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review 2018-03-10 13:20
Review: Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
Red Clocks: A Novel - Leni Zumas

Red Clocks examines some of the ways women navigate the question of whether and how and with whom to have children - and the entitlement society feels to comment on, interfere with, and ultimately constrain these inherently private choices. Each of the book’s five protagonists are compelled to sacrifice pieces of their sanity and dignity in pursuit simple self-determination.


The novel is set in a near-future version of the United States, where the newly-ratified Personhood Amendment to the Constitution now grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every fertilized human egg. Not only is abortion now considered murder, but miscarriages can be manslaughter and in-vitro fertilization is banned (because the embryo cannot consent to be moved into the womb). As the book opens, the Every Child Needs Two Act is set to take effect in two months, legally mandating that all adoptive parents be married and obtain government approval before taking in a child.


In the small coastal Oregon town where Red Clocks is set, four women are affected by these developments in various ways:


* Ro teaches at the local high school. Forty-two and single, with no interest in romantic partnership, she desperately wants to be a mother. With in-vitro not an option, she has been trying to conceive via artificial insemination, but her age and health issues make conception unlikely. She is also pursuing adoption, but knows that if she does not match with a birth mother within two months, that road will be closed to her too.


* Mattie is Ro’s best student, who gets pregnant by her on-again but-mostly-off-again boyfriend. Terrified of ruining her reputation, squandering her academic future, and letting her parents down, she will do anything to get an abortion. Having witnessed the harrowing outcome of her best friend’s attempted abortion a year ago, she has no illusions about what this choice entails physically or legally. Still, as an adopted child herself, she struggles with the feeling that she should have the baby and surrender it to a deserving home.


* Gin is a practitioner of alternative medicine who lives in a cabin in the hills above town. Raised by her occultist aunt after her abusive mother abandoned her, Gin is now rumored to be a witch who can control the weather, the sea, and the townspeople’s individual fortunes. In reality, she merely assists local women with various gynecological issues, including providing herbal concoctions to induce abortions. When the school principal’s wife falls down the stairs and slips into a coma after drinking one of her potions, Gin is arrested and put on trial - for medical malpractice and conspiracy to murder the woman’s fetus.


* Susan is married to the high school French teacher. She had dropped out of law school to marry him and move back to her family’s old homestead in the tiny town. They now have two young children, and though she loves her kids, she increasingly resents her shiftless husband, who slouches his way through life, only managing to hold down a job because he could teach his native French in his sleep. With no local career opportunities, no time to herself, and seemingly no way to leave her marriage without scarring the kids forever, Susan feels trapped. She is alarmed by the destructive urges that ambush her more and more frequently - to just steer the car off the edge of the hillside road, plunging her and the children into the ocean below.


Interspersed with these four women’s stories are passages from the biography Ro is writing about Eivør Mínervudottír, a 19th-century polar explorer who had to hide her gender to gain passage on a scientific expedition, and was later obliged to publish her findings under a man’s name. Eivør’s tale emphasizes the difficulties non-conforming women have always faced, and her perseverance through adverse conditions is mirrored, in one way or another, by each of the novel’s other protagonists.


With the exception of Gin and Eivør, whom I found distant and somewhat flat, I loved immersing myself in these women’s stories. Ro and Susan were especially fascinating, each having reached the age where their youthful choices have solidified into the immobile foundations of their lives. Each resents the other for having what she does not - Ro has a career and independence, but Susan has two perfect children. And Mattie too is a poignant character, brave enough to risk capture crossing the Canadian border for an abortion, but too scared to look her parents in the eye and tell them she has gotten pregnant.


Despite how much I loved the characters, their struggles and their courage, Red Clocks didn’t quite work for me because its high-concept dystopian premise felt both unnecessary and toothless. The story could have been set in the modern day with few substantive revisions - and it would, I think, have had more resonance. It’s easy to accept that life would be awful under an oppressive fetus-worshipping regime, and so the premise itself carried too much of the emotional weight, I felt. It would be a harsher critique to show these issues in their real-world setting: There are plenty of women today who can’t conceive and aren’t able to adopt for various reasons. There are plenty of women today who feel suffocated in their marriages. There are plenty of women today who are shunned or falsely accused of horrors because they are seen as different. There are plenty of teenage girls today who face serious financial, logistical, and social/religious hurdles when seeking an abortion.


And so the reproductive restrictions imposed by the government in Red Clocks ultimately become just one more impediment these women must overcome. And in one way or another, each of them do overcome, so the book’s dystopian bite fails to puncture the skin. It sends a message that I’m a little uncomfortable with for this kind of book: “We can survive this,” instead of “We should never allow this to happen in the first place.”


