Tag: margaret atwood

Maggie Monday: The Heart Goes Last

Posted 23 November, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Maggie Monday: The Heart Goes LastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 29th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian, Fiction, Humorous, Science Fiction
Pages: 320

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their "civilian" homes.     At first, this doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one's head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan's life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

So I know that Atwood’s latest, The Heart Goes Last was disappointing to some people. While I’ll agree it’s not her finest novel, it’s far from twaddle either. The story of Stan and Charmaine escaping an economic collapse by signing on to the Consilience project was compelling to me, though I’ll readily admit it was because I was already invested in the characters as this book was originally started as a serial novel by the defunct Byliner publisher. The most intriguing parts of The Heart Goes Last were those that she had already written in serial format and incorporated into this finished novel. NPR reviewer, Tasha Robinson might put it best:

The Heart Goes Last is packed with the kind of morally and socially complicated ideas that usually intrigue Atwood, and it’s impossible not to wonder what she would have done with these ideas in a more heartfelt book, or one that used the serial-installment model to stretch out and explore more of this lightly sketched world. (Full Review)

This is so apt for this book. Atwood sketches out some excellent ideas and important concepts but by the end of the book there’s a little bit of a failure to launch.

We discussed all the spoilers over at The Socratic Salon, come talk with us!

Other reviews of The Heart Goes Last

Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf

Shannon at River City Reading

What about you, Reader? Did you love this Atwood or love to hate it?


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Automatic Authors: A Top Ten List

Posted 18 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Authors, memes, writers


It’s been a hot minute since I did a top ten list, y’all. Today we have authors who write books that I pick up without even reading the synopsis. So, in no particular order…

1. Stephen King. To quote my fellow Stephen King fangirl, Rory from Fourth Street Review briefly, “Obviously.”

2. Joe Hill. I mean, he’s a fantastic horror author in his own right and he’s Stephen King’s son. So, ‘obviously’ again.

3. Margaret Atwood. It doesn’t matter what genre or form this feminist Canadian powerhouse is writing in, I want that book.

4. John Irving. I’ve yet to find an author who does cradle to grave character studies as well and effectively as Irving. My love started with A Prayer for Owen Meany, but has since extended to many of his other novels as well.

5. J.K Rowling. Both Harry Potter related and adult novels. She kicks ass in both forms, I don’t care what anyone says about The Casual Vacancy. I own the Galbraith novels, I just haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

6. Anne Rice. With a caveat, only concerning her Vampire Chronicles books. All the Mayfair Witches, werewolves, and Christ just don’t do it for me. Lestat is where it’s at.

7. Roald Dahl. I know he’s dead, that doesn’t mean I don’t yearn for more of his writing.

8. Herman Koch. The deliciously twisty Dutch writer. I only know of two of his books (The Dinner and Summer House With Swimming Pool) that have been translated to English, but you can bet I’m on the lookout for more.

9. Gillian FlynnI will not be judged! Even if Gone Girl wasn’t your bag, she wrote two other delightfully dark novels that I thoroughly enjoyed. I want novel number four.

10. Nadia Bolz-Weber. Yes, I realize she’s Lutheran clergy. Yes. I realize I’m an atheist. But I love her work and I think that she’s doing some fabulous writing (and preaching) that the U.S. and the world desperately needs to hear. Faithful or not.

What about you, Reader? What are your top ten must buy authors?


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Best Books of 2013

Posted 30 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

Remember back in December when everyone else was doing their ‘best of’ posts? Remember how I told you that there was too much of that going around so I was going to hold off until June? Okay. Well, maybe I didn’t actually tell anyone you that but I definitely thought it. So, here we are. There are some sleepers here and also some unsung heroes. I decided on eight because… why not eight? Without further ado, in no particular order, here’s my list of the best books (that I read) published in 2013.

  • MaddAddam by: Margaret Atwood – Admittedly this book probably makes the list because it was the thrilling conclusion to quite possibly one of the finest dystopian trilogies ever crafted. MaddAddam doesn’t quite hold up to Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood but it’s still extraordinary storytelling and a fitting end.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by: Neil Gaiman – I think that I hailed this book as an ‘instant classic’. I notice that this book is getting some love from TLC Tours and my question is, what took so long?! 
  • Guns** by: Stephen King – This is a short essay by King written in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. No matter what side of the gun debate that you fall on, there’s something for everyone here.
  • Pastrix by: Nadia Bolz-Weber – A spiritual memoir from an unlikely source and an unlikely book to end up on my ‘best of’ list. But it does! This memoir is beautifully written, compelling, and absolutely touches the heart.
  • The Dinner by: Herman Koch (first published in English in 2013) – I’m a new convert to the Dutch writer Herman Koch. I love his delightfully unlikable characters, the slow burn of his narrative style and most every other technique that he uses.
  • Silk Armor by: Claire Sydenham – I first heard of this book over on Guiltless Reading and the concept struck me immediately. When the publisher sent me a copy I knew that I had to read it. I’m a little ashamed to say that it took me awhile to pick it up because, well, I hate that cover. But it’s a fantastic book detailing what it means to be a woman, veiled or unveiled in modern Turkey. Well written, fascinating characters and a great read overall. I’m going to write a review soon.
  • Hyperbole and a Half by: Allie Brosh – Laugh like a maniac funny, Allie Brosh has a rare talent to be able to speak of the struggles of depression in a way that is authentic, meaningful, and also hysterical. 
  • Deer Hunting in Paris by: Paula Young Lee – Another memoir. There were a lot of good ones that I ran across this year. This book is beautifully written. It’s smart, funny, and importantly different than many other memoirs on the market these days.
**Somewhere in my addled brain I missed the fact that Guns was published in 2012. This is a last minute edit and I’m too lazy it’s too late to change the graphic, so enjoy seven of the best books of 2013 and one fantastic essay from 2012.
So there it is Readers. What were your best books of 2013? Best books so far of 2014? I’ll have that list for you next June. (Spoiler: Go ahead and assume that The Word Exchange is going to be on there.) 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Six Degrees of Separation: The Bell Jar

