Friday, November 29, 2013

A Different World After War

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K Dick

It’s been over a decade since World War II has ended and the world is a different place now that Germany and Japan has won the war.  Very little remains of what was the United States of America, with the east coast now German Territory and the west belonging to Japan. Most of the Jewish population has been terminated with those surviving living behind plastic surgery and false names. Since most of the world is now under German or Japanese control, rulers are looking to colonize other planets like Mars. But in the midst of all this change, life still continues. And with all this change someone has written a book, that has been banned in Germany and all its territories, about what the world would have been like if the United States and Britain had won the war.
                The Man in the High Castle introduced quite a few different characters, from an American antiques dealer, a Jewish man in hiding, a leading German officer governing in Japanese Territory, and a Japanese official just to name a few. The author was very thorough in introducing different characters representing altering points of views and situations. The novel was almost hostile with fear, racism and cultural awareness being constant ideas throughout the book. All of the characters are under a certain amount of pressure in this new environment to present themselves a certain way in order to prevent being mistreated by others. Image in this new world is all that matters.
                Now I found the idea of having this novel incorporate itself into the story line to be brilliant. The idea that some of these characters are reading a novel that is the alternative reality of their own is intriguing because its exactly what I’m doing. When I opened this book, I entered into an alternate reality, which is theirs, and they were doing the exact same thing. It was a little unnerving at first, simply because of the reaction some of the characters were having to this world where the US and Britain won but it was realistic.
                I, for the most part, enjoyed this novel. I can appreciate why it received the acclaim that it did upon its release. I personally found the story, in its beginning, very hard to connect with. Phillip K Dick definitely dived right in to a situation that you were not at all familiar with. Each character introduced a different ideal and understanding and it wasn't until you observed all these different characters that you truly started to grasp the severity of these new situations. I would recommend this to readers who simply want to read an interesting book about how different life could have been. People ask themselves “what if” questions all the time and this answers one: What would life be like if Germany and Japan had won the second World War?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Long Live the Queen

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

The young King, Edward VI, King Henry VIII’s only legitimate heir is dying. Before his death he goes against his fathers will, which states that Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor would be the next in line for the throne, to appoint his cousin, Jane Grey’s male sons heir to the throne. The politics of this decision go back hundreds of years and are thoroughly discussed within these passages. You are first introduced to Matilda (1102-1167) who was the heir to Henry I, but never took the thrown in her own place, always being seen as a figure for her husband or son. Then, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) is introduced. She was Queen of France and later Queen of England. Extremely powerful she would eventually help her son defy his father in his quest for the crown. Isabella of France (1295-1328) is the third woman observed. She was the wife of the Edward II of England and after constantly being ignored by her husband for his favorite male counterparts, she would eventually lead a revolt against her husband, with her son in place as heir and the soon to be king. Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) then takes center stage as we began to look at the War of the Roses. This civil war took place between the York and the Lancaster. Margaret was a pivotal figure during this war and at times led the Lancastrian front in her husbands place. These women all faced distinct challenges in their rules that had a lasting effect on the culture that is England. So this brings us back to Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Their half-brother, Edward VI’s, ploy to prevent his sisters from ruling failed. Mary did rule as Queen and with her death, Elizabeth took the throne.
                This was an extremely informative historical novel about a history of England that is not often addressed. Queen Elizabeth is by far one of the most famous female figures in history, but I’ve never read anything that incorporated the history of so many different queens and their struggles. I am not a historian, by any means, but I am extremely fascinated by The Tudor dynasty and this was a definitely a crash course in English Dynasties, which at times felt like information overload.  This novel focused on the struggles that these women had to face to rule. In history, most women could only rule as a regent to their son, or as a hand to the king, even if in Matilda’s instance, you are the heir to the throne. This made it interesting to say the least to read about women who played such dominant roles in history.
            I would suggest this book if you want a history lesson on Queens of England. I enjoyed taking this walk back into history class and observing these woman so thoroughly.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Beat of a Heart

