Review Tuesday: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I definitely picked up The Circle by David Eggers because I found out that Emma Watson was going to be starring in the movie, and I wanted to read it beforehand. This book was…wow. Very good, and super creepy.

From Goodreads:

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

The only real negative things that I can say about it, is that it’s too long – by about 100 pages. I started getting a bit bored part way through because the pace seemed really slow, and things started to get repetitive. However, the story as a whole was engrossing.

The Circle is essentially Google on steroids. It’s a tech company with a monopoly, the stereotypical campus that no one wants to leave, great pay and benefits – it’s a dream job, at a dream company that is making the world better for people. And as Mae starts to work there, you, the reader, also think that she’s hit the jackpot of a career.

And then…

Things start to get slightly creepy. Not overly at first, I mean you, the reader, have also drunk the Kool-Aid they’re providing, but as the book progresses you realize that what seemed like a great technological innovation 100 pages ago, is now becoming much more “Big Brother-y”, until well…you’ll have to read to find out.

I did find though that after putting down the book each time (it was a lunch time reading book) I didn’t want to be on my phone. I didn’t want to post my photos, comments etc. to the world at large. I wanted to remain silent, anonymous.

Has this book made me rethink my privacy and what I’m allowing companies to learn about me when I log into their apps? Definitely. And I also realized how little we (the consumer) know about what we’re agreeing to when we sign the “Terms & Conditions”. We don’t know what privacy we’re giving away and we certainly don’t know how to get it back.

I think this book (and the movie that is coming) will definitely start a conversation about privacy especially, but also about how we interact as humans, and what a healthy relationship and self-image should be.

This was definitely a must-read. It’s a very good book, and will certainly get you thinking about the consequences of giving up your privacy so freely. (And if you say that you’re not, please remember that you have zero idea what you’ve given up because there’s no way you’ve read the Terms & Conditions of anything app related).

 

 

 

Review Tuesday: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

I was first introduced to The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler when I was in my first year of university. Some of the students at Queen’s University put on the play, and one of my friends was in it, so myself, and some other friends from my floor went to see the play. The play was powerful, authentic, and changed my perspective of how I looked at myself, and women’s issues.

I had not however ever read the play, and once I learned that Emma Watson had picked it as her Jan/Feb Feminist Book Club pick, I decided to give it a go.

vagina-monologuesFrom Goodreads:

I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues…At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one’s ever asked them before.

It’s been over a decade since I saw the play The Vagina Monologues, so I was excited to read the book and see what I remembered and how I reacted this time.

I have to say that if you ever get a chance to see the play do it. I enjoyed the book, but the play – seeing it live – is where it packs a punch.

The play and this book are simply stories of women and how they view their vaginas. And while that may seem strange to some, it is powerful. When reading this book, I remembered the story The Flood. For some reason that stayed with me all these years. The images it produces are visceral. Another story I remembered is My Angry Vagina. I once again laughed out loud at just how on the money it was. I found myself muttering “damn fucking right,” as I read it too.

Another story, that I didn’t remember from the play when I saw it, but packed a punch while I was reading the book is My Vagina was my Village. This story broke my heart, and I’m sure it did when I first heard it.

The main thing I took away from these stories and this book/play (this time) was how much the world views vaginas and women and women’s issues as something that shouldn’t be talked about, or something that should only be talked about behind closed doors and whispered. Society is very much interested in keeping the status quo – and the status quo (let’s be real) doesn’t work for women.

The book also talks about V-Day, which is day that was created to celebrate vaginas, and to bring attention and to stop violence against women. And while it was a day created in the 90’s, it is still incredibly important. There are too many societies who think that it is their right to govern women’s bodies, their way of dressing, their sexuality, their thoughts, and that shit has got to stop.

Today is actually V-Day. If you don’t want to know more about it check it out here.

If you haven’t ever read this book or seen this play make sure that you do (woman or man). It is a must.

Review Tuesday: The Invasion of the Tearling

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is book two in The Queen of the Tearling series. I will admit that the only reason I found out about this series was because I heard that it was going to be made into a movie and that Emma Watson was going to be producing it (and starring in it?). Since her name was attached to the project I looked the book up on Goodreads. Book one – The Queen of the Tearling was excellent, and you can read my review of it here.

So, how did book two measure up? We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, from Goodreads:

invasion of the TearlingWith each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

ATTENTION SOME SLIGHT SPOILERS BELOW

This book was good, but I didn’t like it as much as the first. The book hinges on the fact that you’re suppose to like Kelsea, and I didn’t really in this book. I found her rather irritating.

