“The Handmaid’s Tale” book response and April selection!

I don’t know what your political affiliations are, but sometimes I feel that even as we march towards a “better” future, we are also slowly creeping towards a dystopian world. A world in which computers know more than we do, when separation anxiety from a device is real, when corporations have more rights than the workers who power them… you get the idea. So, reading dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World fill me with dread and at the same time fascination. The Handmaid’s Tale was a big gap in the dystopian genre that I’d always meant to fill, and now I have! It isn’t that common for the genre to have a female protagonist, and I found that it made the troubling alternate reality more personal instead of societal.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

When I picked this up, I already knew that some people had been comparing it to “America under a totally Republican-led government.” What I didn’t know was it had been written in the mid 80s as a response to the rise of the Moral Majority’s attempts to move women from the workforce back into the role of mother and homemaker. So, I suppose in some regard this comparison was intended by the author, 30 years ago? Instead, I read it through the lens of someone who has studied global politics including [the lack of] women’s rights in Saudia Arabia, and in Afghanistan under the Taliban (click if you want to be informed, and depressed). Households in these countries, recently and currently, give women little to no autonomy. They are literally treated like family property. And this isn’t the 1800s or the 1950s, this is the 2000s.

Do I ever think the US will reach the level of a totally male-led theocracy? No. Do I think there are men in power who do seek to purposely suppress the rights of women? Sure. Do I think there will be enough of them to enforce a regimented caste system among women like in this book? Of course not. Especially if we (women) and our allies keep our eyes open. I am encouraged by the January Women’s Marches. People across the US are more plugged in and involved with causes than they have been in decades, and regarding a lot of topics, too. Gender issues, minority issues, disability issues, nature and food issues, etc.

Spoilers between this photo and the next one. 

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

Aside from the current event commentary, the main question with regards to The Handmaid’s Tale is… what happens to Offred after the narration stops? I believe the answer to that question divides people into optimists and pessimists; I think the author wants it that way. First you have to think about how Offred got to the point of telling her tale at all. Increasingly audacious steps of rule-breaking:

  • Revealing to Ofglen that she is not a True Believer
  • Meeting with the Commander in private, including, gasp, reading
  • Going to Jezebel’s and getting secret information from Moira
  • Her arrangement with Serena Joy—including her continued liaisons with Nick
  • Finally, the rescue, which I believe was orchestrated by Nick

It is my hypothesis that she records her tale in a safe house, and stores the tapes in that safe house before being transported out of the country. That is what I hope happens. It is just as likely that she is apprehended on her way out of the country. I guess I’m an optimist and hope it’s the former. Many people in my discussion group wondered if she ever saw her daughter again. I guess it’s because I’m not a mother but I honestly hadn’t thought about that. What do you think?

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

The Handmaid’s Tale comes out on Hulu April 26. Netflix and Hulu have really been bringing it in regards to original programming lately. Our TV antenna picks up no channels so we depend on Hulu to watch current shows like New Girl and This Is Us. So here’s where I give you my referral code if you aren’t already a customer. If you sign up I get $10! Check out Hulu for 2 weeks free, on me! Plans start at $7.99 after 1st 2 weeks. Terms apply.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubLast night we held our monthly discussion group on facebook. If you’d rather discuss our monthly reads over there (normally the last Tuesday of the month), instead of in the comment section here, message me on facebook to be added.

For April, our group sought out something “springy” and decided that growth fit the theme. We voted and selected A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am really excited to re-read this; it is one of my favorite books.  Please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.

“Heartburn” book response and March selection!

February. The month of love! I thought the group had picked a light rom-com when I saw that the winning book (Heartburn) was written by Nora Ephron and had a pink cover with a heart on it. Instead what I ended up reading was more of a short novel about the process of falling out of love. The plot was a bit of a downer, but the writing itself was light, funny and cynical.

