Ravenous by MarcyKate Connolly

ravenous

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, fantasy

Medium: Hardback

Synopsis: In this tale reminiscent of Hansel and GretelRavenous follows Greta as she attempts to save her little brother, Hans.  When she finds him, however, he is locked in a cage, waiting to be eaten by a Baba Yaga-esque witch, whose house sits atop birds’ legs.  This witch gives Greta a task: find the cornucopia which provides endless amounts of food by the next full moon, and she will return Hans.  Even with the help of Dalen, her centaur friend, along the way, she still faces insurmountable challenges, such as evading mercenaries, finding the cornucopia before her kingdom does, and facing the town which has provided her with so much trauma.  Will she be able to find the cornucopia in time?

Review: I have a penchant for picking up sequels at the library without reading the first one.  But, like the others, I had no idea that this was a sequel until I entered the information on Goodreads.  The only signs were the fact that she had clearly been to the city by the sea before, and that she did not have a good time there.  That being said, you could either read Ravenous  first, or Monstrous first.

Ravenous was so fun to read that I read it in one day.  It’s fast-paced, and Greta, the protagonists, is headstrong, resourceful, and doubtful.  I love love love it when women protagonists are allowed to be both strong and emotional, because that is exactly how many women are: they’re made up of many things, and those many things seem to get cast aside in so many novels in favor of only one character trait.  In addition to Greta, Dalen, her centaur sidekick, was so incredibly lovable and understanding to the predicament which causes Greta to choose between an entire starving city and her brother: a perfect duo.  The two balance each other out, and even better, there’s no romance between the two.

In terms of the plot–WOW.  There was a lot that happened in just 300 or so pages, and I’m honestly thoroughly impressed with it.  There’s trauma, a quest, betrayal, friendship, a sea monster, a witch, and mercenaries.  That’s a lot for one book, but Connolly does it wonderfully.  I can only say that I’m so excited to read Monstrous now, because Greta is a character that I adore.

In addition to this, I’d like to mention the novella at the end of the novel.  It focuses on minor characters, some of which we’ve seen before, at least, in Ravenous, but I will warn you–and a minor spoiler alert here–the ending is not a happy one.  I was simply shocked by it, and now that it’s been a full day, I can tell you all that despite the fact that it’s not a happy ending, it’s a satisfying one……once you give it time.  The novella helped explain some of the magical lore of the land, which I appreciated, and it helped developed context for why Ren and King Oliver act the way they do.

 

Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner

bi-notes-for-a-bisexual-revolution

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Nonfiction

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: Eisner takes a look at the long history of biphobia and bisexual erasure.  Using zines, journals, articles, blog posts, and personal information, her book describes how bisexual identities affect all genders, and how it also affects racialized people.  Complete with a chapter on what bisexuality is and a glossary, Eisner effectively takes us on a journey on what it means to be bisexual, and how we can create a revolution.

Review: Being what I would consider bisexual myself, this book helped me confront my internalized biphobia.  Eisner’s book is described to be a radical bisexual manifesto, and I would have to agree wholeheartedly with that notion.  Part of what makes this book four stars to me is due to the fact that it is between “Bisexuality 101” and “Graduate Bisexual Studies” (which are categories I literally just made up).  This book incorporates a glossary and a trigger warning, both of which I appreciate, and also discusses different bisexual movements, campaigns, and ideologies.

What I appreciated most, though, is that Eisner is Middle Eastern and Mizrahi (an Arabic Jew), and therefore takes a more global approach at bisexuality, while also giving an outsider’s perspective on the US.  Given how many texts that I’ve read are about the United States’ activism and feminism, it was so, so refreshing to read something that was not US-centric.  If I were still TA-ing for our Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies classes, I would highly recommend this book to our professors, even if it was to just hand out the “What is Bisexuality?” chapter.  But, regardless that I’m no longer a TA, I’d still recommend this to anybody who is interested in intersectional and inclusive feminism, and wishes to analyze different facets and campaigns of a group’s movements.

Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett

amy-falls-down

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Fiction

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: One day, Amy wakes up and decides to place a plant in her garden. She prefers to keep to herself and to have an uneventful life with her basset hound, Alphonse. Unfortunately for her, she falls and hits her head on the birdbath.  However, that day, she’s supposed to be interviewed by somebody doing a story on local authors.  She doesn’t feel too badly injured, so she decides not to cancel this interview. Unfortunately for her again, she’s done the interview, but cannot remember any of it.  It’s only a few days later that she reads about the interview, and from then on, she becomes a small-town celebrity, being forced by her agent to travel to big cities to talk on the radio and to do book readings.  But, in reality, she’d rather just be at home.

