Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

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Red Clocks
By Leni Zumas
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 13: 9780316434812
Pages: 368
Genre: Dystopia/Feminism

Synopsis:

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.


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2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about feminism (I am counting this even though it is fiction because it certainly solicited some serious thoughts in regards to female rights and equality).

Following the lives of 4 women & a side character, Red Clocks presents a dystopian setting that explores the loss of women’s reproductive rights through a very unique narration that gradually exposes the varying impacts within society. Misogynistic politicians have made abortion and in vitro fertilization illegal with the enactment of the Personhood Amendment, going as far to charge lab technicians who drop specimens with manslaughter. Women who miscarry are forced to hold funerals and suffer the full cost. The Pink Wall now prevents women from crossing into Canada and obtaining abortion. Any woman doing so will be arrested and returned to their state for trial. And now on January 15th the Every Child Needs Two Act is about to take effect refusing single parent adoption.

First conjecture upon reading the synopsis would be to liken Red Clock’s to Atwoods’s The Handmaid’s Tale. They both approach the relevant and terrifying topic of societies where women are no longer equal and have lost the right to govern their own bodies. In that they are both powerful and necessary. But my experiences for both while rewarding, were unique.

Here Leni Zumas introduces us to five women:

Gin, “The Mender” – an isolated homeopath who lives alone in the forest and offers women services that women are no longer able to obtain. Viewed by the locale as a witch.

Susan, the Wife – A mother of two who finds herself disgusted with the situation of her marriage but unable to confront her husband.

Mattie, the Daughter – An adopted young girl who discovers she is pregnant with a child she does not wish to keep. Yet, current laws prohibit her from seeking an abortion.

Ro, the Biographer – A single, aging teacher and writer who wishes to become a mother. Insemination has been unsuccessful and her window for adoption is drawing to a close thanks to the Every Child Needs Two Act.

Eivør, a Polar Explore – A secondary character (not without significance) that is introduced as the subject of Ro’s current biography project.

It is through alternating chapters and perspectives of each woman’s life that Zumas presents us with an intelligent narrative and character study that is strangely devoid of emotion at times. While this can make for a taxing read, it soon becomes highly effective as we find that we are viewing this dystopian society as a reality.

Presented in a small Oregon town, there is nothing incredible occurring outside of the horrific laws in place and coming into effect. We are simply experiencing it as it is. As a part of life. And that alone is what makes Red Clocks not only compelling and effective but deeply unsettling. It blurs the lines between fiction and potential reality, daring the reader to face a possible future and ask what a woman is truly for.

Zumas’ writing is blunt and brazen, but also stylistic and enveloping. Though this is a heavy read, it is a fast one. I found myself unable to put Red Clocks down. I respected each character for their own strengths and flaws. I admired the author for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone.  Aptly titled with a fitting cover, I am recommending this one to all!

Untitled design Read over several cups of Darjeeling tea.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

 

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Like Water for Chocolate:  A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies 
By Laura Esquivel
Translators: Thomas Christensen, Carol Christensen
Publisher: Anchor
ISBN13: 9780385420174
Genre: Magical Realism

Synopsis:

Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.

The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, “Like Water For Chocolate” is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next twenty-two years, Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.


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This was a buddy read with Kim at Traveling, Gladly Beyond. Being that this was a shorter title, we opted to forgo the usual 5 question format you see in buddy reads here on the blog and simply link up so you can compare our thoughts. You can find Kim’s review here

2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt: A book by author of a different ethnicity than you

Like Water for Chocolate was ultimately selected after Kim and I discussed wanting to read more translated titles. She was kind enough to produce a nice list of potential books, and this was our final choice. It is a title many have probably encountered if not in books in film. It has been on the bestseller lists in both Mexico and America, and the film has earned several awards. It was an easy selection.

Told through twelve monthly installments that each feature a new recipe, Esquivel delivers a unique narrative of Tita, a young woman forbidden to marry, but passionately in love. When her heart’s interest, Pedro is denied her hand by her mother, he agrees to marry her sister as a means of remaining close to her. But when Tita’s emotions began to carry over into her cooking, something magical happens and a series of side effects ranging from unbridled passion to deep sorrow surface within those who consume her food. Realizing this, Tita begins a slow seduction of Pedro through the art of cooking.

I am torn about my experience with Like Water for Chocolate and find it rather difficult to review. I can easily appreciate why this novel has made a mark, but I encountered a few barriers. Part of me enjoyed the book and another part of me knows I am not the ideal audience. So please keep both in mind here.

The biggest challenge I found lies within the characters. Initially, I liked Tita. Then I did not, then I did. And “loathing” would be an accurate description of my feelings for Pedro. This was a result of their continually bad terrible decision-making. While I respected the difficulty and heartache of their situation, I was never able to fully remove myself from my own logic and morals long enough to be “OK” with their responses and actions, and they offered no other form of distraction. It was simply one bad choice after another. And this is where my focus remained. In the end, it made for an uphill read.

Another issue (that I am learning to overcome) is that this is a love story. For the entirety of my reading life, I have struggled with them. However, with that said, the added element of Tita’s emotions literally feeding her family and a genuinely original narrative were the saving grace here. I was drawn to the incorporation of recipes into the story. It is magical realism and food! The author manages to beautifully segue meal preparation into the events as they occur and it works, giving the story a new layer of depth and facilitating a breezy, fun read carried effortlessly by the author’s fluid and spirited writing.

My final quibble would fall to the conclusion. Again, this is the result of poor actions on the character’s behalf. I found it to be disappointing and effectively solidifying of my dislike for each of them and ultimately lessening my overall rating.

But do not let my personal experience sway you away from Like Water for Chocolate. It offers a nice dose of culture through cuisine and tradition packed into an eccentric tale of passion that is incredibly easy to digest. If you enjoy a unique love story and do not mind heavily flawed protagonists, this is worth exploring.

Untitled design Served with a  tall glass of iced tea served and fresh lemon.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

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James and the Giant Peach
By Roald Dahl
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN13: 9780142410363
Pages: 146
Genre: Children’s Fiction

Synopsis:

A little magic can take you a long way.

After James Henry Trotter’s parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!


(New) Thoughts

It is not often that I explore children’s fiction and this is my first time attempting a review of one on BVT. But when I picked up this classic by Roald Dahl, I knew I would have to talk about it! I owe my experience to my current reading challenge, as that is how James and the Giant Peach landed in my hands.

2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge Prompt: A childhood classic you’ve never read

My previous experience with Dahl’s work was limited to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Which I personally adore and could spend the day doting on. I knew that his whimsical style would agree with me. My only regret is having waited this long to enjoy this beloved story.

James loses his parents in a horrendous accident involving a rhinoceros, immediately adding that elaborate flair that only Dahl can, and is sent to live with two terrible aunts; Spiker and Sponge. He is mistreated and neglected, spending his days catering to the unrealistic whims of the two women, when one day he encounters a mysterious man. He is given a bag of magical crystals which promise to be his salvation. When he accidentally drops them into the grown by an old peach tree, the very unexpected happens. Suddenly a peach appears and grows at an alarming rate to the size of a house. Inhabited by over-sized creatures including a centipede, lady bug, spider and earth worm, James finds himself on an incredible adventure when the peach’s stem breaks setting them all in motion.

“There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t even started wondering about yet.” 

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James and the Giant Peach is a shining example of why I adore children’s fantasy. It embodies all of the elements I have come to cherish in stories, even as an adult. We are introduced to a lovable yet surely down on his luck protagonist, who is about to find his terrible life flipped upside down for the better! Add a very eccentric cast of characters to the mix and this is a recipe for fun that appeals to readers of all ages.

While the end result is full of whimsy and merriment, it is not without a few defining and more disturbing moments. I am noticing that this seems to be Dahl’s shtick.

“The peach rolled on. And behind it, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker lay ironed out upon the grass as flat and thin and lifeless as a couple of paper dolls cut out of a picture book.”

He has the uncanny ability to introduce readers into elaborately constructed worlds that seem to create a perfect balance between awful and the good. I find this a highly effective approach that really feeds the adventure.

While it can feel peculiar at the best of times and perhaps perplexing, tucked within is a beautiful story that reminds children of all ages, that happiness and love can be found within the most unexpected places and forms. James’ ability to overcome each obstacle reminds us to never lose hope. I cannot wait to explore more of Dahl’s collection and feel slightly disappointed that I missed these books as a child.

Untitled design Enjoyed with a nice blend of iced, peach tea of course!

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram