November 4, 2016

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Let’s cut right to the chase:finding-ithaka-anniversary-pictures-1-of-11.  Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.*

Hag-Seed is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, so as soon as I found out she was coming out with this new book, I re-read The Tempest. I also decided to cash in on a blogger perk, and I requested this book from Blogging for Books so that I could get it as soon as possible. It’s the first free thing I ever got as a blogger and I feel good about it.

Felix has been fired from his role as a theater director by the people he worked alongside with. Too wrapped up in his work in the theater, he never saw this coming. Devastated without his job and still grieving over the loss of his three-year-old daughter, he moves into a small cottage and spends years planning his revenge on those who conspired to fire him. Eventually, he ends up working in a prison, where he helps the inmates put on their own version of Shakespeare plays every year. As his obsession with revenge grows, he imagines himself as the real-life version of Shakespeare’s protagonist in The Tempest.

While I found some aspects of the book hard a bit unrealistic, such as the freedoms the inmates have in the prison, I was able to put it aside for the sake of propelling the story forward. I loved this book for a few reasons. First, I enjoyed the chapters that took place in the prison. I know that Margaret Atwood did a lot of research on prisons and programs in prisons, even though she says there is no program quite like the one she creates in this book.

Second, I loved the way that she retold The Tempest. Even though I had read Shakespeare’s play, Atwood kept me guessing. Third, I thought that she did a wonderful job showing the psychological toll that Felix’s obsession with revenge takes on this. You see his progression and his obsession and you don’t necessarily like him or root for him. I think that it takes a lot of skill to create such an unlikable character that you continue keep reading about for hundreds of pages and Atwood is certainly that skilled.

I will say that while you don’t need to have read The Tempest to understand this book, I think it helps. If you want to read Hag-Seed, but don’t want to read The Tempest, Margaret Atwood has written a very concise summary in the back of the book. If you read that first, you will be good to go.

2. The Tempest byWilliam Shakespeare

I love this play. Prospero has been cast out from his rightful role as Duke of Milan. Too concerned with practicing his magic to see what was being plotted right under his nose, he has been exiled and now lives on a deserted island with his daughter. When he learns that the people who exiled him are on a ship, he summons a tempest to strand them on the island with him so that he can get his revenge. I love this play. It has magic, songs, fairies, mystery, and, of course, it is beautifully written. If you are a Shakespeare fan I would say this is definitely worth a read. I would love to see it performed one day.

3. Looking for Alaska by John Green

I read this book because when I was doing my research on National Banned Books Week, I found out that this was the most challenged book of 2015. So naturally, I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. This book does deal with hard issues. But aren’t teenager going through hard things? Don’t they have to deal with hard issues? We can’t shelter them, and I felt like Green did a great job of dealing with those issues in a realistic way. If we don’t talk about the things that affect teenagers, they won’t have any way to deal with them. I loved this book and I think that it is a must-read for young adults.

4.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

My friend and blogger buddy Christy from Planes, Trains, and Running Shoes sent me this book when I first moved to Hawaii and I am so grateful she did! It is about a literary society that developed during WWII. It takes place after WWII, which I liked because it dealt a lot with how people went about picking up the pieces from this devastating war. It is written as a series of letters as the main character writes to the residents of the literary society to find out how they survived the war and how reading books changed their lives. In their letters to her, people who never read books before the society was created tell her how reading and the society changed their lives.

I think that this is a book lover’s book, and it was written by a librarian whose dream it was to write a book one day. If you love books and are interested in WWII, I recommend this. I enjoyed it a lot.

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

My book club in Hawaii decided we wanted to read something that would really get us talking, so of course we read Lolita. While I absolutely loved the language and word play, I felt like the story moved too slow for me to really feel engaged in it. Lolita is about a man named Humbert Humbert who is writing his confession from prison. In it, he details his obsession with young girls, how he came to fall in love with Lolita, and how he abducted her and forced her into a “relationship” with him.


6. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I already write a review of this book here but let me just say again that this is a must-read book. If you read one book this year, I think it should be Homegoing. 


What’s on your list?

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17 responses to “What I read in October”

  1. Terry Taylor says:

    Thank you so much for all the book suggestions! I can’t wait to look for them (hopefully from the library…ha!) A patient today was reading The Nightingale so we talked about it for a minute, thanks to you! 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      If you can get your hands on Homegoing from Shannon I think you would love it!! I love when things like that happen. When you meet someone who is reading or just read a book you love it’s like an instant bond!