The book jumps right in with both feet, and the first thing we find out is that the main character, Rachel, has been cheated on by her husband of several years, Mark. Mark does not come off very well in the book, but that could be due to the bitter first-person narrative of The Woman Scorned. Both Rachel and Mark seem funny and successful like many Washington, DC power couples, but we find out they don’t have that much in common. It comes out that Rachel has been seeing a therapist for many years, which Mark doesn’t take seriously (jerk alert). Rachel harbors a lot of resentment against him for this, so I got the impression that their relationship may have been on the rocks aside from the obvious adultery transgression. It’s not a good sign if a person and their spouse don’t respect each other.

So, I think I covered what made it a downer. Here’s what counteracted that: Nora Ephron’s writing shone through in Rachel’s voice as witty and conversational. She used lots of asides (which I like to do, look I just used one), to great comic effect. There was exaggeration, too, and lots of New York and DC stereotypes and unique side characters (like Rachel’s neurotic first husband who sounded absolutely dreadful). The way she worked recipes in seamlessly and conversationally was a nice touch, too.

Oh, and Rachel also resents the fact that Mark (a newspaper columnist) used to turn life events into fodder for his writing. This struck home to me as a blogger. I like to write about my life but I have been conscientious not to write about everything and especially not stuff that affects my relationships with those who have no voice in my story.

Nora Ephron famously wrote movies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally so I was looking for a show-stopping romantic ending, but instead the book ends somewhat abruptly and leaves the reader pondering what would happen next. I was glad to read something short and I’m not really bothered by non-endings (when it’s a slice of life like this, anyway) so I thought the open-ended conclusion was fine but I rate the book overall as a bit forgettable.


Virtual Book ClubA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. We had a really nice time talking about Heartburn last night and fangirling over Queen Meryl Streep. Message me on facebook to be added. Also, don’t forget to stop by Libby and Steph’s blogs to see their book club responses.

March commences today, and our group chose The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s a Hulu series coming out in April based on this dystopian fiction, and it seems like something Every Good Feminist reading should have under her belt. I’m a bit intimidated though, but here goes!

“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” book response and February selection!

IMG_3021.JPG

Our group decided to go with a non-fiction book for January, and boy did we pick something unexpected. Libby, Steph and I nominated three books and then had our new facebook group vote on which to read. The group chose The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. What a doozy!

Shifting from easy fiction to a book like this was a bit of a jolt for me and it look a little while to get my brain back in the academic game. My first issue with this book is that the title and cover are misleading. Aside from little sneak peeks, illustrations, and clips from comic strips, the creation of Wonder Woman does not happen until almost page 200!

The book is, actually, a detailed biography of WW creator William Moulton Marston, starting his first year in undergrad at Harvard. There are many interesting parts to the book, most of which do not concern Marston himself. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston was an amazing go-getter, especially for the 1920s and 30s. She earned as many degrees as she could, matching her husband one-for-one. She was actually the breadwinner for most of their relationship, which is really saying something considering the family was made of 8 (and a half) people, when one adds live-in mistress Olive Byrne, four children (two from each lover) and a sometime-roommate (and probable lover) who at times lived in the attic.

fullsizerender
I mean …

Olive Byrne was Margaret Sanger’s niece so there was a nice deviation off of the main story about the advent of the birth control movement. Sanger’s sister (Olive’s mother) was Ethel Byrne who was arrested in 1917 for talking about the fact that pregnancy could be prevented, and whose hunger strike in prison brought the nation’s eyes to this topic. I love that Jill Lepore included prints of the newspapers distributed by birth control advocates and feminists back in the 19-teens. I was also saddened that we are often rehashing the same arguments 100 years later. “In the end, the judge ruled that no woman has ‘the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception’: if a woman isn’t willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn’t have sex.” Yes, I see this argument in facebook arguments daily.

img_3022

Changing the topic, I have this minor fascination with the turn of the century and some of the kooky stuff that happened pre-Great Depression. People had so many ideas then. I feel that rich white people were always up to something strange. Global exploration, countless inventions, the birth of Psychology as a science (which was explored a bit in this book), the beginnings of science fiction (Verne, Wells), and even political explorations, like Russia’s communist revolution! My work campus sits on the former site of a utopian cult so I have been down that rabbit hole many times. The past is often sanitized, so the idea of free love experimentation before the 1960s really surprised me, but at the same time, totally made sense. What I really didn’t get was—what did these women see in Marston? Was it simply the desire to be different? In my eyes he was an entitled, semi-successful psychologist who routinely borrowed his women’s ideas and passed them off as his own, usually blatantly denying them credit. Not much going for him, but he certainly was different from men of the day.

