Chillingly Stark, The Handmaid's Tale is Truly a Must-Watch
I was a high school senior when I read Margaret Atwood's haunting novel, The Handmaid's Tale. Labeled as speculative fiction, this dystopian novel stuck with me for over a decade. The chilling connection to realities of society coupled with my fascination with the overall plot made it one of those books you come back to again and again. Thus, when I heard Hulu was making an original series out of the book, I was counting down the days.
The show didn't disappoint. Today was the release, and I finished all three episodes on Hulu already.
The Handmaid's Tale is set in a futuristic society that is eerily not too far from our own. In this society, females have been targeted and rights have been stripped away. Due to pollution, the society is having major reproductive problems. Women are mostly infertile and, those who can bear children, can't carry them to term. However, a select group of women are able to bear children. These women are rounded up and forced to become handmaids. The handmaids basically serve as surrogates for wealthy, influential families in the society. However, it is much more sinister than that. Essentially, these women are kept as submissive servants, raped, and forced to give up their children. They have no freedoms, no rights, and no love. Women who were once revered in society, career-oriented, and part of loving families are degenerated to objects.
The story is told from the perspective of Offred--not her real name; they are forced to abandon their real names, given names Of + the man they serve. She tells the story of her life with the Waterfords and, through flashbacks, shows us how things have changed.
The first three episodes didn't disappoint. The acting was amazing. Elizabeth Moss does a stunning job at capturing the dual-sided Offred, showing the shiny, superficial woman society expects her to be and the gritty, raw woman she is on the inside. Alexis Biedel breaks away from her Gilmore Girls role in this series, showing a much more determined, rebellious woman. Furthermore, the filming in this series is stunning. Every detail of the world shows the atmosphere and gives the viewer a sense of the oppression. The flashbacks are worked in perfectly to give just enough backstory when it is needed.
This is not your light, weekend watch. It is heavy and truly guts you to the core. It sinks right into your bones and haunts you, making you put yourself in Offred's position and wonder how you would keep going. The devastation of the characters comes through the filming. You feel hopeless and powerless when you watch the show, which is similar to what Offred experiences.
The series is about power and what happens when you become powerless. It's message is that anyone can become powerless, and that society can turn on you in an instant. It is terrifying how realistic the series is. This is not some distant, sci-fi-like series that you assure yourself could never happen. The grounding of the tale in our society and its values is the most frightening aspect. You see how we are not immune to terrors like this potentially taking over our world. It's a cautionary tale in a way, too. It shows how Offred was somewhat naive in her old live. She mentions that she was asleep before, that she didn't bat an idea when they changed things. She thought something like this couldn't happen. However, her story shows that change can be for the worst. It also shows how fear can get people to agree to any conditions.
At the end of it all, we are run by fear and the desire to live. Thus, we can fall prey to situations we never imagined.
The series' dark, stark nature also highlights the beauty of freedom. It makes you not want to take anything for granted again. It shows how freedom is the liveblood of humanity and spirit. Without it, the world is a very dark place to live.
The Handmaid's Tale, just like the book, is not a fluffy read meant to please. It is not censored. Offred's narration isn't sugar-coated. It's raw, real, and difficult. You feel every pang of her loneliness. You feel her crazy desperation. You feel her searing pain.
This series is a must-watch for every woman and man. It makes you realize how quickly freedom can be taken away. It also makes you realize what matters most.
The only complaint I have about the series is that Hulu only released three episodes. However, maybe this is a good thing. If all episodes were available, I'm pretty sure I'd be getting absolutely no sleep tonight because it is so good.
All Books on Sale at Hot Tree
To celebrate World Book Day, Hot Tree Publishing is having a Mega Sale! All titles, including my popular chick lit series Then Comes Love and my latest Who We Were, are on sale! Sale price is reflected once you add to your cart. Right now, To Say Goodbye is only $2. Get your reading on this weekend with a slew of romances from sweet to spicy.
A few years ago, I read a book that would stick with me for years to come. Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why is a short but potent read about life, death, and the impact we have on each other. As a teacher, the lessons within those pages struck me to the core. Asher's brutally honest look at suicide, sexual assault, and the life of the modern teenager was an important read because it kept me in touch with the real issues facing youth. It's a book that keeps haunting me and forced me to never be complacent when thinking about these issues.
The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has the same impact as the book--but in an even more in-your-face kind of way. This series is not a light watch for the weekend or a series you'll linger through. I finished the series in a week and, despite the havoc it wreaked on my emotions, I'm thankful I invested the time in this series. The show brings up powerful issues for teenagers and adults alike. This is a show everyone should watch for the conversation it opens and the reminder that you are always impacting others. It reminds us that every choice has a consequence, if not in our own life, than in the lives of others.