Review: This book.  Was so.  Good.  I read it in less than two days.  Amy is an eccentric character, and a very realistic one at that.  After her fall, we discover that she is terrified of doctors, but thanks to her amnesia, she must go.  Afterwards, she reads about her interview, and we discover that she not only has a bionic leg, but she was also attacked by two of her writing workshop students the previous year.  This is, what, chapter three or four?  Well, I had to keep reading, obviously.

One thing that I really appreciate about Amy is her reluctance to become famous, which is what so many authors want.  Instead, she’s fearful of going to the doctors, fearful of flying, and fearful of people misunderstanding her.  Her interactions with her friends, agent, and the infamous Chaz Molloy (a radio host), are riotous.  And one thing that I personally enjoyed about her, that doesn’t have much to do with the story, is that she defines herself as overweight and remains overweight for the remainder of the book–this doesn’t normally happen, so I was definitely pleased.

This book is not filled with much action, and the plot doesn’t necessarily thicken, but goes along simply because Amy feels a little hounded by her agent, who wants to make her a B-list author.  That’s what makes it funny and relatable.  Amy is a powerhouse unto her own, and it was a pleasure to read about her year-long quest to stay out of the spotlight.

Update: Apparently this book is the sequel to The Writing Class!  If I’d known, I would have mentioned that in my review, BUT I think it’s safe to say that Amy Falls Down is a great stand alone book.  Don’t let it deter you, folks!

Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Debora L. Spar

wonder-women

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, feminist

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Women’s place in the workforce has evolved over the past 100 years, and Spar decides to tackle this history.  Beginning with the famous Charlie perfume commercial of the 60’s, Spar details the impossible life of a business woman.  She uses gender socialization and a dash of a biological framework to argue that second- and third-wave feminism were about personal goals, and not women’s goals.  Spar, offering anecdotal evidence alongside studies and journal articles, describes how today’s woman must somehow magically balance a career, family, children, sex, and their own bodies.

Review: When I saw the cover of this book, the imagery of a woman literally bending in an odd position I’m sure only yoga can help you achieve whilst fully concentrating on what’s probably an important email, I knew that this would be an interesting read: and I was right.

What’s important to realize upon reading this book, as with all feminist literature, is the societal realm Spar discusses.  Spar is only talking about the cis- men/women gender divide, and is specifically talking about businesswomen and Ivy-league college graduates.  And, within this realm, Spar does a very good job of explaining not only how women are able to do all that they do, but also why they choose to do everything, and to have everything.

She iterates on many important topics, such as body image (varying from eating disorders to botox), the social sex contract (initially sex in exchange for marriage/long-term relationship, and how this contract changed with the introduction of birth control), and the second shift (when a woman comes home from her 8-hour job to take care of the kids, chores, and household responsibilities; unlike the man who comes home from his 8-hour job and only does what he needs to do for himself).  Spar covers many important topics which effectively back up her thesis that thanks to gender, biology, and media, women are taught to be the perfect woman, with a career, a family, and beauty to boot.

Poison is not Polite by Robin Stevens

poison-is-not-polite

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Mystery, crime fiction, detective lit

Series: Wells and Wong Mysteries

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: After arriving to Daisy’s house for spring break, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, the two members of the Detective Society, are confronted with an uncomfortable situation.  It is Daisy’s birthday, and her parents are fighting, her kleptomaniac aunt and sly uncle arrive, and Mr. Curtis, a sneaky decor appraiser comes to visit. Along with a brother and his friend, a butler and a maid, two dogs, and a new governess, the Wells Estate is filled to the brim.  However, it isn’t until Mr. Curtis falls fatally ill at teatime that the Detective Society realizes that they have a new case on their hands.

Review: Whenever I go to libraries, I frequent the children and young adult books section–that’s how this baby came into my hands.  However, I didn’t realize that it was the second of eight or so books until the two characters mentioned the Deepdean mystery they solved the previous year at school.  But, the references to the prior mystery are so subtle that it didn’t affect my reading of the second book in the series.

What really made me begin to enjoy this book was the fact that Hazel is from Hong Kong–any book that features a person of color is a book that I love.  So, if you’re looking for this type of representation, I’d highly recommend this book.