There is a lot to get into with this book, but writing about it one-sided is not doing the topic justice. Our virtual book club had an online discussion group last night and I very thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad that others had the same reactions as I did to aspects like, what did all these women see in Marston? What is he bringing to the table here? 

More reading:

The Free-Love Experiment That Created Wonder Woman, Noah Berlatsy, The Atlantic

The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, Smithsonian Magazine

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

For February, our group fittingly picked a light rom-com by queen of the genre Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, etc). Heartburn promises to be less cumbersome than January’s book, so please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.

“A Man Called Ove” book response and January selection!

Virtual Book ClubTo finish out the year we picked A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a book that has been making its way around many book club circles especially in the latter part of this year. The blurbs on the cover of this book pitched it as touching and heartwarming. I am generally a fan of Swedish things, so I was looking forward to reading this Swedish best-seller.

I will admit that this book did not win me over until the last couple of chapters. I’m not one to not finish books, but if I wasn’t reading it for book club, I might have set this one down and moved on to something more exciting. I found that Ove reminded me too much of people in my life who’ve let the process of following rules to the letter, and sticking to rigid principles instead of practicing flexibility, rob them of so much joy. I understand that is the point of the book, the word “curmudgeon” is right there on the cover, and yet when I dove in I really underestimated Ove’s curmudgeonliness.

[Spoilers in the next two paragraphs, I guess]
Ove’s preoccupation with ending his life really rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, his wife died and he doesn’t know how to adjust to the world at large without her. Suicidal tendencies are not out of the question when the most important person in the world is taken away. I know that depression is a crushing and inescapable feeling and I think the author treated the protagonist’s three failed suicide efforts (one serious, two more half-hearted) too lightly, as “day in the life” episodes instead of life-shattering moments which they would be.

It is revealed bit by bit that Ove has had a hard life. Growing up very poor, losing his house, his wife’s accident, losing his wife: these are all things that can make a person’s heart hard. However, the way the story is presented, it seems like Ove’s heart has always been hard even from childhood. In this way it is not like Ove’s diverse group of neighbors are helping him rediscover a version of himself that was lost long ago, but instead totally change his whole personality. Of course, the end where he does change himself to being open to his new neighbors and knits himself into the lives of those in his cul-de-sac is the best part of the book, and once we reach that point, it feels more like an epilogue than part of the story itself. So, aside from the fact that an elderly man changing his whole personality seems far-fetched, the end is by far the best part of the book and it does live up to the “touching” and “heartwarming” blurbs on the back. But it’s kind of too little, too late.

A Man Called Ove

There have been one or two book club reads that I’ve been “meh” about but this was the first one I actively disliked as I was reading it. Looking forward to what my fellow readers have to say in their responses! I know Libby will be posting one up and Steph might be posting one too so make sure to check out their blogs.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


The Secret History of Wonder WomanA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

To start the new year, we decided to read a non-fiction book since the majority of what we tackled in 2016 was fiction work. Our facebook group voted on three choices and picked The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Havard professor and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore. This book was Steph’s choice, which I voted for over my own nomination! The Amazon synopsis sounds really great so I am very much looking forward to this glimpse of feminism in the comic book industry.

“Someday, Someday Maybe” Book Review and December Selection!

Virtual Book ClubGreat news! We made a facebook group for the Virtual Book Club. We are going to be doing some discussion over there regarding the monthly book and other books that we happen to be reading, too. It’s currently a closed group, but if you are interested in joining, let me know and I will be happy to add you.


Hey guys! I can’t believe November went by so fast. I feel like I just finished writing my response to The Graveyard Book but here we are. We picked something light to read, since as the holiday season gears up, time somehow becomes more scarce. Someday, Someday Maybe (affiliate link) definitely was light. I finished out in about five or six hours, which was nice.