The story is about Hannah Baker, a teenager who takes her own life. Before she commits suicide, however, she leaves behind 13 tapes with the 13 reasons why she did what she did. The tapes involve 13 different people from her school and really outline how she got to the place she did.
The main character, Clay, is given the tapes at the start of the show. He knew and even loved Hannah. At first, Clay seems to play an innocent role in the situation. In many ways, even by the end, Clay doesn't see as culpable as the other players in Hannah's story. However, the changes in Clay and his actions show us how guilt can rack even the most innocent players. Suicide doesn't just take one innocent life; it takes the lives of those left behind. Moreover, Clay's character shows us that not acting can be just as bad as acting. Clay didn't really do anything horrible or wrong; it was in his inaction that his guilt shines through. Still, Clay is a very likable character. Throughout the series, you can feel his pain his regret, and his hurt over what happened. Out of the thirteen, it is clear that Clay, even from Hannah's eyes, was the kindest to her. However, he also had the biggest chance to pull her back to life and did not. This leaves him in a really bad place.
Hannah's character is portrayed through flashbacks. The actress does an amazing job at portraying a hurt girl spiraling toward her demise. She also portrays Hannah in a way that you want to just rush through the screen and hug her. You want to befriend Hannah. You want to shake her and tell her you are there for her. You want to save her from the demise you know is coming. Throughout the series, against all possibility, you keep praying for it to turn out for her, for it to be a mistake. Her character pulls you in and makes her inevitable death at the end painful for the viewer. You can feel her hurt. You can feel the hole she leaves behind in life when she chooses to leave.
Above all, this series demonstrates the impact every choice you make has. Each of the thirteen played a drastic role in leading to Hannah's feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Taken by themselves, their actions might not seem horrific. However, when combined into Hannah's story, it is apparent that each one put a piece in the puzzle. It shows you that you can never understand what someone is going through. You can never understand how an unkind word or action may lead to the final straw. It reminds us all to be more compassionate, more understanding, and to reach out to those who seem a little lost. It reminds us to be more human. What seems like a senseless prank or a harmless event can actually be a major, final straw to someone dealing with many things on their plate. It also reminds us not to overlook anyone, not to forget anyone. I think it raises awareness in all of us to watch out for those who may need help.
13 Reasons Why is a prime example of how each action on our part can lead to something bigger. At the beginning of the story, it isn't clear why Hannah did what she did. Things don't seem so bad. But as things pile on and everything gets more complex with every choice, with every word, with every event, it becomes clear that things snowballed out of control for Hannah. Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of the series is watching the parents struggle with their guilt. The flashbacks show us how in hindsight, things we thought really mattered didn't matter at all. It shows us how we need to keep our priorities straight and understand what matters most. Most of all, it shows us how we can never truly believe someone isn't capable of something. We must always be aware of those who matter most to us.
This series sheds an honest light on all angles of suicide, from the schools' roles to peers' roles to parents' roles. It shows in a brutal fashion how heartbreaking and devastating suicide is. It shows how one can be pulled into suicidal thoughts. It also, on the other hand, shows how easily someone could be pulled out of it. Hannah talks about how many chances she gave life. She talks about how she just needed someone to go after her, to reach out, or to simply offer her some sense of hope. It reminds us that we don't have to be heroes to save someone; sometimes it just takes a simple word of acknowledgement or a smile.
Furthermore, the love aspect of the series is also gutting. We see as the series goes on that Clay truly, madly loved Hannah. We see the life they could have had. We see how a confession of his love, how a simple sentence could have changed both of their futures. Near the end of the series, the counselor says to Clay:
"We can't bring someone back to life with love."
"We can try."
The series shows how sometimes love, a connection with another, can save us. Hannah didn't have good experiences with guys or with love. However, she still shows us how the right love can potentially bring us back, give us hope, and make us want to hang on. The gut-wrenching part of the series is that Clay realizes this too late and is left with the haunting guilt of the realization. Furthermore, he's left behind wondering what could have been. There are several beautiful scenes in the series that paint the beauty of their love and what it could have been.
13 Reasons Why is a powerfully disturbing series. It weighs on you long after the thirteenth episode ends. It haunts you, especially if you are in a field working with teenagers or if you are a parent. However, it is a must-watch for everyone--not because of its entertainment value or because it has great actors/actresses. On the contrary, it is a must-watch because it is an essential reminder to all of humanity what life's value is and what our role is in life. Everything we say and do has an impact on those around us. The series stirs questions about what kind of impact we are making. Are we making choices that could save the Hannah Bakers around us, or are we making decisions that would land us on one the 13 tapes?
