped of their personalities and freedom.

I really enjoyed this read, it was completely absorbing and very well paced. It’s being made into a TV series this year (starring Samira Wiley as Moira, which I’m excited about), and I’m keen to see how they’ll tell Offred’s story.

                     ☕☕ [5/5 cups]