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.

Here We Are

Author: Aarti Namdev Shahani

Published: October 1, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books 

Where I picked up my book: From publisher (THANK YOU!!!)

Key Words: immigration, family dynamics, memoir  

My Rating: 3.75

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My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like I was given a front seat at a table that I have never sat at before…and I truly felt honored to be there. This is the story of the Shahani family, who came from India, through Casablanca, to Queens, New York. It’s a first hand, poignant account of what happens when undocumented people land on US soil, how undocumented people are treated, what is at risk for undocumented people, what happens to become documented, what life is like after you are documented, and everything in between. Yes, this is a first and account and is unique from this particular woman, but from what I hear and from what I have read, this story resonates with many families trying who are trying to call the United States home. We see the struggles, the pitfalls, the risks, the desires, the stresses, the intense fears…but we also see the hope, the laughter, the strength and the determination. Here We Are opened my eyes to not only what the process is like and specifically, how this family dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly of coming to America.

Here are some of my takeaways about our immigration system:

1. Immigrating to the US is not for the faint of heart and why in the world do we make it so complicated and corrupt?!

2. It seems like the story for every immigrant family is struggle. Struggling in their home country, and then struggling when they get to the US. As a country, we can do better to help with the transition. No one should have to live in cockroach infested homes, or a home that has a water leak causing toxic mold to grow because they are afraid to report it to a landlord who could report them as undocumented. No one should have to live with broken windows or broken heat in the middle of winter because they are nervous to set off someone’s radar and potentially get deported. It’s infuriating and we need a better system to support families that want to come to the US.

3. Our justice system is broken and corrupt and toxic, especially when dealing with immigrants. We can, and need to, do better!

4. In conclusion-WE CAN DO BETTER!

There is soooo much more in this memoir to talk about and discuss, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I went in pretty blind and was completely taken by Shahani’s journey. This is an articulate memoir that is sure to infuriate you, make you cry, make you laugh, help you better understand the role of family in many cultures and ultimately…I hope, lead you to talk more about immigration and our role in it all. Our country is intrinsically tied to the immigration experience and I think this book will not only help give a voice to many immigrants who are currently voiceless, but help to shine a brighter light on a highly relevant topic of today. It’s an honor to have read Aarti Namdev Shahani’s story and I’m thankful for her courage to write it. I will definitely be on the lookout for anything else Shahani offers us!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

In at the Deep End

Author: Kate Davies

Published: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  

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

Key Words: LGBTQ+, Romance, Adult themes 

My Rating: 3

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My Thoughts:

Wow this was a steamy book. I mean, for me-this might have been the steamiest book I’ve ever read. BUT the cherry on top is-this is a queer, steamy novel and as a queer myself…I ‘m ALWAYS here for more representation! Just a quick note: when reading this, I think it’s good to keep in mind that all people are different, relationships are different, what goes on behind closed doors is different and if you like what is going on in your life behind those closed doors-keep doing you! This is an example of one person’s, fictional, sex life, so don’t get concerned that your life might not look like this. You do you. And if it does look like this-that’s great too! I’ve talked to a few other queer bookstagrammers and we all kind of had the same slight panic of, “are we doing something wrong?!” when reading this book. I’m here to tell you that no, no you’re not. In any relationship, if you and your partner are happy-you’re doing it right!

First, ‘let’s talk about sex ba-by’ (Salt-N-Pepa fans unite. Wait, am I showing my age?! I digress…). In at the Deep End is full of sex, so you’ve been warned. Think, a queer Fifty shades of Grey sort of book maybe? I don’t really know-I never read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, but from what I’ve read ABOUT them, this one is up there with those descriptions. I’m not opposed to it. I don’t think woman talk about sex enough, let alone queer sex-in a frank way, without shame and with free abandon. So bring it and let’s make it part of the mainstream discussion.

Second, this book brings up some thoughts about consensual versus non-consensual sex and/or relationships dynamics. Not only should both parties be comfortable with the sex they are having (or not having for that matter) between themselves, but they should also both be comfortable about what goes on in all aspects of their relationship. So maybe S&M might be something you want to experiment with, but you’re not okay with bringing another partner into their relationship or having an open relationship. Talk, talk, talk and talk some more. Communication is the key to life and this book rode that point home for me. Not necessarily in the character’s actions, but in what I was thinking while reading it.

Third, family and friends can be important compass points for you in all aspects of your life, but especially when it comes to relationships. You might be all-consumed with those love feels that come when you’re in a new relationships, so hopefully you have good people around you to check in with. If not, find some good people that will check in with you. I think the idea of “it takes a village” pertains to all aspects of life. Find your village, listen to your village, and trust your village. If your village is warning you that a relationship doesn’t look healthy, trust them.

Fourth, coming out can be (and should be) exhilarating and freeing. Granted, that’s not the case for everyone, but most people get to feel a sense of relief and excitement when they finally find and admit their truth. I still remember collecting all things rainbow because that rainbow now belonged to me. I remember experimenting with clothes, biking home with a pile of LGBTQ+ books to use as research, and listening to the queer artists I always loved, but this time on full volume! The thrill of holding a woman’s hand in public equally excited me and scared me a little, but I was here for it. I couldn’t wait to visit the gay mecca of the world (San Francisco, where I later moved to with my now wife-dreams do come true) and call it my own. I remember thinking with all the pride in the world, that I was now part of the lesbian club. A group of people who walked their own walk and went against the grain and I was wanted and loved and embraced by that community. It was the best feeling in the world and I got to feel it all over again with Julia’s (the main character’s) coming out. It was, hands down, my favorite part of the book.

Yea, this book might have been a bit more steamy than what I am used to, and isn’t as literary as I might usually read, but it is a unique, frank, funny, energetic book, with a positive plot and I think if you go into it with the proper expectations and knowledge…you will enjoy the ride. Side note: There is a scene where one of the characters role plays being Mexican, and it felt problematic to me. I just wanted to put that out there in case you think it feels the same to you too. Have you read it yet? What did you think? I’m really excited to see what else Davies writes. I will definitely be on the look out or it! As always, come and find me on Instagram and let’s chat books!

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.