“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

Books I Hated, Novels

A Man Called Ove is about a curmudgeon of an old man who hates everyone and everything that does a-man-called-ove-9781476738024_hrnot act or work the way he wants them to. He sees the world in black and white, right and wrong, useful or useless. He spends his days running through routines that have been set for years and finds interacting with his neighbors to be completely intolerable. Ove has suffered a great loss and is dealing with the passing of his wife. And by “dealing with the passing of his wife” I mean planning his own death so he can be with her. Pretty bleak, right? Enter Ove’s new neighbors, a young couple and their two children who seem to interrupt every attempt Ove makes at finding peace. I would assume the rest of the book is about them weaseling their way into his crusty little heart.

I did not finish this book. I couldn’t do it. I hated it. It pains me to say I hated it because it came highly recommended to me by multiple people and is a New York Times Bestseller with fantastic reviews, but I hated it. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but after sitting down with it every day for days on end and only being able to read a few pages at a time without growing bored or literally falling asleep, I gave up.

A Man Called Ove seems like it could be a very heartwarming story about a man who lost the light of his life only to find it again in a friendship with his new neighbors. I understand that people like reading about that kind of thing. I am not one of those people. I officially gave up at page 129 of 357. Ove was not a likable character and I did not empathize with him. Sure, his backstory was interesting but I felt like it didn’t justify his behavior. I was also shocked to discover he is only 59 yet spends the entire first third of the book acting like he is 95.  This book had a slow start and characters that did nothing to catch my attention or make me want to keep reading. The neighbor family was annoying and almost seemed like a caricature or exaggeration of themselves. I also wasn’t crazy about the writing style, as it seemed repetitive and a little over the top to me.

This book has 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, so the majority of readers enjoyed it. This type of fiction is not my cup of tea and I was very hesitant to read it in the first place, but clearly A Man Called Ove is doing something right. Maybe between books in the future I’ll try to keep pushing through it and provide another review if I ever finish, but for now I think I’ll put it back on the shelf.

Rating: 2/5, Did Not Finish

 

Advertisements

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian

We are simply going to ignore the fact that I haven’t posted a review since February.

atwoodIf you haven’t read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, stop everything you’re doing and go read it. I’m serious. I love this book. This is my second time reading the dystopian novel, and it was just as good as the first. Written in 1985, “The Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t exactly hot off the presses, but a surprising amount of people I know haven’t heard of it. Now you don’t have an excuse.

Atwood’s novel takes place in the totalitarian Republic of Gilead in the near-future. Society as we know it has collapsed and a new military has taken over, fueled by extreme religious motives that begin integrating their way into society slowly, at first, and then flipping the world upside down. In this new society, women are expected to go back to their original biblical purpose of existing only to be at the disposal of men. In this new society, women have been made barren from chemicals in the air, nuclear disasters, and sexually transmitted diseases, so those who have the ability to conceive are collected and re-educated into Handmaids, who will repopulate the Republic of Gilead. Those unable to conceive are declared Unwomen and sent away. Those who are lucky are made Wives of Commanders, but they are few and far between.

Offred, a Handmaid and our narrator and protagonist, exists for one sole purpose: to conceive. She lives under the control of her Commander and once monthly endures his visits in hopes she may become pregnant and avoid being declared an Unwoman. Like all handmaids, she is forced to wear long red dresses and white winged habits that block her vision and prevent her from seeing her surroundings in her cruel world. She lives a life in which she has no rights. Her name is not even her own, literally meaning Of Fred, taking the name of her Commander.

As we learn about Offred’s world and life in Gilead, we discover that this frightening dystopia is not far off from the present. Offred remembers a time where she had her own family, her own job, and a happy life where women were equal to men.

While many might think that this book sounds a little too far-fetched and feminist to be taken seriously, for me it shows just how quickly things can really go south. In a matter of a few years, everything Offred knows is taken from her and her life is completely changed. While the premise might sound impossible to those of us living the privileged life in the Western world, Atwood makes a point to keep things real by ensuring that all the events that have happened in the Republic of Gilead have also happened, at some point, in real life. If you’re looking for a good read that’s beautifully written and a bit of a reality check, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is definitely for you.

4.5/5

“Poison Study” by Maria V. Snyder

YA Fantasy

My initpoison studyial thought when beginning Poison Study was that it was definitely going to be a hit or miss. Luckily, it was closer to a hit for me.

Although Poison Study may not be the most sophisticated book, for YA fantasy it was surprisingly good. Yelena is a teenage girl in jail for murder, something she openly admits to. Unapologetic for her actions, she has been rotting in the dungeons of Ixia for months when she’s offered the position of Food Taster for the Commander, which essentially means if anyone attempts to poison Ixia’s leader, she’ll be the one getting poisoned first. Trained by her handler Valek, Yelena must learn to defend herself and her Commander and hopes to plan an escape. However, Yelena quickly finds it will be much more difficult to survive outside the castle walls than she thought (mostly because she’s a murderer, even if she had a good reason for it). All in all, Poison Study is a book about a girl who for the first time in her life must learn not to run away, but instead to confront her past while attempting to stay alive in her present.

I personally tend to feel that YA fiction can be pretty predictable. While some of Snyder’s storyline was typical for the genre, the world-building in Poison Study provided an awesome backdrop for Yelena’s story. The kingdom of Ixia was believable and interesting, and the culture she created made Yelena’s character seem a lot more real. The characters were great. I could see Yelena change and grow throughout the book as she shed the girl she was in the dungeon and tried to figure out who she was supposed to be. Snyder threw in quite a few twists that I hadn’t seen coming and had me changing my opinion on one specific character time and time again, and didn’t leave any of the characters one-sided or forgotten.

My one and only complaint about Poison Study is the Yelena and Valek storyline, which probably makes me cynical and annoying. While the emotions felt real, that YA romance has been told time and time before.

All in all, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder was a pleasant surprise. While I’m not sure I’m in it for the long haul through the entire series, it was a great start. (Followed by: Magic Study)

Rating: 4/5