ARC Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Release Date: July 31, 2018

It struck her that she might spend the rest of her days like this: trapped in a beautiful room waiting for Serina to return, her own life a footnote. Unremarkable. Invisible. Forgotten. 

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In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

review

4 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

PROS:

  • Headstrong, outspoken, risk-taking women who fight for their sisters and stick up for the women around them. These girls were raised to accept gender stereotypes, to remain uneducated, demure, and submissive. Their whole purpose in life-if they weren’t training to be a Grace-is to work in a factory or be sold off into marriage. They were denied the power of knowledge, of words, of BOOKS. If they were trained to be a Grace, they had to look a specific way, eat enough to have “womanly curves”, speak only when spoken to, and were taught to deny their own opinions, their voice, and do whatever pleases the Heir. 
  • Love between sisters. I’m not sure that I have read any YA that fully captured the beautiful bond between sisters and their willingness to sacrifice themselves to protect one another. Nomi and Serina are opposites. They rarely see eye-to-eye and fight quite a bit, but they love each other with that bone deep, eternal magnitude that pushes them to survive when they are on the verge of giving up just to see each other again. Throughout the story, this feeling only grows and is reinforced through both actions and words. 
  • There is some SERIOUS heat between the couples. I had to stop and fan myself during one…kind of extensive scene. More sensual than sexual, but fire. 
  • Gladiators meet Amazonian women. Ruin Mountain has clans of women who each have their own subculture and are forced to fight to the death for food rations. They’re fierce, crafty, and willing to do whatever it takes despite their horrifying circumstances. 
  • The pacing is great. It flows, sucks you in, and it took me a little over a day to plough through.

CONS:

  • The “plot twist” was fairly predictable. It was so much like another book I read a year or two ago that I called it within the first few chapters. There are shades of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, The Red Queen, and Cruel Beauty.
  • While the world-building is fairly solid, I would have loved to hear more of the back story. The brief moments of history and the folklore were intriguing and those legends, it was like a new brand of mythology meets historical fiction.
  • Nomi’s twin Renzo. There was zero development there are hardly anything about their relationship prior to the Grace selection and yet, Nomi expects him to take life-threatening risks for her? There wasn’t a strong enough foundation or enough for the reader to care/appreciate the risk that was being taken. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

 

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ARC Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Release Date: October 10, 2017

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Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

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***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Simon Pulse 

+++ Trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, general skin-crawling misogynist ideologies and vulgarity

This book has no rating because it is without a doubt the most difficult book I’ve ever had to rate in my history of being a reviewer. Interpret and make your own judgments about what you think my rating of the book is based solely on this review and nothing as limited as a star rating. 

The Nowhere Girls is a battle cry, an ode, a bittersweet mourning, and a rage-inducing awakening. This book is more than necessary, it should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or political leanings. Here’s the thing, The Nowhere Girls reads a little Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Breakfast Club mixed with profound, contemporary questions about society and feminism. At times it feels like your run-of-the-mill coming of age story split in various POVs and as someone who generally loathes coming of age, it lagged for me, despite the eye-opening questions and they way it made me think (which is what marks great, life-changing books for me). I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters, which with so many POVs and an US POV that had the voices of several girls, it’s puzzling that none of them resonated with me. Not that the characters weren’t defined. They were more than multi-dimensional, they practically screamed from the pages with their unique and interesting personalities and their determination to succeed. 

I absolutely dislike the synopsis for this book. It makes the story seem like something it’s not-a revenge plot or some weird, let’s get back ALL THE MALES story. This is far from that. It’s an exploration of what it means to be female in our society and then breaks that down further into all the ways that sexuality, race, and choice intersect with that. 

Here is a list of the many important and critical pieces of what it means to be female that this book discusses in its short number of pages:

  • No means no. 
  • Why we think that if you’re dating someone and they force you that it’s not rape. 
  • How saying yes is a choice and it can be an empowering one. 
  • That girls should not be afraid of their sexuality or that they enjoy sex. 
  • The double standard of “boys will be boys” but a girl who actively explores her sexuality and enjoys being sexual is a slut. 
  • Trans girls and whether they feel they have or can find a place in feminist culture. Transitioning girls and the same sort of questions. 
  • How girls who are known “sluts” are ignored when they “cry rape,” how women are treated differently and their allegations taken less seriously if they’re a certain “type” of girl or from the wrong “side of the tracks.”
  • Differing perspectives on virginity. 
  • Why a sex strike is problematic. 
  • Why we think that if we’re drunk and we say no and are ignored, that it’s our “fault.” 
  • The many many reasons that women fail to report their assault.
  • The many levels of fear women face every single day that men do not ever consider. 
  • Why we feel the need to pass judgment on other girls. 
  • Small town mentality. 
  • Privilege and “getting away with it.” 
  • And many, many more. 

I can’t even count the number of times I found myself nodding at the scenarios discussed, all the many feelings and experiences females go through in every encounter they have with males and even other girls. So much of this book made me remember and reflect and that is the reason WHY I put a trigger warning on this apart from the constant references to rapes and assaults and the feelings associated with these events well after they occurred (because how can anyone forget? This is another thing that’s discussed). 

