The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This work of speculative fiction tells the story of an alternative present-day reality or near future in which the US government has been supplanted by an oppressive religious regime. Fertility rates are down. In the new Republic of Gilead, women have lost their independence. Some are assigned to deserving soldiers as wives, domestic servants or econo-wives while others are forced into prostitution or are made into handmaids—women who will symbolically bear children on behalf of the wives.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a controversial work. It is studied in American high schools, but some parents feel that its sexual scenes are inappropriate for teenagers. Others complain about the negative depiction of Christianity. I would say that it’s a book that, like many others, will not be fully understood by teenagers but is nevertheless well worth reading and pondering.

For more on the plot and themes, continue reading.

Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Praisehaven Salvation Army store has interesting books.

I was intending to try to buy a bench, display shelves and maybe some jeans. Instead I wound up buying 17 books.

I accidentally bought two copies of The Craft of Research. I think I would have noticed if I hadn’t been rushed out of the store at closing time. I think I spent two hours looking at books, and still only had time to look at maybe 75% of what they had.

I was doing so well chewing through the cheap books I bought the last time I got ambushed by a sale. Now I’ve got a whole new batch. Half of them are reference books, but it’s still hundreds of pages added to the stack. An endless stack of which I expect never to see the bottom… I still have but have never read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Arthur story, The Mists of Avalon, which was given to me as a birthday present when I turned 16.

I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to than used books.

Brilliant by Jane Brox

The topic is interesting, but the book itself is junky. Oops.

Brilliant is not as brilliant as it wants me to think it is. Probably it’s really hard to write a book on such a huge topic, but then isn’t it the author’s and the publisher’s responsibility to focus and communicate the topic appropriately, to create and then meet readers’ expectations?

If you want to know specifically why I didn’t like the book, or what I still managed to learn from it, keep reading.

Continue reading Brilliant by Jane Brox

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Before it was an award-winning sci-fi novel, it was an award-winning sci-fi short story. It’s commonly studied, deep, and poignant. (I’m not really a fan of poignant.)

Flowers for Algernon tells the story of a retarded man named Charlie who undergoes an experimental surgical procedure to increase his intelligence. Algernon is the mouse whose success has convinced scientists that the procedure should be tried on a human test subject. It is clear early in the book, if not from the title of the book itself, that the procedure ultimately fails. Hence the poignancy.

For more on the format, plot and themes, continue reading.

Continue reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

See below for my thoughts on this excellent novel, when and why I read it (twice!), and a list of other books I’ve read that are about India or by Indian authors.

My write-up of the premise, characters, themes and what I liked about the book contains some details about the characters that could be considered spoilers but does not give away the climax or resolution of the tale.

Continue reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Even more Robin Hoods

This post is part of a series of posts on books and movies about the legend of Robin Hood. It discusses:

  • The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

See also:

Continue reading Even more Robin Hoods

Atrium Book Sale

Singapore is not a great place for book bargains. However, I have had some luck with book sales that travel around and set up in shopping mall atriums. (Atria. Happy now, Firefox spellcheck?)

If I were the roadrunner, this would be the perfect trap for the coyote to set up. I would fall right in it.

atrium-book-sale
…and I did!
atrium-book-sale-2
Then I found this…

Now, no doubt I have some books that are pretty useless to me. In fact, you could say that at any given time, all my books except for about three of them are useless to me. Some, like the ones written in Thai, Greek, Korean, Arabic or Burmese, are likely to remain useless to me forever.

Still. Still, I ask you. Of what possible use is a book on ROCKHOUNDING IN IDAHO to anyone in Singapore? I mean, I love rocks—and books, obviously—and I fully understand the notion of armchair travel. And yet. This book. It cannot help me find rocks in Idaho as long as I am physically in Singapore.

Am I right? Seriously, this book is never going to sell…

I mean, for the same money, you’d clearly be better off with Daytrips from Washington, DC.

English as it is Broken… is broken.

The two English as it is Broken books shown above contain photos of signs and responses to people who’ve written in to a weekly column in The Straits Times with questions about English usage.

(For a listing of all four books and then some, see the earlier post, Books on Singapore English.)

The quality of the answers in the two books has been disparaged, but I think most of the explicit explanations are informative even if they are not expressed perfectly.

Below are an example answer I like and one I don’t.

Continue reading English as it is Broken… is broken.