The Grace Year

Author: Kim Liggett

Published: October 8, 2019

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Where I picked up my book: Pre-order from Indie

Key Words: Young Adult, Dystopian, Feminist

My Rating: 4 stars

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My Thoughts: 

If a young adult mix between The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power, Hunger Games, Wilder Girls with a touch of Swiss Family Robinson vibes sounds good to you, then this book has your name written all over it! I LOVED it and was completely immersed in the world that Liggett created for us. Recently, I have found myself soaking in as many dystopian thrillers as I can get my hands on (and I don’t even understand why because it feels like we are actually LIVING a dystopian thriller right now with the state of the government…but I digress). So when I saw this one popping up on my Bookstagram account, I thought yep, and immediately ordered it. I’m so glad I did. I usually delve more into the book a bit when I write a review, but sometimes things like plot, characters, action, etc. are better left unsaid. I think that is the case for this book. The only thing I will say is it’s feminist, witchy, full of friendship, relationships and adventure, apocalyptic, has a survivalist aspect, deceitful, freedom fighting and so much more. I was completely hooked from square one (let’s be honest, I was completely hooked from the cover alone) and it did not disappoint! The writing is smart and fast-paced (it’s one of those books I found myself frantically flipping through into the night) and the characters are so clearly written it feels like I know them days after finishing the book. I’m going through a lot of changes with work and life and this was a perfect book to snuggle up with after a long day and escape into. I’d highly recommend it!

As always, come find me on Instagram and let’s talk books!

bookishfolk…read instead.

The Testaments

Author: Margaret Atwood

Published: September 10, 2019

Publisher: Doubleday

Where I picked up my book: Local Indie

Key Words: dystopian, feminist, science fiction

My Rating: 4.5 stars 

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My Thoughts:

I LOVEDDDDDDD this book! I was slightly hesitant when I heard that Atwood was coming out with a book and it promised to give us some answers to the long awaited questions that rose from The Handmaid’s Tale. Did I need answers? Would the answers hold up today? Could Atwood write this new book as well as she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale? If not, are we at risk of not liking The Handmaid’s Tale as much as we once did? Will the show on Hulu ruin this book or vice versa? Well…I’m here to tell you to just go into this The Testaments and know you’re going to love every second of it. No, I don’t think it’s on par with The Handmaid’s Tale per say. The Handmaid’s Tale was a once in a lifetime book that has gone down in history as a work of tremendous fiction that is considered to be a part of the literary canon. The Testaments isn’t necessarily on par with that, but it’s an amazing work that takes you on a final journey to Gilead where you’ll be sucked in and spit back out when you’re done. It takes a broader look at the world and I really enjoyed that view. It’s brilliant, terrifyingly relevant, answers the questions that have haunted you since you read The Handmaid’s Tale and just like the first, will leave you wanting more.

I don’t want to give away too much. I literally put my blinders on with every social media post, book blog or book review that I came across before I read the book and I’m so happy that I did that! Going in completely blind left me to just go into the world that Atwood created and enjoy it on it’s own merit and that made my experience exponentially better and more raw. I was taken away for a few days and I feel honored that we were given that gift. Thank you Margaret Atwood for creating another unforgettable piece of fiction.

bookishfolk…read instead.

The Nickel Boys

Author: Colson Whitehead

Published: July 16, 2019

Publisher: Doubleday

Where I picked up my book: Purchased from an Indie

Key Words: Reform school, Historical Fiction, The Black Experience in Jim Crow/Civil Right Era

My Rating: 5 stars

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My Thoughts:

I LOVED this book and because of the content, that feels hard to say…but I did. This is based on a real reform school in Marianna, Florida that was operated for 111 years and “warped the lives of thousands of children.” Here is more detail if you’re interested. You should definitely be interested-it’s harrowing,  but we should all know what happened there, so please give that article a read. To top it off, the school only just closed in 2011?! What in the actual hell?! Whitehead, after hearing about the devastation that occurred behind those school walls including beatings, deaths, rape and other atrocious things, decided to write a book about it and The Nickel Boys is what it turned into. It is magnificent, telling, devastating…and truly a masterpiece. I finished it over a week ago and I’m still thinking about those boys and their story (and frantically googling about the real school in Florida every chance I get).

I don’t want to say too much because honestly, you just need to read it to appreciate it. And then probably read it again to appreciate it even more. That’s where I’m at. Although I have zero experience with reform school, or being Black in a white world, I did go to an all-women, Catholic school (which I should preface by saying it was NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING like this) and I have some thoughts. There is a sense of discipline and control in schools like this. There are structures that must be adhered to and yes, scholastics are very important (in my school at least), but discipline and structure are almost top of the list. There are laws that don’t apply to us as students in a Catholic school and I remember knowing that very well. Nothing ever happened when I was there, but I remember stories of past generations and the types of punishments that were allowed. Again, NOTHING like this, but knuckle slapping with rulers and things of that nature happened in the past. There is a control that the adults in charge think they need to get a handle on early, and rules and discipline are there “for a reason.” Keep in mind-this is only coming from my experience at a relatively well-off, Catholic school that my parents were invested in (both actually with their presence, but also with their wallets). But I could see how a disciplinary reform school could turn into this something horrible really quickly. Although my experience was nothing like the experiences in this book, I can understand what it must have been like for children, especially Black children, to be sent to a reform school that is full of racism and bigotry, into the height on the Civil Rights and Jim Crow Movement in the 1960’s where the school (and world) is segregated, where teachers have formed a corruption circle among themselves with no outside monitoring?! Plus add the dimension that these are “bad kids” in need of discipline. This school is what you get.  What ACTUALLY went on in this school? What laws were being broken? What boy’s souls were being crushed for the rest of their lives? In this book, you’ll get those answers and more. I will never be the same after reading it. It truly crushed me.

