The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is an adult dystopia in the vein of The Handmaids Tale.

To talk of the Grace Year is forbidden. It is a time when 16 year old girls go away to release their magic, so that they can come back ready to be biddable wives.

In Garner County, women are considered dangerous creatures. They are not allowed to congregate, their hair must be bound with a ribbon of their station, and they must watch their every step or risk being accused of harboring their magic and luring men into unspeakable acts. This is why all sixteen-year-old girls are banished for one year to a remote island, to release their magic and return purified.

Tierney James is about to embark on her own Grace Year and she both fears it and dreams of a better future. But dreams don’t always come true and Tierney soon witnesses the girls of her year turn against each other. She begins to question the magic and wonders if the real magic is getting the girls to turn against eachother.

Will Tierney make it through her Grace Year? And if she returns home, will she be the same girl who left one year ago?

I honestly, was not expecting much when I picked up this one. Truthfully, I was afraid I would be reading another The Power and I really wasn’t ready for that. So I was pleasantly surprised that I could not put this one down. Yes, there were several twists that I saw coming from the start but they worked.

I really loved seeing how ingrained the society was in the girls, so much so that they bring these rules and rituals with them to the only place they don’t have to. Tierney’s journey toward the truth comes slowly at times and then picks up pace as the story progress.

The book does have some brutality to it, but you don’t seem much of it as it’s happen. It’s more abstract and as if you are looking back on the brutality or almost from the sidelines.

This was a much better read than I was anticipating and I am glad. I give it 4.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Testaments

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

When Offred was put into that black van, readers didn’t know if she was taken by The Eye, Mayday, if she was killed or escaped. This novel tells the story of what happened after Offred was “captured.”

Starting more than fifteen-years later, we get the testaments of three female narrators of Gilead: A leader of women, a supplicant and an escapee. Together their story weaves the tale of Gilead and its eventual fall.

I’ll admit, I didn’t re-read The Handmaid’s Tale before reading this book. I did, however, read a detailed synopsis just so the main events were fresh in my mind. As a sequel, I didn’t feel like I really needed this book. I almost liked having the “what if” questions that the first book left us with. As a standalone, it was a fine story and I enjoyed reading it.

One of the things I did like about this book was Aunt Lydia’s recollections of the coup and the rise of Gilead. This is something you don’t get much of in the first book and I liked seeing how it happened from Aunt Lydia’s perspective.

I also felt a little at odds with the ending. Did anyone else think things were cleaned up a little too easily? I thought there’d be more resistance, more roadblocks in the plot’s resolution. For the story it was a sequel to, I just thought it ended a little too cleanly. Then again, that could be because the book was written in the form of confessions and witness statements.

I totally did not need the decades later, conference type study at the end. I know this is supposed to hearken back to the way the first book ended but I just didn’t need it on my end as a pleasure reader. If I were to study and write a paper on the book, then I am sure I would have much more to say about it.

Overall, I am glad I read this one. It gets a solid three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Power

The Power by Naomi Alderman is an adult dystopian novel.

Imagine a world where you wake up one day and the balance of power has shifted. A world where the power lies in the hands (or collar bones) of women.

When the change happened it started slow. At first only teenage girls could feel the power and produce electrical sparks. But soon women everywhere could wield the electricity lying beneath their skin. And from there, things happened quickly.

And when something like this happens in a world where women are oppressed and considered the weaker sex, how might this change the way we live?

Ooo. This one has a lot of triggers, so a warning for our sensitive readers: rape, violence, language and some fairly graphic images. But if you are reading The Power for a book club, like I am, then there is a lot to talk about. I can see a lot of opinions and back and forth happening as we discuss the book.

Overall, I am not sure quite how I feel about this book. It was interesting to read a book where women get power and the world isn’t better for it. I think, at least part of this book, aims to be a commentary on how power corrupts, period.

I did like the narrative of this book. I enjoyed the rotating points of view and how they did intertwine but not completely. I did, at first struggle with the fact that we were reading a fictional history of what may or may not have happened five-thousand years earlier. It didn’t work as an opener for me BUT it was an excellent closing. I really enjoyed the back and forth between the male writer and the female reviewer–especially that closing line! I had sort of a “ha!” reaction.

As for the characters and the plot, it was rough to read and unfortunately very believable. The way the author had the conflicts start to devolve and break down, was just so plausible. I sort of cringe hoping we don’t get to that point, in society, where we’re just like, “eh, screw it.” Scary to think about honestly.

I am very interested to see what my fellow book club members think because I can foresee some serious reactions. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Secondborn

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol is the first book in a a new adult dystopian series where your birth order determines your lot in life.

In the Fates of the Republic, firstborns are the ruling class, the elite–they make the rules and benefit from them. Secondborns are owned by the government and are responsible for all of the labor intensive jobs. And thirdborns… die.

On Transition Day, all secondborns are taken to begin their servitude to the republic, where they will remain until they die or are called up to take the place of a deceased firstborn. This story begins with Roselle St. Sismode’s eighteenth birthday and her transition to the Fate of Swords, a militaristic branch of the Fates. But Roselle’s transition is no ordinary thing; she was born to an elite family, a family of high power and she has been in the public’s eye since her birth. This puts her at a disadvantage and she it hated in the eyes of many of her secondborn brethren.

Can Roselle find an ally in secondborn Hawthorne Trugrave? Will she buckle under the pressure? Can she conform to rules that break her own moral code? And what will she do when her fate leads down traitorous paths?

I should kick this off by saying that I’ve never read any of Bartol’s books before and this one wasn’t really on my radar when I picked it up. I needed a new audiobook quick and Audible recommended this one so I thought I’d give it a go. I tend to enjoy books that I might not have otherwise when they are in audio format vs. print and I think that is the case with this one. The story itself kept me entertained while I drove but I found a lot lacking with it.

First and foremost, the insta-love. Roselle and Hawthorne meet and two sentences in they are talking about sex. He’s loved her since she was ten watching her on tv but he loves her more now that he knows her… and this was only a few days after they met. Hawthorne literally comes to Roselle’s rescue again and again. Yea, the banter is cute and I kind of like Hawthorne but it was just too fast, especially in a society where secondborns are only allowed to have relations through “date-night” and relationships are forbidden on pains of death. There were just too many cringe moments for me and frankly it became a little unbelievable.

I also felt that there were some lost opportunities with some of the side characters. Roselle has these intense conversations and interactions with some of the supporting characters and then they are never seen or heard from again. This is a series, so I am sure they will pop up but there were instances where they really should have at least been mentioned again.

There were some really great moments in the book, I will give it that, but the world-building wasn’t fully developed, there was no consistency with the flow/pace of the story and I guess the story just didn’t really do it for me. But it is a series and since I read the first, I will continue on for now. This one gets two stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-