This book kept me guessing who the murderer was, which tells me that this was a good mystery.  And, the fact that Daisy must deduce who the murderer is, when the chances are high that it’s someone from her own family, adds to the tension.  Daisy and Hazel must maintain the front that they are not doing any detective work to their families and friends, as well as sneaking around, discovering clues, and putting their friendship back together after a fight.

The tensions of this book are what kept this book rolling, and boy, the tensions were so thick you could cut them with a knife.  We have the hope that none of Daisy’s family was the murderer, the tension between the two Wells parents, a second murder attempt, uncovering secrets, and a fight to overcome, and Stevens manages all this exceptionally well.

Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy by Melvin Konner

women-after-all

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Nonfiction

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Whilst using a biological framework, Konner effectively argues that the end of male supremacy is near–and we’re right in the middle of it.  To make his point, Konner allows us insight to many different subject areas, from animal biology, human genetics, gender socialization, to social media.  He analyzes how different animal societies classify female and male, how human genetics are related to gender roles, and how we as a human society dictate who is what and why.  Altogether, Konner uses these subjects to reach the conclusion that not only is the end of male supremacy near, but whether we really need males at all (however, as a male himself, he rather hopes that we do).

Review: I knew this book was a good book right from the first chapter.  He begins discussing genes and genomes and other scientific things that I don’t know much about, and how in the womb, these turn into male, female, and intersex.  The mere fact that he recognized intersex, was stunning to me.  And, a few pages later, he mentions gender reaffirming surgery, and how that plays into his theory as well.  Intersex and trans folks are being represented in what would normally be a male/female binary within the biological world?  Sign me up.

I also figured this book would be right up my alley because of how blatantly feminist it is.  I was a little worried, at first, that it would be bashing men (#notallmen), but once I started reading this book, I realized that Melvin Konner was a man (I didn’t look at the author until I got home from the library).  And, I must say, Konner tackled this subject matter very well, and he did it in a way that was not at all confrontational, but actually extremely humorous–I ended up sending my old roommate quotes of his because I didn’t want to be the only one getting enjoyment out of this book.

All in all, I was very impressed.  He started with a biological framework–a framework that I rarely see anymore in feminist nonfiction works–and discussed both humans and animals and insects and arachnids within that realm. He included intersex and trans folks.  He discussed both ancient history and current history from many different cultures.  He addressed current history, such as Daesh (called ISIS/ISIL in his book), #bringbackourgirls, and #yesallwomen.  He discussed gendered socialization, and how socialization can vary from culture to culture, and how it can vary when you need boys to do girls’ work, and girls to do boys’ work.  He finally ends on a note mentioning his children and grandchildren, and how he hopes that with the end of male supremacy, the world will become a better place to them.  It is an ending note that is filled with authenticity and genuineness.

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

The Race for Paris

Rating: ★★★1/2

Genre: Historical fiction

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: The Race for Paris follows two photojournalists and a military reporter trying to be the first ones to Paris.  Jane and Liv, the photojournalists, refuse to take orders and resign themselves to going AWOL.  Their ride, Fletcher, is reluctant to take them along, but during their months-long ride, Fletcher falls in love, and Liv refuses to share a secret that can ruin her career and her life.

Review: I am normally not one for historical fiction, but I am one for anything to do with France.  Clayton introduces each chapter with a quote that sets the tone for the following section, and helps her audience view a primary source of what it was like to be in the middle of a war.  I’m nowhere near being a history buff, so this helped immensely.  Clayton uses beautiful imagery to contrast the grittiness of war alongside the cleanliness of being away from the front, to compare the struggles of women attempting to make their careers to those of men whose careers are already made, and to show just how important it is to these characters to take photos and how important it is for them to stay alive.

In the midst of war, broken families, and degrading marriages, these two women do what seems to be impossible–and that is a plotline I can get behind.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging out Without me

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Memoir, humor

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: In her memoir, Kaling allows us an insight to her life as a young child, a college graduate, and later as an employee for The Office.  As a comedian, Kaling knows just how to make her audience laugh by referencing comical anecdotes and making lists such as movie reboots she’d like to do.

Review: This book has been on my TBR list for a while, and I am so glad I chose to read it when I did.  I’m currently bumming it at home, waiting for my next job to begin–and I feel very unproductive.  Reading this book made me feel a lot less guilty about where my life is right now, and it’s thanks to Kaling using her sense of humor and relatable anecdotes.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? left me laughing out loud on a long plane ride–forcing me to cover my mouth and chuckle all by myself, and probably gaining some awkward stares.  But let me tell you, it is so so so worth it. After reading this book, I’m  looking forward to purchasing her next one.