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.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

Editors: Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe

Published: August 28, 2018

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Where I picked up my book: Free from publisher (THANK YOU)

Key Words: witches and witchcraft, feminism, LGBTQ+, YA fantasy

My Rating: 5 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

My Thoughts:

Gay witches. Enough said. Read the book. Okay…maybe I have a little bit more to say. But really, you might not need any more than that. If you find yourself wanting a bit more…read on 😉

I absolutely loved this book! A group of women writers decided to get together and write a little bit of magic (pun intended) with this one and it’s truly amazing! It’s a YA collection of short stories (although if you’re not usually into YA, do not be turned off at all. It’s nothing like typical YA that I have read. Without a doubt, it’s for readers of all ages) that covers stories about magic, witches, feminism, diversity, empowerment, sexuality, diversity, queerness and so much more. What?! I know…run to your local Indie and pick it up today!

Although I loved all of the stories, my favorite one, by far, was Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May. Ohhh it was so good, that I cried throughout the reading and immediately re-read it the second I finished. It was powerful, heartfelt, relatable, and touched something in me that reminded me of how much I love my life and how proud I feel for being who I am despite what other people may think. It was one of those sort of pieces. In fact, so many of the stories touched me personally.

As a lesbian, I sometimes feel a little witchiness in me and society, my family, the church, politicians, or anyone else be damned…I will thrive. So when I watch, read, or hear anything about people being on the outskirts of the ‘norm’ of society and feeling shunned for it, my guard immediately goes up and I go into defense mode. Be it witches, cultures from other parts of the world, people of color, LGBTQ+, women, people with disabilities, etc. I become protective, ready to strap on my marching boots and pull those people in a little bit tighter around me, so we can shield each other and stand up for one another as a good army should. That’s exactly the same feeling I got when reading this collection. I felt myself wanting to scream from the rooftops…OKAY PEOPLE, LET’S GET INTO FORMATION. That doesn’t happen often when I’m reading a book, but when it does…I get the chills because I know I’m reading something special.

Overall, this is one of the best short story collections that I have read and I highly suggest grabbing yourself a copy! I couldn’t put it down. It’s out now and would make a perfect gift for the witch, women, gay or feminist in your life…or for the person living beside one 🙂

Grab your copy HERE

bookishfolk…read instead.

Mother of Invention

Author: Caeli Wolfson Widger

Published: May 22, 2018

Publisher: Little A

Where I picked up my book: Received free via publisher and Net Galley

Key Words: Motherhood, Science Fiction, Pregnancy

My Rating: 4.5 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

What will a mother sacrifice to have it all?

Meet Silicon Valley executive Tessa Callahan, a woman passionate about the power of technology to transform women’s lives. Her company’s latest invention, the Seahorse Solution, includes a breakthrough procedure that safely accelerates human pregnancy from nine months to nine weeks, along with other major upgrades to a woman’s experience of early maternity.

The inaugural human trial of Seahorse will change the future of motherhood—and it’s Tessa’s job to monitor the first volunteer mothers-to-be. She’ll be their advocate and confidante. She’ll allay their doubts and soothe their anxieties. But when Tessa discovers disturbing truths behind the transformative technology she’s championed, her own fear begins to rock her faith in the Seahorse Solution. With each new secret Tessa uncovers, she realizes that the endgame is too inconceivable to imagine.

Caeli Wolfson Widger’s bold and timely novel examines the fraught sacrifices that women make to succeed in both career and family against a backdrop of technological innovation. It’s a story of friendship, risk, betrayal, and redemption—and an unnerving interrogation of a future in which women can engineer their lives as never before.

My Thoughts:

I LOVED this book. So much, that I found my mind wandering during the workday, while walking around the city, and while trying (and failing) to fall asleep. It was one of those books that I just became so engrossed in and couldn’t let it go until the end. And even now that I’ve finished it, I just keep going back and thinking what if…

And if I’m being very honest, I just keep looking at pregnant people and going down a slightly insane rabbit hole lol. But that’s neither here nor there 😉

One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot after finishing up this book are the roles women have in society. At times, it seems like a woman is expected to either be successful in their careers and climb that career ladder, or successful at parenting and motherhood, taking care of household duties, making meals, but rarely do we see plots, or real-life scenarios for that matter, where both of these things happen smoothly. I’ve hit an age where this is a constant thought for myself, and a lot of my friends. How can we hold careers, run a household, make a baby, raise children and do it all successfully? And why are there unspoken expectations that we (women) must take on these roles? Do we need to choose between career and family, or can we have both? Are societal expectations making us feel like we have to choose? Is it the patriarchy that is forcing us to choose? Is it our own self-inflicted guilt that is making us to feel this way? Honestly, this is an excellent story, but it’s also a great starting off point for a discussion about expectations versus reality in terms of motherhood, careers and life. Tessa is a really complex character, as are many of the other women in the book, and they epitomize the realities of real life women in general, but with a Sci-Fi twist.

This is a face paced, thought provoking book that takes you through the complexities of motherhood, the throes of Silicon Valley, government cover-ups (don’t even get me started on this because I’ve definitely had plenty of these thoughts and questions about our government) and what it is like to be a woman in society. Mother of Invention is an imaginative read, yet set in some solid reality that I highly recommend!

Thank you Little A for the free review copy.

bookishfolk…read instead.

Manhattan Beach

Author: Jennifer Egan

Published: October 3, 2017

Publisher: Scribner

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Historical Fiction, History, New York City, Female lead, WWII

My Rating: 3.5 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

My Thoughts:

This book had been on my radar since it got longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and then my wife read it and fell in love (she and I read very, VERY different types of books, so this made me put my guard up a bit if I’m being honest lol), but then it was chosen as our city-wide read and I immediately put it onto the reserve list at the library. I should preface this review by saying that Historical Fiction is not something I ever gravitate to. I’m more of a Contemporary Fiction type of person, but I was fully prepared to look outside of my wheelhouse on this one and I’m glad I did. I was excited and although I had heard mixed reviews (either totally raving reviews or “nope” review, it seemed like there was no in-between), I was determined to come to my own conclusions. First, I absolutely loved Anna’s story line and found myself frantically reading though the various other plots in order to get back to Anna’s. It gave me that Rosie the Riveter feeling and I was engrossed. I wanted to don my checkered scarf and blue shirt and join the resistance. I’m always in for a strong, female lead taking on non-traditional roles, and this one sucked me in. And her relationship with her disabled sister brought tears to my eyes more than once. I also loved the research that went into this novel. As a reader, I could tell it was immense and I appreciated it, even though at times, it seemed to bog down the plot rhythm a bit. After reading this, I now completely understand the draw people have to historical fiction. It’s learning…but with a made up, but could be true plot 😉 But in all seriousness, Egan did her research and her descriptions and story were so much stronger for that! With that said, the other plot lines and characters fell a bit short for me and I found myself saying, “Wait…who are we talking about here” more than once. And the mobster/crime boss storyline, I wasn’t invested in at all and it didn’t seem to be as well developed as I would have liked. It was a bit of a challenge for me to see how some of the other characters related to each other…but I didn’t even mind because I just wanted to see what else Anna was up to.

This is a solid, well-researched novel that pulled me in, and at times, left me wanting more. Not more research, not more characters, not more words, but maybe a little less historical fiction and author-researched plot points, and just more fiction. Have you read it? Let me know what you thought!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

The Female Persuasion

Author: Meg Wolitzer

Published: April 3, 2018

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Feminism, Adult Fiction, Coming of Age story

My Rating: 4 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

My Thoughts:

First, what I loved about this book…It is definitely a relevant book right now with women’s rights being at the forefront of our society and media, what is currently happening in our political climate, and the “me too” movement sweeping the nation where women are feeling the power to stand up to the misogyny and abuse that they we have experienced for so many years. It feels like a powerful time and as a women, I am so proud to stand up and be a part of it. So when books are written with these themes, it make me feel like we are being heard, people are talking, and things are changing-so…give.me.all.the.books! Second, I always love books that look at people from different generations and compare and contrast them. In this book, Greer (the main protagonist) and Faith (Greer’s mentor) deal with their feminism and the idea that they are both fighting the good fight, but they are coming at it from two different generations-which is not only an issue for them, but I think rings soooo true for feminists today. I see it all the time with friends and family older than me, and I also see it in women younger than me too. We come at feminism in quite different ways, and although we are all truly fighting the good fight, we have so much to learn from each other, and this book definitely deals with that. Third, I LOVE when characters are flawed…and these characters, all of them, are just that. People are flawed, I am certainly flawed, so give me real characters and I’m sold. This definitely happened in The Female Persuasion.

With that said, I definitely struggled with one major thing throughout the book. To me, it seemed as though Wolitzer had a list of current topics that she wanted to cover and subtopics she wanted to include in her novel, and as she included them within the narrative, she checked them off and moved on to the next. It felt jam-packed full of subjects and talking points, each wedged into the narrative, and instead of delving into each idea a bit more, it was mentioned, checked off, and moved on from. I would have liked to see a bit more insight into each of these major topics, so readers could gain a better understanding of what is going on in the real world-to me, that’s when the real learning happens.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Female Persuasion.  I think it would make a fantastic book club choice where the readers take the topics Wolitzer brings up and really gets into the nitty gritty.