Posted 12 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes

The Bell Jar is the book I had been waiting my whole life for. I read it for the first time in 2010 and was completely blown away by it. The realism of this novel makes it a must read for anyone who has personal or familial experience with mental health, consider it a how not to manual.

In addition to mental health The Bell Jar touches on issues in feminism. This of course, must lead me to a Margaret Atwood novel. Why not go with my first Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve said it many times on this blog, but it bears repeating, I picked up this book my senior year of high school just because there had been a controversy in the paper about banning it from public schools. I was totally hooked on Atwood after that.

Since, The Handmaid’s Tale was my first Atwood novel and also a dystopia, I suppose it’s only fair to travel back to the very first dystopian novel I read. George Orwell’s 1984. I fell in love with both Orwell and dystopias, I suppose I probably first read this sometime in high school.

I can’t think of reading in high school without thinking about my AP English Lit. class my senior year and I can’t think about that class without thinking about Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. If I remember correctly it was assigned as summer reading and it was by far the most unique book I had ever read at that point in my life. I’ve reread it a few times since, once while I was in the military and once again after I had gotten out. It meant radically different things to me during each different period of my life.

I spent much of my military service in Germany and seeing Europe. It turns out that London is my favorite place on Earth. One day, I’ll retire there just like the (Queen) Elizabeths. Forced to choose one, I’ll go with Alison Weir’s biography of The Life of Elizabeth I.

As badass as the (Queen) Elizabeths are,  do you know who my superhero is? That’s riiiight! George Washington. I haven’t made it through Chernow’s monster biography (Washington: A Life) yet, but my favorite George bio is Joseph J. Ellis’ masterpiece His Excellency: George Washington. Washington becomes more real and accessible than that kid who couldn’t even lie about chopping down a cherry tree.

I will fangirl all over myself all day over George if you let me, so wouldn’t it be appropriate to end this list with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl?

So that’s how I get from The Bell Jar to Fangirl in six easy steps. Thanks to Annabel and Emma for hosting. Do you want to play? Here’s how:

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Feminist Friday: Good Bones and Simple Murders

Posted 9 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Good Bones and Simple MurdersGood Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on June 8th 2011
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, General
Pages: 176

In this collection of short works that defy easy  categorization, Margaret Atwood displays, in  condensed and crystallized form, the trademark wit and  viruosity of her best-selling novels, brilliant  stories, and insightful poetry. Among the jewels  gathered here are Gertrude offering Hamlet a piece  of her mind, the real truth about the Little Red  Hen, a reincarnated bat explaining how Bram Stoker  got Dracula all wrong, and the  five methods of making a man (such as the  "Traditional Method": "Take some dust off  the ground. Form. Breathe into the nostrils the  breath of life. Simple, but effective!")  There are parables, monologues, prose poems, condensed  science fiction, reconfigured fairy tales, and  other miniature masterpieces--punctuated with  charming illustrations by the author. A must for her  fans, and a wonderful gift for all who savor the art  of exquisite prose, Good Bones And Simple  Murders marks the first time these  writings have been available in a trade edition in the  United States.From the Hardcover edition.

Can I just use all the adjectives to describe this collection? It’s brilliant, funny, surprising, troubling, sad, witty, and amazing all at once. Like all short story collections there are good stories and bad stories. 

The first story that made me sit up and go ‘huh.’ was called ‘Unpopular Gals’ – it was a few vignettes written from the perspective of female fairy tale villains. The evil queen in Snow White, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella – it was delightful in the way that Gregory McGuire’s Wicked is delightful with reimagining these one dimensional women, giving them depth, and making them sympathetic.

‘Simmering’ was flat out funny, creating an alternate universe where the kitchen is solely and completely in the realm of men. It’s a fantastic piece that embodies what the feminist movement is about – and that’s choice. To stay at home, to have a family, to be single, to work. 