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

I’m sure most people recognize the title of this book because of the movie that was released in 2000 starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd. I thought the movie was great and was really excited I was able to get my hands on the book. Where the Heart Is follows the life Novalee Nation who was left in a Walmart in Seqouyah at seventeen, while pregnant, by her boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens. The couple was on their way to California where Willy Jack was going to work with his cousin, when he decided it would be easier to continue on without Novalee and left her without a second glance. Novalee then began leaving in the Walmart, unbeknownst to anyone, and became friends with Sister Husband, a caring recovering alcoholic, and Forney who lived in the town library with his sick sister. Novalee gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Americus, in the Walmart, and moved in with Sister Husband. Forney, who helped deliver Americus, became one of Novalee’s best friend along with the nurse’s aid from the hospital, Lexie and photographer, Moses. While Novalee and Americus lived their lives in Seqouyah, Willy Jack has been traveling the US as the singer known as Billy Shadow. Not long after abandoning Novalee, Willy Jack was picked up with a minor and put in prison. There he was able to get a guitar and right what would be a great single but his reliance on drugs and alcohol would be his downfall and eventually send him searching for the woman he left behind.
                The book focuses on the forming of relationships more so than the failure relationships. Novalee was left in an unimaginable situation: no family, no money, no friends and hundreds of miles away from home. It was because of the kindness of strangers like Sister Husband and Forney, that Novalee was able to make a life for herself and Americus. She learned to become independent but she always had the strength of people who loved her, and her daughter, and wanted the best for her. I loved that we were able to get glimpses of Willy Jack’s story as well. It brought home how Novalee more than likely dodged a bullet when left at the Walmart. While Novalee is growing and maturing, Willy Jack never changes. His irresponsibility leads to his downfall and though sad to watch, it felt like justice.
                I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the movie. Billie Letts did a very good job of looking at how different relationships are created and maintained because of love and loyalty. The characters who came into Novalee’s life all brought different life experiences and stories to tell. They created their own unit that was completely supportive of each other. It showcased unbroken bonds and different levels of friendship. I appreciated the story and would suggest that if you loved the movie to give the book a shot.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thanks for the Love!!!!

I've got to take a second and say thank you to my girl, Mrs. Dominique Penn for the shout out and love on the blog! Thanks love. Check her out and The Next Book On My List feature out!

EverythingMrsPennLoves: Book Worms Lets Go!!:

From time to time I like to check to see what the new readings are every now and then. Little did I know one of my book worm best friends has a blog that gives you a authentic review of the books that she reads! If your ready to start a book club and are in need for books, or if you want to just get your read on check her out at!! She's amazing and credible!!! Enjoy!!

A Life, Removed

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Woman can no longer hold bank accounts. Women can no longer hold jobs. Women are not allowed to read. If you are a handmaid, you are not allowed to do much at all. Walk to the market. Wait. And bear children. That is your job as a handmaid, or mistress as some would call it. You are here to bear children for your commander and his wife. You are only useful if you can bear children. Offred is at her third home and has her last chance to bear a child before being sent away to the Colonies if not worse. Offred had a daughter once, before things changed. She had a job, her own money. She was in love with her husband, Luke. But now she doesn’t even know if her daughter or her husband are alive. Everything before this is a memory. Her life and the lives of everyone around her has changed. Religion has taken over in the Republic of Gilead, what used to be the United States. The President is dead, as well the members of Congress and the constitution has been suspended. At first everyone assumed things would eventually go back to normal, but the rights of everyone, especially women, were slowly being stripped away.
                The Handmaid’s Tale brings out the fear women have of going back to the stone age. Here you have a country where women essentially have no rights and are viewed as possessions. Every woman has a purpose whether you are a wife, maid or a child bearing vessel, but you are only good for that purpose. The most frightening thing to me about this novel is that she remembers what it was like before. She remembers when things were different. She remembers what it was like to be independent, educated, important, valued, a mother. This change happened so swiftly, so quickly and everyone was too scared to say anything, scared of dying or missing. Religion was the backbone. Religion and simplicity.  Life would be so much simpler for women, and of course men, if women didn’t have to make any decisions anymore. So the choice was taken away.
              This was a complex story.  Because of the world we live in now, it is hard to imagine a world where women can be stripped of every single right. Even though we see the debates over birth control and women’s rights in the news all the time, we know there are too many women and men who would fight for us to keep those rights. But what if? That what if is what makes things complex. The novel never says explicitly what happened or how the take over occurred: how the army changed, how women were abducted for reproductive purposes or how these roles were created. Offred recalls what she can of the changes when she reflects on the time before but she only knows and has been told so much. Reading this novel made me grateful. You don’t realize how precious things are until they are taken away from you. That realization came to late for Offred, whose hidden joy is the fact that she can still remember her loved ones and her real name.