  2. Jenn says:

    Guernsey is one of my favorites and I’m glad you liked it 🙂

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m really jealous that you’ve read so many books this month! I only read one, can you believe it?? (Station 11, this futuristic/post-apocalyptic novel). How do you read so much? Are you a fast reader or do you have some special trick! I think I need to spend less time on my phone haha. I love looking for Alaska – John Green went to my college and is a bit of a celebrity alum, so I spent one summer reading all his books. I think An Abundance of Katherines is my favorite. I also loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society…it is such a cozy book. Since I’ve been living in England I’ve been desperate to get to Guernsey and experience the island I read about. My dream is to go there for a long weekend and catch up on all my reading 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      Oh my gosh you have to go to Guernsey — that would be such a cool experience, especially after reading the book. I would love to go. Nick and I were supposed to go to England last year over Christmas, but I got some kind of flu and we ended up changing our flights so we could go straight home from Denmark. I really want to make it happen.

      I read pretty fast. I think I might read too fast because I get so into the book. But also my husband works a lot. I read a lot before he gets home. Then, when he gets home, one of his favorite things to do is read. So I get double reading time. On the weekends we will just go spend hours reading on the beach which is pretty much my favorite. I installed the Kindle app on my phone so I can read instead of scrolling through my social media (which I do plenty of anyway haha). Sometimes that is hard to do, but I feel like I read a lot more that way.

      Station Eleven is on of my all time favorite books. I want to re-read it because I thought the prose was just so beautiful. Almost like poetry. I love dystopian books though so that book was right up my alley from the start. What did you think of it? Right now I am reading The Circle which is insane. Totally creepy and so good.

      I’m adding An Abundance of Katherines to my list. I loved Looking for Alaska! It was my first Jon Green book. So cool that he went to your college. Jonathan Larson who created Rent went to my college which I always thought was pretty awesome.

      • Sarah says:

        I’m definitely going to try after the holidays! I live nearby one of the only airports with direct flights to Guernsey so it’s pretty perfect!

        I think I might install the Kindle app… I was opposed to it when it first came out because I love the feel and smell of “real” books – but my dad has it too and reads CONSTANTLY. So it sounds worth it if it means I’ll read more! Unfortunately I get really motion-sick, so can’t utilize my commuting time for reading 🙁

        I really loved Station 11 – I love dystopian novels as well, but a think a lot of dystopian novels are “low brow” – not meaning they’re not good, but the prose isn’t usually artistic, and it doesn’t leave you thinking as much. But Station 11 is totally different! I was fascinated by the interweaving story lines across time, and I’m still thinking about it weeks later…

  4. Laura says:

    I read the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I LOVED it. Such a sweet book. I will have to add some of these others to my list!

    • Carolann says:

      Pretty much everyone I talked to agrees! We ready it for my book club in Hawaii and it was a big hit. I think it’s a book-lover’s book.

  5. Carly says:

    I’ve never read anything by John Green for some reason, but I had no idea that book was banned, which makes me more intrigued. I’ve had hit or miss luck with retellings this year, but Hag-seed sounds like it would be pretty good, especially because I’m not at all familiar with The Temptest. And hooray for free books through blogging 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      I honestly never had any interest in reading John Green’s books for some reason. But the fact that it was the most frequently challenged book of 2015 intrigued me. Don’t tell me not to read something ;)) I think I would have appreciated it more as a young adult, but I am really glad I read it.

      I liked Hag-Seed a lot! If you read the synopsis at the end of the book or just do a google search, I think you can get the gist of it. She references a lot of the words and phrases from the play, but she also does a good job of explaining them. I re-read The Tempest and it was the first time I had read Shakespeare since college. I forgot how hard it is but also how fun it is.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with you about Homegoing! Seriously one of the best books ever! I keep on hearing about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I know that I need to pick it up soon! It just sounds like a book that I would love! And yes to getting all the perks of being a blogger! You should look at Netgalley too!

    • Carolann says:

      I really think you would love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society!! It’s a book-lovers book for sure, plus it takes place after WWII which I know you love to read about.

  7. Audrey says:

    I’ve always considered picking up Lolita, but I’ve never been brave enough…

    If you’re a fan of The Tempest I have a book recommendation, but I totally can’t think of it. (And it might be YA- does that appeal to you?) Regardless, I own the book so when I get home tonight I’ll tweet it at you if I remember! Haha!

    • Carolann says:

      Yes please! If you remember I would love to look it up. I love The Tempest. And I love YA.

      Lolita is definitely a project. I ended up reading it really fast toward the end because I was on a book club deadline, but I think that if you really want to get the most out of it, it takes a while to read. Very disturbing, too, which is another reason why I read it so slow and kept putting it down. The prose is beautiful, though.

  8. Jen says:

    I live vicariously through all of the book posts haha plus it helps me bulk up my reading list for when I have the time.

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