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.

Good Talk

Author: Mira Jacob

Published: March 26, 2019

Publisher: One World (Random House) 

Where I picked up my book:  Purchased from local bookstore

Key Words: graphic novel, memoir, identity, interracial families, politics

My Rating: 5 (ALL THE STARS!!)

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My Thoughts:

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! At first, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure about the fact that it was a graphic novel. I remember lovinggggg Maus by Art Spiegelman though when I read it in high school, so I thought I might enjoy this one too. And I was wrong. I didn’t just enjoy it, I LOVED LOVED LOVED this one and I am officially a convert to the graphic novel and will forever and always choose a graphic novel without hesitation from now on. In fact, I got so excited reading it-I started working on a graphic novel myself. I am an artist and a writer (nothing official, but in my heart-that’s what I am) and I can’t even believe I hadn’t thought of combining those two loves and created something powerful. It’s all talk on my end right now, but I’m excited about it! There are some things that I want to say and I want the world to hear, but creating something with only words didn’t seem quite right for me, or for the subject I wanted to talk about. Once I read Good Talk though, I had my ah-ha! moment and I’m excited. But…I digress. SO-if you’re anything like me, do not hesitate for one second to pick this one up. It’s powerful (probably even more powerful as a graphic novel) and I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Second, the amount of topics that Jacob covers is bewildering to me! I should say, the amount of topics she thoroughly covers in a beautiful, thought-provoking, intimate way… is bewildering to me! She delves into immigration, American identity, interracial families, politics, our divided nation (and sometimes, divided friendships and families), Obama’s election (YAY), the 2016 election (BOO), love, racism, sexuality and so much more. Somehow, she does it in a beautiful, thought-provoking, non-rushed, powerful way that will have you gushing to everyone you come in contact with.

Third, the artwork in here is fantastic! Humans are hard to draw…but Jacob does it brilliantly! And then to put the drawings on top of photographs?! Brilliant! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see Jacob’s process, how it worked, understand how much time this took, and what it took to get this amazing piece of art published. I am in awe.

Fourth-please get this book! You will not regret it for one second. It’s funny and sad, heart-wrenching and beautiful all at the same time. It’s the exact book that America needs right now and I feel privileged to have read it. I think it’s one you will come back to again and again. (Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk 😉 )

As always, come find me on Instagram!

bookishfolk…read instead.

We Love Anderson Cooper

Author: R.L. Maizes

Published: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books  

Where I picked up my book:  Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU and then I bought a final copy at my local Indie 🙂

Key Words: short stories, outsider POV, Jewish Lit, Magical Realism

My Rating: 4

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My Thoughts:

I loved this debut collection so much! As someone who has always felt like a bit of an outsider, and as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, these stories particularly resonated with me, made me feel seen and had a lasting effect of, “Huh. Life can be pretty great as an outsider and actually, when you think about it-there are a lot of us walking around as outsiders and that means I’m never really alone” and that feels good.

First, this collection had me thinking long and hard about the idea of being a part of the “other.” In this collection, these characters are treated as outsiders because of how they look, their sexual orientation, religious affiliation or race. As I read this collection, I kept thinking about how it felt fitting to read a book geared toward this topic with today’s political climate.  There seems to be a huge backwards jump to this sort of segregation mindset where the idea of the ‘us versus them’ is running rampant from the person on top and then trickling on down. I should probably say, it’s always been a part of our narrative (unfortunately) but now, it seems like there is this sense of permission happening and I can’t think of anything scarier. I’m not going to beat around the bush here-our political climate, and hence the nation in general, feels vulnerable and on the brink of disaster and I think those of us that have always felt like outsiders are feeling that awareness even more. Families are being separated and put into cages, Black and Brown people are being discriminated against and killed and it feels like no one is doing anything about it. Rights are being taken away from women, queer folx are being discriminated against and the government is tolerating it, and at times, initiating it. Outsiders are being put at risk and it’s truly terrifying to me. On the plus side, we’re seeing a battle cry rising from so many of us and again-just like in this book, it makes me feel less alone. There’s a whole, beautiful group of us ready to stand up for, and with, the ‘outsider’ and it’s truly the rainbow after (in this case, during) the storm. R.L. Maizes puts all of those thoughts and real-life scenarios, into enjoyable, relatable and amazing fiction and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Second, each short story has it’s own life and personality, but they are all funny, moving, thought-provoking and full of empathy. Truly, each story is full of this and that seems like a huge feat. I think some people tend to shy away from reading short stories because they can feel choppy or just as you start to get into the story, it ends-but that isn’t the case here! Each story provides a unique plot and story, but the themes are the same and it makes for a beautiful flow.

Third, people always ask me what my favorite stories in a collection are and although that can sometimes be hard to say, and it’s particularly hard in this case because I truly enjoyed all of the stories, I REALLY loved Tattoo, We Love Anderson Cooper and Couch. Seriously though-I thoroughly enjoyed them all…but this third point is for all of you who like itemization 😉

Lastly, I was lucky enough to hear R.L. Maizes speak at my local bookstore last week here in Colorado and I was completely enamored by her backstory, her motivation to write, how she writes and the path she took to get to where she is today. What she has to say carries a lot of merit and depth and I’m excited to see what else she has to offer us! And BONUS, she signed a book deal at the same time as this short story collection, so her book will be coming out in the near future. Woohoo!!  Here is a great write up from NPR too about this book! It’s a great review!

As always, find me over on Instagram at bookishfolk and let’s chat books!

bookishfolk…read instead.