Thank you to Jay Asher and to the creators of the series for opening this dialogue with our teenagers, with our educators, and, most of all, with ourselves.
Must Read Romantic Comedy: Being Brooke by Emma Hart
Being Brooke by Emma Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"This is why you should never fall in love with your best friend. This moment right here."
Being Brooke is a sassy romance full of hilarious moments we can all relate to. Brooke Barker is a twenty-four-year-old college drop-out who is still trying to figure out the adult world. She doesn't quite know what she wants out of life. Her job isn't what she had in mind. Most of all, her love life is a bit of a disaster because she's fallen for her best friend Cain.
But Cain doesn't know this yet. And he has a girlfriend.
Through the book, Brooke starts to explore what she really wants out of life. The book is filled with moments we can all connect to because being an adult isn't always easy. Brooke is very open as a narrator about her weaknesses, making her very likable from the beginning. She has a hilarious family, including a very inappropriate grandfather who just makes the book even funnier. I love how each chapter has a life lesson with it. I also really like Brooke and Cain's interactions.
I think humor can sometimes be difficult to pull of in a romance, but Emma Hart definitely does. Brooke is a character I would love to have coffee with and be friends with. She is equal parts strong, sassy woman and struggling, imperfect adult. I could connect with so many of her struggles to figure out her life and who she wants to be.
I also thought the ending was adorable and satisfying. Emma Hart wrapped up the story in a way that did't feel rushed or out of place; it felt just right.
The only thing I will say is that it took me a little bit of time to get into the book. I wasn't initially sold on the story line. Emma Hart, however, writes in a way that makes this romance its own, unique version of the friends to lovers story. Thus, by the end, I was able to overlook the things I didn't quite love in the book and really root for Brooke.
This is a fun, sassy read full of light-hearted moments and characters. I would recommend this book for a weekend read.
View all my reviews
Free Flash Fiction Romance for Easter
Grab your free collection of flash fiction romance stories just in time for the holiday! Hot Tree Publishing authors have put together this free collection, downloadable for your Kindle, Nook, ereader, or even computer. These stories are filled with romance and humor. They're perfect for the mom on the go or the busy woman who wants to fit some romance and reading into her life.
Celebrate Release Day With Prizes and fun!
Come join us at Bradley's Books in the Altoona Logan Valley Mall on Saturday, April 29th starting at 2pm for our release day celebration. We're celebrating the release of my seventh novel, Remember When. Let us know if you can make it on the event page.
What we've got in store for you:
Come win prizes on April 27th
Come join us on Thursday, April 27th at 7pm EST on my Facebook Page. We will be celebrating the release of my seventh novel, Remember When, with your chance to win prizes!
Join us for excerpts, teasers, and PRIZES. Some prizes up for grabs:
Check out our weekly live chats on Facebook at 7pm EST for your chance to win the mystery black box of the month.
Lindsay Detwiler's 6th full-length novel with HTPubs will be releasing this coming October. You're in for a delicious inked treat!
“Six years, a complex about my freckles, a love for pastrami, and a fear of failure. That’s what he gave me before slaughtering my heart and my faith in men.”
Suffering from the sting of betrayal, twenty-eight-year-old Avery Johannas quits her job and moves hundreds of miles away to Ocean City, the beach town of her dreams. With the help of her zany roommate, Jodie, Avery finds a new career, home, and freedom. Throughout her self-exploration, she makes only one rule: She won’t give her heart to a man again. She’s living for herself this time.
But then she meets Jesse.
A tattoo shop owner, the green-eyed Jesse Pearce is wild with a touch of mystery. As Jesse and Avery explore Ocean City and their friendship, they’ll have a hard time drawing a line in the sand between their hearts.
When summer nights get a little more heated than either expected, they’ll have to ask themselves: Can they let go of their notions of love, or will their hearts be permanently inked by past pain?
Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Review
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some books you read are entertaining, engaging, or page-turners. Some books are exciting, interesting, and fun. Although The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has some of these qualities, there is one major quality that stands out from the rest: Importance. This book has great importance.
Henrietta Lacks is a woman who has impacted millions of lives and probably indirectly impacted your life--yet few people know her story. Before Skloot, few people even knew her real name. This book is important because it gives a face to the name that has been so influential in science. Moreover, it is important because it addresses so many deep and potentially controversial issues, from racial tension to medical ethics to scientific research. This is a book to make you think but also to help you celebrate the life of a woman who certainly deserves our accolades.
Henrietta Lacks died early in life from cervical cancer--but not before doctors at Johns Hopkins could take some of her cells for study. These cells proved immortal, leading to advances in tissue research and cell research. As the cells defied all odds of the time period and became immortal, they allowed for many scientific discoveries. The cells were used for everything from developing new medicines to searching for cures for cancer to testing nuclear radiation. Henrietta's cells quickly became the foundation worldwide for scientific study.
This sounds like a noble pursuit and a positive thing. There are just a few problems with the endeavor. 1.) Henrietta Lacks never gave permission for this study, and her family was never even informed about the studies until years later 2.) The cells of Henrietta became a multi-million dollar industry, of which Henrietta's family never saw a penny.
This book stirs so many emotions. First, I think this book stirs great sympathy. To read about Henrietta's immense suffering at the clutches of cancer is very sad. To hear about her families struggles afterward also really grips the reader. Skloot does an excellent job at portraying the human side of Lacks' story when no one else really did. Most only remember Henrietta as HeLa cells. They see her as a scientific commodity. Skloot puts emotion to the story and paints a picture of a strong woman dealt some difficult hands in life. I appreciated the honor and tribute Skloot paid to Henrietta in making her personal story known.
The book also incited a lot of questioning and even anger within me. This story raises crucial questions about bioethics and how far science should go in the sake of discovery. The concept of medical testing and experimentation being done without consent was, quite frankly, frightening. It raises the question of ethics and what elements of the individual and privacy should be sacrificed in the name of science, a question that Skloot clearly emphasizes as a murky question. Although Henrietta's cells certainly lead to groundbreaking discoveries, the idea that this was done behind the family's back is angering. Perhaps the most frustrating part is the commercialism of the endeavor. The fact that these cells were sold for large amounts of money calls into question the motives of some of the scientists involved. The fact that the Lacks family struggled with poverty while scientists selling Henrietta's cells were making millions seems completely unjust.
Finally, Skloot sheds light on racial tensions of Henrietta's time period. To learn about medical treatment--and the lack thereof--of African Americans during Henrietta's time period really opened my eyes. This is an issue not heavily discussed, but to hear about the lack of treatment or the sub par treatments afforded to certain races during this time period is angering. Skloot highlights how medical treatment and science aren't always a cut and dry issue. Politics, social values, and money all play a role in who gets treated and how.
Some critics of this book find Skloot to paint herself as a hero. I did not find this to be the case. While she is inserted into the narrative throughout, it is to discuss her research endeavors. I believe this highlighted the depth and complexity of Henrietta's story. It showed just how much work it took for Skloot to find the truth. It showed how layered the truth was and how much mystery surrounded a woman who is still regarded as having the most important cells in science. I admire Skloot for all of the work she did to find the story and to tell the real truth about Henrietta Lacks. I do believe that paints her as someone to be admired. I did not feel like she wrote the book in a way that focused on that. I truly felt that her focus was on shedding light on Henrietta the woman instead of HeLa, the scientific entity. I believe she paid tribute to a difficult and sometimes controversial subject in the most sensitive, respectful way she could without sugarcoating the hard truths surrounding the story.
This book should be read by everyone because of the importance of Henrietta's cells and how much they have contributed to science. I think we owe it to Henrietta to learn her personal story and to put a face, emotions, and personality to the cells talked about in scientific terms in so many contexts. I also think it is crucial that we explore the issues presented in this book such as tissue ownership, bioethics, and the motives of science in medicine in order to be prepared for the future. Henrietta's story is a cautionary tale in many ways. It cautions us to live life to the fullest, but it also cautions us that medicine is not always a cut and dry subject. Furthermore, it forces us to explore a human, controversial question about how much we are willing to sacrifice in terms of individual privacy and well-being for scientific exploration.
Skloot's book does a beautiful job at weaving together these questions in bioethics with the personal tale of a woman I now feel like I know. She sheds light on a story often overlooked in history. Most of all, she puts a story to the woman, hands on hips, who appears in so many textbooks. Skloot has ensured that the world now knows her real name and much, much more.
Thank you, Rebecca Skloot, for telling the story of a woman almost forgotten by science, by history, and by the world
View all my reviews
My lovely publisher is giving away 3 advanced ebook copies of Remember When and a paperback!! Grab this must-read romantic drama before it hits bookshelves...and get it for #free. There are several ways to enter. Just click the link below and enter away. Contest ends soon, so hurry.
A single moment can change everything… but can love help us survive?
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be…
Settled into married life, Jessica and Todd think they have so much time… until everything comes to a halt on a snowy back road. When they find themselves in a life or death situation, with rescue seeming impossible, they cling to the only hope they have left: their love for each other.
As Jessica and Todd fight for survival, their connection carries them through the biggest challenge of their lives. Memories and regrets swirl around the couple as they finally take a moment to reflect on what really matters.
There’s one big, icy question that haunts them, though: Is this where their story will end?
Sign Up For My Newsletter!