That might honestly just be me, though. I like my dystopias bleak.


Oddly, the most chilling, the most traditionally dystopian story in all of this is barely told at all. What happened to Mattie’s best friend Yasmine hovers vaguely in the background of the narrative, but what we can see of it is truly horrific. Ambitious and bright, the daughter of Oregon’s first female Black senator, Yasmine had been determined not to let an unplanned pregnancy reduce her to a degrading stereotype. What she endures is truly appalling - a far darker, more heartbreaking story than Mattie’s, or any of the other women Red Clocks spotlights. I wish we had seen more stories like Yasmine’s, to make it crystal clear why policies like this reprehensible Personhood Amendment must never, ever be implemented.

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review 2018-01-30 21:21
Red Clocks: A Novel - Leni Zumas

2.5 Stars

I really liked the premise of this book when I read description. However, the reading of the book was so tedious and challenging that I had to give up on it at about 35% into it. There was not a story here, per se, IMO. It was filled with phrases just thrown in. No conversation or plots. The characters (the mender, the daughter, the wife, etc.) are called by their roles. Then every once in a while, their names are used. And you had better be paying attention to catch this.

Unfortunately, the book was not garnering all my attention, hardly any of it. Not only would I need a spreadsheet to keep up, but I would need a white board, as well. One that I could tie strings from person to person detailing relationships, etc.

For me, this was all too challenging with little entertainment provided. I am not a fan of this type of writing at all.

Thanks to Little, Brown and Company and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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review 2017-01-25 07:10
The Bone Clocks
The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

This book was in the back row of one of my double-stacked book shelves. Out of sight, out of mind. I forgot I’d bought it some time ago (and paid extra for the prettiest cover), which is unfortunate, because Slade House would have made SO MUCH MORE SENSE from the start if I had read The Bone Clocks first.




It was the use of the phrase “bone clock” in Slade House that reminded me I had this book. Better read late than never, I suppose, and Slade House was fresh enough in my mind that I was still able to connect a whole bunch of dots. Yay.


As for The Bone Clocks, I loved it. I still dislike present tense and Ed’s POV section seemed largely unnecessary, but those are my only complaints. I still love Mitchell’s storytelling, and I think he outdid himself here. Interesting characters with interesting stories (for the most part) tied together by an even more interesting string of events is something Mitchell does really well. In this case, the overarching story is a lot more cohesive than Cloud Atlas or even Slade House, and it builds slowly and almost sneakily to a pretty cool climax. As a bonus, there’s the usual smattering of book recs contained within the text, and while I’m looking for them at the library I might see if I can also discover the symbolism of birds on spades.

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review 2016-11-13 15:58
Sunday Street Team Review | Timekeeper by Tara Sim
Timekeeper - Tara Sim


The Sunday Street Team is a group of bloggers led by the marvelous Nori @ ReadWriteLove28 who aim to bring well-deserved attention to new and upcoming books and their authors. 


This month's post is featuring Tara Sim and her steampunk debut novel, Timekeeper. 


I would recommend Timekeeper to fans of historical fiction and steampunk, especially if you are looking for a new take on the genre. I would also recommend Danny's story to anyone looking for a diverse novel that does not shy away from the tough questions. Even though the middle was a little bit slow, anyone who enjoys a good steampunk will enjoy Timekeeper.


If you want to hear more of my thoughts about the book and enter in the giveaway, then click on the original link.

Source: 4evercrazyforya.blogspot.com/2016/11/sunday-street-team-timekeeper-by-tara.html
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review 2016-08-11 09:55
Epic waste of time.
The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

This is a gimmick book, which in itself isn't a bad thing if there's a good story in there. Maybe there was a such thing in this, but unfortunately for me all that was buried under heaps of problems.


The first ninety pages were a positive surprise. A man writing a fifteen-year-old girl in first person voice can only end up in disaster, was my first thought and indeed it was too good to last. Because the first time jump and second part started the stalker trend.


Instead of continuing writing Holly's story from her perspective, Mitchell does everything in his power to reduce her into a pawn and object in the lives of men around her. Holly disappears into the background and is only shown through glimpses in the moments most important to her life and story.


A one night stand, a would be husband, the love of her adult life, and then the world saving or ending battle through an alien black woman. That's a bad description but it's the best I can do for the fifth narrator and point of view character. To add insult to the injury Mitchell uses POC to refer to a "Pear Occident Company" and reduces the immortals into small minded trans-phobics with a single line.


Fun times end with a second short part from Holly's point of view and with her aged voice, but it's too little too late. The story, its characters, and the author had already lost me for good.

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