The book is written in the first person. Through the eyes of our heroine, Franny, we get a glimpse of what it may have been like to be a struggling actress in New York city in 1995. The author, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood) has a lot of personal experience to draw on, I’m sure.

Someday, Someday Maybe

A really cute thing in the book were these little pages from Franny’s day planner. Some weeks were meticulous and full; others were dust and tumbleweeds. It reminded me of my own planner. Another cute thing was the use of the answering machine. I totally remember the days before I had a cell phone and the only way to get important information was to hunt someone down or leave them a message. Sometimes I think it would be really freeing to only check my phone messages (and email) once or twice a day instead of constantly.

Franny has a lot of self-doubt, something that doesn’t come in handy for an actress, I’m sure. We all have self-doubt, but we don’t all work in industries where the goal is to stand out or face total failure. As a result of these insecure feelings, she makes a bunch of questionable life choices. She picks the sleazy agent over the friendly agent, she picks the superficial and pretentious dude over the nice guy, etc. She tries to derive her strength from others instead of from herself. Her strongest moment of personal growth comes when she turns down a job that (after lots and lots—too much—hemming and hawing) she decides compromises her values. I guess that was the point of the book! Pull your strength from within instead of trying to attach yourself to others that seem successful.

There were a few points in the book that I found pretty meta, particularly the conversation between Dan and Franny about love triangles as a tired trope. I think it was the author’s way of winking at us readers, “yeah, love triangles are a bit tired but still cute and compelling, so I’m using one anyway.” Franny was a little annoying, but I saw some of myself in her immature, rambling inner monologues. We can’t all be perfect. ;)

Actually, Lauren Graham came out with another book this week, Talking As Fast as I Can, which is about herself. It would be interesting to read it and compare her stories of breaking out as an actress to the fictionalized version in Someday, Someday Maybe.


Our final book of 2016 will be A Man Called Ove. It’s supposed to be a “feel-good” story and my coworker compared it to the movie Up, which I haven’t seen but everyone seems to like. Lately I have been getting into all things Scandinavian so I’m looking forward to reading this (a movie adaptation is coming out, too).

As always, hop over to Libby’s blog to read her take on our monthly book (spoiler alert: she didn’t like it)! And again, let me know if you want to join our facebook group!

“The Graveyard Book” Review and November Selection!

Hey pals! Coming at you one week late with the October virtual book club review.

book-club

What a fitting book to read on Halloween. I really had fun reading Neil Gaiman’s spooky The Graveyard Book, the kind of fun I had when I read Ready Player One earlier this year. I suppose that tells you what kinds of books I can really get sucked into—young adult adventures with a dash of alternative reality. I mean, I do read all kinds of books: I purposefully force myself to read a wide variety of genres, but this is the kind I quickly devour.

Not sure why I put off cracking The Graveyard Book since I knew from the inside flap description that I was going to like it. The story follows a young boy from toddlerhood to adulthood (older-teen-hood?) as he grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts. His family is murdered when he is a baby (no spoiler there; that is the opening scene) and he toddles to a graveyard where two old ghosts by the last name Owens decide to raise him. They name him Nobody, and he goes by Bod for short. While growing, Bod learns life lessons not unlike a normal boy would learn, but just in a different way.

The Graveyard Book

Bod’s other guardian is a man named Silas. Silas is a mysterious person whose true nature is revealed bit by bit until the climax of the book. Something I liked about this book was that instead of spending a lot of time providing background information, details, and nitty gritty on things like, “What makes ghosts and ghouls different? What is the layout of the graveyard? What kind of trees are there?” (Think Harry Potter, and the encyclopedic fictional knowledge the reader comes away with) the reader is just dropped down into the story and things (concepts, creatures) just are. And it doesn’t detract from the story, in fact it makes things move along much more quickly, hoping the reader doesn’t get distracted by not knowing specifics on something.

Yes, the book takes place in a graveyard, and the majority of supporting characters are ghosts, but I wouldn’t call it a scary book. There are a few creepy (maybe even scary) parts, but each chapter is pretty short. I don’t know how 10 year old Staci would have reacted, but Younger Me read some books with some scary parts and I turned out just fine. Knowing that it was loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book adds a fun element to the reading experience as well. I haven’t read The Jungle Book but I saw the Disney animated movie (I know, not nearly the same thing), but I was able to draw at least one connection to the movie—Bod’s caper with the ghouls definitely reminds me of when Mowgli gets kidnapped by King Louie and the apes.

I read Stardust, by the same author (aaaages ago, before the movie came out) and zoomed through it. I guess it’s a safe bet that I’d like other Neil Gaiman books, so I will definitely have to see what else my local library has.

somedaycoverThis month, another shift of gears. Our book club seems to be jumping around from genre to genre each month, and that is one of my favorite things about it, I think.

Thanks to a circumstance of “right place, right time” (the book was on sale for $1.99 at the time) we chose Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham. You might know Lauren Graham better as Lorelai on Gilmore Girls! I was looking for something lighter since Unknown Americans was really heavy and The Graveyard Book was kind of creepy, and November has the potential to be a busy month, and the book literally fell into my lap inbox  via a BookBub daily email. Oh, and don’t forget… the new Gilmore Girls episodes come to Netflix on Black Friday!

“The Book of Unknown Americans” Book Review and September Selection!

My sister picked this month’s book, The Book of Unknown Americans, and I was really excited to read it because it came with so many accolades—from NPR, The Washington Post, New York Times, etc. Since this is a virtual book club, we have been posting our responses online at the end of each month. You can read Libby and Stephanie’s responses on their blogs live right now!


I studied a lot about international affairs, immigration, and the like when I was in college. I’ve read so many articles about how hard it is to immigrate to the U.S. so I thought I had an idea what it is like for people who come here looking to escape a bad country or seek a better life for their family. I was blown away by the way Cristina HenrĂ­quez took issues you read about in the newspaper and attached a person or a family to the story, and for this reason I think the book is hugely important.

The structure of the book jumped from person to person, and occasionally backtracked, allowing a character to describe events that had just happened from a new point of view. I really loved this. All of the characters in this book live in a small apartment complex and have immigrated to the U.S. from a variety of Latin-American countries. One of the points of this book was to show the reader the wide variety of reasons one would leave their home country. It’s a real dose of perspective and empathy.

The Book of Unknown Americans

The main plot of the book is that the Rivera family, who applied for visas to come to the U.S. and waited years, has finally been approved. They sell or store everything from their home in MĂŠxico and arrive in Delaware in the back of a pickup truck. They move into the apartment building and slowly meet their neighbors. The Riveras’ high-school aged daughter, Maribel, has suffered a brain injury in MĂŠxico and she is the whole reason they came north—so she could be admitted to a special education school to help rebuild her short term memory and other issues caused by the accident. There is a nerdy, high-school aged boy in the complex, named Mayor: he sees himself and Marisol as outsiders and the two form a special friendship, which turns into a clunky, confused, first-romance.

Like many highly lauded books, this one has a really tragic final act, and the sting is only slightly soothed by the Latin American community coming together as a kind of extended family at the very end. What is it about humans that tragedy is often the only thing that will jolt us out of our normal thoughts and routines?

I highly recommend this book to anyone, and I probably wouldn’t hesitate assigning it to a college class (the topic is on my mind since I work at a school and have seen my fair share of freshmen on the edge of adulthood this week). I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but over the past three years I’ve been making a great effort to read books written by non-whites from a variety of countries (the U.S. and abroad) and it has been so, so, rewarding. Not only do publishers need to continue the breadth of their author pool, reading those authors has been expanding my world in a way that makes me feel like I know so little (but in a good way).

Virtual Book Club


Next up, lighter fare. So happy that we are going to read Mindy Kaling during my birthday month! Buy Why Not Me in a physical copy or kindle version and join Libby, Stephanie, and me the last Wednesday of September when we discuss on our respective blogs.

Mindy Kaling