The Nickel Boys is not for the faint of heart, but the writing is genius, the plot is immaculate, the details are truthful and succinct and overall, this book will make you think long after you read the last page.

I hope you read this one and if so, come chat with me on Instagram! Find me at @bookishfolk

bookishfolk…read instead.

After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Published: September 19, 2019

Publisher: William Morrow

Where I picked up my book: Won in a giveaway

Key Words: post apocalyptic/dystopian, mother/daughter dynamics, adventure

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

I’m still in awe that this is Montag’s first novel. This is a fantastic literary debut that is full of scenery, slight panicked stomach feelings the entire time I was reading, hope, fear and gripping prose. I was hooked from the very beginning and am slowly learning that post apocalyptic/dystopian literature might be my favorite genre. Who knew?! But after a few dystopian books…I am completely sucked in to the genre and found myself frantically googling, “must read dystopian books” like it was my job the other day.

One of the major things that struck me in this book is the idea of motherhood. I am not a mother myself, but that didn’t matter. I kept picturing myself in Myra’s sitation (the mother), with a daughter to keep alive, no medical care to speak of, people out to get you, a fend for yourself attitude among a lot of the survivors of the flood, being surrounded by water and what that means for safety, how to get food to provide for your child…the list goes on and on. I already think a lot of moms are superheros, but this just solidified that idea in me. I mean…my wife and I spent a lot of time discussing how we would properly care for our dog should this situation arise, so how in the world would I protect and care for my child?! I had nothing but admiration for Myra.

But also…can we talk about climate change for a minute? I heard someone discuss this book in biblical terms and I was like…nah. I’m not going there. I don’t see this as a biblical flood at all. What I do see this as is a cry for help due to the shit storm that our world has gotten themselves into with climate change. It’s real folks-our sea levels are rising, our lands are burning, we are seeing more drought situations and our oceans are warming. It’s not good and although I’m not sure what Montag’s position is on how the Earth flooded in her novel-I’m going with global warming because that’s a real, legit concern for me, and probably a lot of you. It should make you furious and do as much as you can to help prevent exactly what After the Flood is about.

I loved this book! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It took me on a saga that was full of heartbreak and hope all wrapped into one. It was one of those books where I just kept flipping pages to find out what else was going to happen. I could vividly picture every scene and I’m soooo excited to see what Montag give us next. I think there are big things coming from here in the literary world!

As always, come find me on Instagram (@bookishfolk) and let’s chat books!

Bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Dominicana

Author: Angie Cruz

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month pick

Key Words: immigration, NYC, arranged marriage, love

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that held my heart and didn’t release it until the last page. It’s heart-wrenching, startling at times, powerful, heartwarming, and will have you thinking long after you read the last sentence.

I have a lot of thoughts, but I think it’s better if you go into this book relatively blind. So here are some things that I will say about it.

1. Some families will do just about anything for their family. I wasn’t born into one of those families, but at times, I wish I had been. I had friends that were part of that type of family and sure, it can be a slippery slope into some negative or toxic situations, but it can also lead you to some beautiful situations as well. You always know someone has your back and it allows you to make decisions based on something besides just yourself. This book had me thinking long and hard about that.

2. Dominicana was based on Cruz’s mother’s story and now I am obsessed with finding out exactly how. I haven’t found out yet-I’ll keep you posted if I do 🙂

3. 15 year olds are very, very young. They can do a lot, but they are, truthfully, still babies. We get to see Ana taking on the role of an adult woman and wife, but my favorite parts of the book were when we saw her acting her age. Cruz didn’t just dismiss her age and she didn’t let us dismiss it either and I appreciated that so much.

4. Apparently, I am obsessed with books based in old NYC. I like to think about what it was like to walk those streets, be excited about who the characters might bump into, what the atmosphere was like then, what a city that is a bit rough around the edges feels like—all of it! This book gives me a feel of that and I LOVEDDD every second of it!

5. Resiliency is amazing and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read this book. No matter what life throws at Ana (the main character), she shakes it off and creates a new goal and a new dream for herself. This is something that I’ve been working on in my own life. Life throws curve balls at us all the time; the magic happens when we choose how to handle those curve balls. I learned a lot from Ana in this regard.

6. Loneliness is one of the saddest things a human can experience (in my opinion). As an introvert, I like to have a lot of alone time, but true loneliness can be so isolating, depressing and eventually lead to major problems for most people. Dominicana really describes what loneliness feels like through the eyes of Ana and it made me remember to reach out to people in my life more often that might experience loneliness and to not take for granted how many beautiful people I have in my own life.

At it’s core, this book is as much about marriage and family and immigration as it is about finding yourself amidst chaos and confusion. It’s a beautiful book and one that I promise you, will stick with you for a long time to come.

Have you read this one yet? If so, reach out and let’s chat!

bookishfolk…read instead.