Kelsea develops this connection with a woman named Lily, who you realize exists in a different time. Lily’s story is very interesting, and you learn a lot about the pre-Crossing in this book, as well as William Tear. I was kind of worried that the book would flip back and forth between Kelsea and Lily too often and wreck the flow of the story, but that wasn’t the case at all. The book only shifts to Lily’s perspective a couple of times and those shifts are well placed.

Magic becomes a much more important element in this book as well. Kelsea obviously has her two jewels, and did some heavy magic with them in the first book. The second book delves into the history of jewels and why they are so important to the Tearling. The one aspect of magic that I didn’t like about this book at all, is that to channel her rage, her anger and her other emotions that she cannot display in public, Kelsea starts cutting herself. Certain people know about this behaviour and don’t say anything about it, (And I know. She’s the Queen, what are they suppose to do?), but I don’t like the message that it sends to young women – and men – that this is acceptable behaviour. It’s not.

Other than Kelsea, and Lily, another perspective of the book that matters most is the Red Queen. She has an interesting history that you find out about, and these three women’s stories intersect very well.

The book leaves you on a bit of a cliff hanger, and for all that I didn’t like this book as much as the first, I still really liked it. I’m excited to read the third book when it comes out in June of this year.

Review Tuesday: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I have heard a lot about The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I believe that Emma Watson is said to be producing this story. I even checked it out of the library once, but wasn’t in the mood to read it so didn’t. However, I was at Word on the Street in Toronto last month and this book was being sold at a discount and I was in a buying mood. So I bought it…and then I bought the second book too because why not. Usually, I’m wary of YA. So when I started this book I started it with a sense of “Entertain me now!” which I realize isn’t the best way to go into reading a book, but that’s what happened, and let me tell this book did not disappoint. QueenTearling-pb-c_Large

From Goodreads:

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

I was hooked from the get go. Fifty pages in and I was already invested in characters, and swearing viciously at other characters and praying that they would get what was coming to them. It’s always a good sign when a book can make you feel that much so early.

I really liked Kelsea. She’s a fearsome heroine, and puts me in mind of Tamora Pierce’s heroines. They are characters you aspire to be, characters that you always come back, and characters that you never grow tired of. The supporting characters are also very entertaining. I love Mace, and the Fetch and Pen. The Red Queen is fabulous because it’s so easy to hate her, and Thorne is fantastic because he’s almost like an Umbridge. His kind of evil exists in the world. It’s a relatable evil, and that makes it all the more terrifying.

The one thing that the book doesn’t go into really is the Crossing, and the pre-Crossing history, or the early post-Crossing history. I think that it’s going to be explained much more fully in the next book though, and I’m very interested to learn more about that.

Overall, this is a great story. The world building is interesting, the characters are great, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. This is definitely a book that you should pick up if you’re into fantasy.

 

Review Tuesday: We Should All Be Feminists

As I mentioned in last week’s Review Tuesday, I’m on a bit of a speech kick currently. I picked up a copy of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the San Francisco airport when my plane was delayed for 8 hours coming home from my first business trip because I had been hearing some good things about it.

We Should All be Feminists is based off the speech that Adichie gave in 2012 at TEDxEuston, a yearly conference focused on Africa. I will admit that I haven’t actually watched the speech yet, but it is on my list of things to do.

I have only read the speech once, and I do believe that this is something that needs to be read a couple of time because there is just so much content in it, as well as so many good points.

One of the points she makes is why the word “feminist”?

“‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights or something like that?’ Because [Adichie says] that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard feminism defined so elegantly before. Feminism growing up for me was defined by 10 Things I Hate About You where Kat, the shrew, embodied feminism has an angry white privileged female. (Don’t get me wrong I loved the move, but not for it’s representation of feminism).

The speech also talks about how society and parents teach their daughters shame – “close your legs, cover up” etc and we teach men “that having no self-control is somehow acceptable.” Society teaches women that they can’t appear angry, bitter, or aggressive because men won’t like that. And being LIKED is something that women should strive for. And of course marriage must be achieved otherwise there’s something wrong with you.

Another point of hers is that women are taught things or allowed to do things (or not) based on gender. But, and this is a point that I really loved is “What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender.

That last point seems so basic and obvious. But for most of the world it isn’t. This is why this discussion has to continue. This is why HeForShe is so important.

This blog post is certainly not going to do this speech justice. Read the speech or watch the Ted Talk and then talk about it with everyone that you know. It’s important – I would go so far as to say imperative. We should all be feminists.