I was also so angry after I read this. Angry that women have to deal with any of this stuff. Angry that men think they have the right. Angry at all the misogynistic, horrible, and derogatory ways that women are looked at as possessions or to be used and discarded. It’s sickening. 

I feel like I should say that you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this without completely losing it. That if you don’t want to be ragey and heartsick and possibly triggered to put this aside until you’re ready but at the same time, this book is cathartic. It lets you voice everything you didn’t know you needed to say through the proxy of these characters. In a way that is both enlightening and lifts the weight off your shoulders. 

One of the worst and most heartbreaking moments in this book for me is when one of the girls says that she didn’t know she could or was allowed to say no. Holy crap that pretty much knocked the air out of  my lungs. It is so hard to be female. You very well might cry several times and at the end, you might not feel satisfied, but you will feel invigorated and fellowship with every female you see afterwards and that itself is a gift. 

Read, read some more, and for the love of Pumpkin Spice use that reading to inspire change in yourself and in the world. 

Jordan

Review: Bumped-Megan McCafferty

5/5 Stars

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What does the Pro/Am call it when a guy finishes before he begins? Ejaculatory genocide?

Before I get down to it, I just want to say that this book was unlike anything I have ever read before, I loved every minute of it and hope this review does it justice.  You know that feeling you get when you pick up a book not having any expectations and suddenly you’re so swept up into this other world that you devour the book and pray that there is a next one out in the series so that as soon as you’ve finished, literally seconds later, you can pick up the next in the series and continue the journey? Well, Thumped, book 2, is out and I’m considering giving up on my trend of alphabetical reads to jump from B to T, destroying my whole process just to read what happens next. This book wrecked my world and I’ve never been happier about it.

Side Note: It would be helpful if there was a dictionary of the slang terminology in the back of the book.

Plot: The book is told from two perspectives, that of twin sisters Melody and Harmony. The time is 2036 and because of HPSV-the Human Progressive Sterility Virus- women can only have children up to the age of 20 at latest before they become sterile. As a result of this, the general mentality is that “a free society cannot force girls to have children, but free market can richly reward those who do.” For those girls that are in prime physical, intellectual, and emotional conditions from the ripe age of fourteen to twenty they can become surrogates if the price is right. Melody has signed a contract the be a surrogate but at the age of sixteen she’s not getting any younger. Her clients are searching for the perfect bump mate for her to create the ideal child. But Melody, although this has been her lifestyle since her adoption does not quite accept the notion of surrogacy for herself, in fact she doesn’t want to be a surrogate but knows it is the thing to do if she wants enough funding to get into a top-notch university and find a way to make petri-dish babies or a cure for HPSV . Out of the blue, her identical twin sister Harmony shows up and tosses her world off its axis. Harmony comes from the Goodside (Melody’s community is called the Otherside) where she was raised in a church community where getting married and having children is seen as a gift from God. The lifestyle of Goodside is similar to that of the Amish, where technology is unacceptable and good hard work is valued right up there with motherhood. Harmony is on a mission to bring her sister the word of God and to get her to come over to the Goodside where they could live happily ever after together. Melody and Harmony’s reunion becomes a journey of self discovery and finding out how one’s desires compare to the desires of the greater community.

PROS:

  • This book is hysterical. From the sheer ridiculousness of the Otherside lifestyle to their belief system. From the perspective of a 21st century girl the idea that fourteen year old girls have a whole culture centered around getting pregnant to sell their babies to the highest bidder is unbelievable. The culture is so well thought out and seamlessly flows as if it were a reality. There are jingles, clothing lines, artificial pregnancy bumps that simulate the feelings of pregnancy. Tocin is another very interesting element. Tocin is a stimulant that puts people in the mood and relaxes them enough so that they feel comfortable to have sex (bump) with a stranger. The teens in this book do not necessarily see tocin as a date rape drug like the modern woman would but as a way to have fun sex. Condoms. Apparently, because of this way of life for young girls which is seen as a duty for the continuation of mankind, have not been produced since 2025. So no birth control, no concern about STDs. Why worry when HPSV is inevitable anyways? You could have four pregnancies by then and massive amounts of bling. 
  • The terminology! Bumping- to have sex, MasSex parties– orgy designed specifically for mass insemination, hornergy-the frustration men suffer from being horny that can be used as an energy source. There are of course many more but these were some of the key terms.
  • Sex. There’s plenty of sex happening behind closed doors which is clear by the number of knocked up adolescents but no description only insinuation. The insinuation is enough and furthers that this sexual relationship is a business transaction and a woman’s body is a tool for procreation and little else.
  • The characters are so likable and authentic. A lot of times conversation between characters seems a little off and forced, here it flows and welcomes the reader in to understand their psyches.
  • Jondoe. He is a conflicted mystery man who you don’t know whether to hate or to love but you do know you want to see more of him.
  • Zen. Zen. Zen. Zen. ❤
  • Love. It seems that with everything going on in this book that love would be hard to fit in. But love is there and it’s raw and compassionate and confused. In a word it’s real.

CONS:

  • Zilch. 

-BB