Book Review: In Your Hands by Ines Pedrosa

In Your Hands

An internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel spanning three generations of women united in their struggle for independence and fulfillment against oppression.

Told from three different perspectives, this sweeping saga begins in 1935 Portugal, in the grip of Salazar’s authoritarian regime, where upper-class Jenny enters into an uncommon marriage with the beguiling António. Keeping up appearances, they host salons for the political and cultural elite. In private, Jenny, António, and his lover, Pedro, share a guarded triangle, build a profound relationship, and together raise a daughter born under the auspices of rebellion.

Thirty years later, their daughter, Camila, a photojournalist who has captured the revolutionary fervor and tragic loss of her family—and country—reminisces about a long-lost love in Southeast Africa. This memory shapes the future of her daughter, Natália, a successful architect, who begins an impassioned quest of her own. As she navigates Portugal’s complex past, Natália will discover herself in the two women whose mysteries and intimate intrigues have come to define her.

Through revealing journals, snapshots of a turbulent era, and private letters, the lives of three generations of women unfold, embracing all that has separated them and all that binds them—their strength, their secrets, and their search for love through the currents of change.

Review:

In Your Hands is a lovely book and told in an interesting, captivating way.

 

First we read from Jenny’s journals, about her life, beliefs, and desires. She is a fascinating woman in an unusual situation at a time of political unrest and in an unconventional marriage. Her journals draws the reader in to her very human story among all of the interesting circumstances of her life.

 

Next we read Camila’s, Jenny’s daughter, thoughts on photos she is looking at in an album. We get to know her and her upbringing in Jenny’s world. We learn about the unique challenges that Camila faced as political turmoil took over.

 

Finally, there are Natalia’s, Camila’s daughter, letters to her grandmother. These round off the lives, ambitions, and values of the three generations. We see how things have changed in Portugal and what a woman’s life was like, the choices she had, and how these three interesting women made their way.

 

I enjoyed the writing and the translation of this book, and getting to know all three generations of strong women. It was thoughtful and the three different ways of telling the story really worked for each character.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Book Review: Good Me, Bad Me

Good Me, Bad Me

Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.

How far does the apple really fall from the tree?

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

Review:

 

Good Me, Bad Me is quite a book. Not only is the subject matter intense, but the writing adds to this tension with its terse and poignant turns of phrase, and the way connections are made without spelling everything out. It is the story of Milly, whose mother is a serial killer and how abused she was whole life. One day, Millie can’t take it any more so she turns her mother in to the police.

 

This book is an exploration of Milly and how she thinks and acts, especially given her past. She wants to do good things and be good, but she also has it in her to be bad. Her thoughts and actions are intense and horrible sometimes and feel authentic given what she’d been through. There is a type of nature versus nurture dichotomy, and huge tension over which one will win.

 

Throughout the book, we certainly feel for Milly, but we also know that something is wrong. Her thoughts are honest and raw, so I found I didn’t want to get too close to her, but I was completely fascinated by her.

 

Personally, I was totally enthralled and couldn’t stop turning the pages, though it did get so intense at one point that I had to have a little break. If you like psychological thrillers, I would highly recommend this book.

 

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Book Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

My Review:

When I first started to read Red Clocks, I wasn’t sure this was going to be the book for me. But then, I continued reading, and boy was I wrong!

I got a bit confused at first by the chapter changes — each chapter is from one of the four main character’s point of view and their name is never mentioned in that chapter. However, once I got to know the characters, their voices were so unique that there was no danger of confusing them.
I love the premise of the book — that in the near future (ie, anytime, really), the abortion laws in the US are repealed and embryos are granted person status, which changes everything around reproduction. Also, there’s a new law around adoption where “every child needs two”, meaning single people can no longer adopt. Red Clocks takes place just as these new laws are going into effect so that we can see their full impact.
By throwing the world into this kind of situation, combined with the story of the 19th century Icelandic Arctic explorer, Elivor. Zumas is able to explore the concept of motherhood from many different angles in a fascinating and thoughtful way. By about mid way through the book, I couldn’t put it down and just had to finish.
NOTE: I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley.

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Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig, illustrated by Chris Riddell

“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'”

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

Review:
How to Stop Time is one of those cozy weekend reads full of interesting storytelling and thoughtful takes on love and life. This, combined with the amazing illustrations by Chris Riddell, make the book a real treat (I bought the illustrated version — well worth it!).

 

I love how Haig uses the character of Tom, a man who ages extremely slowly, to explore themes about what it means to really live and the value of love, things like the difference between existing and living, and is it worth loving someone if you will inevitably watch them age and die while you don’t. These are great questions to explore and Haig does it in a way that doesn’t seem “heavy”.

 

Tom was an interesting character — he’d seen amazing things and met influential people in his long life, but he lived in fear of being exposed and this influenced his every action and thought. The one criticism I have of this book is that sometimes Tom gets a bit dragged down in his thoughts and fears and it slows the book down and feels repetitive at times.

 

However, the ending more than made up for this and I would recommend this book for a thoughtful read, complete with historic adventures.

 

And, something new, here’s my review turned into a video! I’d love to know what you think.

 

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