‘Liking Men’ is a difficult piece about the struggle of rape survivors to feel some normalcy in intimacy after their attack – and just how long that can take. 

‘Hardball’ is a dystopian story – that if I ever talk to Hugh Howey, I’m going to ask him if it was a starting point of inspiration for his Silo series (You might know the first one as Wool) because it felt very familiar to that. Except, cannibals. 

I took notes on a few more stories that really stuck out for me, if you’re just leafing through the collection I’d recommend that you check out ‘The Female Body’ and ‘Cold-Blooded’ as well. Fantastic collection.

What about you, Reader? Have you read any great collections of short stories recently? How about the short story as a form, do you like it? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Saturday Verses: Margaret Atwood’s GASOLINE

Posted 12 April, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

Confession: I’m not big on poetry. But, in line with both National Poetry Month and my Margaret Atwood project I’ve picked up a few collections of Margaret Atwood’s poetry.

The Door is a collection that was published in 2007 and the copy that I checked out from the library came with an audio CD of the author reading the poems herself. So I popped it in to listen to on the way home. The very first poem in the collection really struck me on a number of levels. So, here it is.


Shivering in the almost-drizzle
inside the wooden outboard,
nose over gunwale,
I watch it drip and spread
on the sheenless water:

the bright thing in wartime,
a slick of rainbow,
ephemeral as insect wings,
green, blue, red, and pink,
my shimmering private sideshow.

Was this my best toy, then?
This toxic smudge, this overspill
from a sloppy gascan filled
with the essence of danger?

I knew it was poison,
its beauty an illusion:
I could spell flammable.

But still, I loved the smell:
so alien, a whiff
of starstuff.

I would have liked to drink it,
inhale its iridescence.
As if I could.
That’s how gods lived: as if.

What do you think it MEANS, Reader? I want to talk about it, but I want to hear your thoughts first, before I poison them! 

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Feminist Friday: Surfacing

Posted 27 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: SurfacingSurfacing by Margaret Atwood
Published by Simon and Schuster Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 208

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices. Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose. Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented...and becoming whole.

Another victory by Margaret Atwood. 

Surfacing is a fantastic novel, everything from the language to the imagery to the depth and breadth of the book is amazing. I really felt like I was inside the character’s head. 

The feminist undertones are present throughout but it isn’t until the climax of the novel that you feel their full implications. There do seem to be some “anti-American” sentiments in the book, but by the end I think the Americans are more symbolic of waste and a disrespect for nature than anything else. 

Great great great book.

Tell me of your favorite Atwood novel. She’s one of my all time favorites authors. As an American I wish we could claim her for our own… like the moon. Alas, I’ll just have to accept her as being a NORTH American. Hurray for ‘Can-Lit’!


#339: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Triple Threat Thursday: ‘The MaddAddam Trilogy’

Posted 19 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

The third book in Margaret Atwood’s ‘MaddAddam’ trilogy, which begins with Oryx and Crake was published earlier this month. Because of my love of all things Atwood and especially ‘The MaddAddam Trilogy’, I’ve decided to post all three of my reviews concurrently. I’ve read both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood multiple times and my reviews will reflect that. 


Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1)

This book is still amazing. I re-read it for the release of MaddAddam

The story of Snowman is woven through flashbacks to life before the apocalypse and now how Snowman survives day to day in his ‘solitary’ existence. Beautifully crafted, this book touches on the dangers of man’s intellectual hubris and the beauty and importance of art. 

Snowman is the keeper of archaic words, the first time I was lazy and didn’t look up the meanings of those I didn’t know, but take my advice and look them up. Their selection is quite intentional and makes for even more powerful story-telling.
23 Sep. 2008

This book is amazing. I can’t believe that it took me so long to find it. A brilliant apocalyptic novel, in the running with Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Quite possibly replaces The Handmaid’s Tale as my favorite Atwood novel

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2)

I think that I enjoyed this book better the second time around. Maybe because I had read it in such close proximity to re-reading Oryx and Crake. While I found Oryx and Crake disturbing, this was really much scarier – probably because of Atwood’s ability to personalize a large scale apocalyptic event. 
6 Oct 2009
This book is fabulous.  I wouldn’t classify this book so much as a sequel than as a parallel telling. I would highly recommend this to anyone. It’s a frightening vision of what our future may become if we do not become more careful with science and our environment. It frightens me in much the same way The Handmaid’s Tale does… but for different reasons. This book is much more potent than Oryx and Crake.

MaddAddam (MaddAddam #3)

MaddAddam lacks the power of The Year of the Flood and the horror of Oryx and Crake, still it’s a fine Margaret Atwood novel and 100% enjoyable.

It’s a great commentary on technology, capitalism, religion, and of course, the environment and how we as humans commune with it. There’s also an exploration on what it means to be human, is it specifically our DNA? Is it possible organisms that share less than 100% of human genetic make-up still be human? 

Atwood gives her standard chilling warning at the end of the book, all technologies that cause the fall of ‘civilized society’ in this fictional dystopia are already available now or are in development in some way or another. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader