Galatea Book Review

Screen Shot 2019-10-26 at 2.31.45 PM.pngTitle: Galatea
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: fantasy; mythology; short stories; retellings; historical fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In Ancient Greece, a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost…

Review: 4 stars.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I’d read anything Miller writes. She’s written two of my favorite books of all time — you can read my review of Song of Achilles HERE and my review of Circe HERE — and I’m a Classics nerd. While I didn’t jump on the Percy Jackson train, I can appreciate what it did for the genre. Miller takes a more sophisticated approach to myth retellings though, and it’s just brilliant.

Galatea is very different though. If I think of her work thus far on a continuum, in terms of her readership, it reminds me a lot of JK Rowling’s writing. Like, with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, that book was clearly YA, meant for children around Harry’s age, but by Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, that YA line was very blurred. So much of what Harry was going through in (arguably) 4-7 were ADULT.

Galatea was much of the same. While Galatea is not connected to Song of Achilles or Circe, I think her writing style has evolved with each text. Song of Achilles seemed very YA, even if it isn’t marketed as such on Goodreads. It’s a quick read, lower lexile, all that, and it’s soft and sweet and kind.

And then with Circe, Miller’s writing is harder. And maybe that’s because Circe’s story is harder, but Circe’s feminist eye is open so it’s kind of reaffirming, and the Odyssey tale is so much more charged because of it. Guys. Circe was one of two books that made me change how I rate books. (Internment was the other in case you’re wondering.) That’s how beautiful I thought it was. But like, Miller’s style seemed to evolve in my opinion. A more adult audience required, sort of thing.

And then there’s Galatea (see this is definitely a Galatea review). This is definitely an adult short story. (Less than a 30 minute read for most readers, I’d say). This Pygmalion retelling is not beautiful and sweet or hard and reaffirming. This is tragic and difficult. Right out the jump there’s fuck and confusion, and a woman in a hospital being told to lie down, and a nurse who doesn’t seem to listen.

And later, Galatea tells the reader that if she doesn’t play the game (listen to the orders of her doctors) they’ll give her a tea that stops her tongue from working and makes her piss the bed.

This is not beautiful, but it is really, really good. It has something to say. At its core, almost, as a reminder. The Pygmalion myth is a good reminder about how men are rarely satisfied, and Galatea brings that right to the forefront in such a cutting way.

Again, I’m left breathless, waiting for her next text. Fingers crossed that it’s Medusa. Especially after some of the undertones here, I think it would be a perfect transition.

Sorcery of Thorns Review

IMG_1283Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: fantasy; ya; lgbt
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Review: 4 stars. This was another Lit Coven selection — if you are looking for a badass book club that is primarily YA fantasy, look no further. You can find them HERE. Last month we read These Witches Don’t Burn (my review of that is HERE) and I loved that one too. So, you could say that my book club picks out some bomb titles for us to review.

So, this month, it’s Sorcery of Thorns. As you read from the synopsis above, this one is about a girl who is framed for a crime, and then has to figure out how to stop the actual perpetrator(s) from continuing their crime spree. I had some predictions as the text went on, but not really. Like, about 100 pages in, I thought I knew who, but I had literally no idea how until it was revealed.

In my These Witches Don’t Burn review, I said I was usually pretty good at predicting things, but maybe I’m not as good as I thought after all. (Lol). In the end, I didn’t really care about not being able to guess because I liked having Elisabeth reveal it all to me. It’s a new experience to be shocked by the big reveal. (okay, so I guess that means I am good at it usually, but not in these two cases?)

I really liked the dynamic between Nathaniel, Elisabeth, and Silas. That trio was so strong and foundational. I mean, I think obviously Silas was my favorite character. With Katrien as a strong second supporting character. Their unwavering devotion to Elisabeth, their faith in her was awesome, and fun to watch unfold. Silas was a strong character’s even stronger sidekick. As demon’s go, he was pretty amazing. The way Rogerson wrote his backstory and character development felt pretty damn spectacular.

Everyone in Austermeer has these preconceived notions of what it means to have a demon, and how those demons feel about their human masters. Elisabeth sees something in Silas that no one else does, and that’s wicked cool. (tangent: but, I HATE that I used wicked there. I didn’t want to use it, but the New England transplant in me couldn’t think of a better word to use, and so I used it, and didn’t replace it). I LOVED Silas and Nathaniel’s relationship too.

Another obvious favorite for me was Nathaniel’s almost acquiescence to Elisabeth. I even marked a page because of how he confessed himself to her. Like he hated it, and only did so begrudgingly. “God, Elisabeth, I’ve been doomed since the moment I watched you smack a fiend off my carriage with a crowbar” (343). All the way through the book he calls her a menace. It starts honest enough, but then basically becomes a pet name of sorts. It’s kinda cute. I like it. PS: Nathaniel is bi, and just so casual about it. He’s like, if you’re gonna talk about my love life, might as well be accurate about it. Like, he trusts Elisabeth enough to be honest with her, but it’s so flippant and just naturally a part of him — well introduced and written in, Rogerson!

What I love the very most is Elisabeth’s attachment and connection to the books. I think every avid read wishes to be as connected to books as Elisabeth is to them. When Katrien explains why she is, I found myself wishing I was her.

“None of this is its fault” (377) she says about a book some of the wardens are using as torture practice. And later, when they need their help, I got seriously over emotional when the books spring forward and do her bidding. A little bit of freedom and a whole lot of sacrifice.

This adventure is so full of story, heart, and vivid world building. There’s so much to take in, so much to want to figure out as you’re reading. I didn’t feel like I was in the 19th century aside from the carriages, the cravats, and the female hysteria. Women can be in the Magisterium, can be Directors of the Collegium, but if they read too many books, they’re prone to hysteria? That was the only jarring thing for me.

The ending was perfect. The last paragraph specifically.

While I would love more in this world, I’m secretly hoping this is where this ends. Goodreads doesn’t have it listed as a duology or as a series, so I’m thinking it’s a standalone and this makes me very happy indeed.

Well Met Review

image2Title: Well Met
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: romance; contemporary; fiction; women’s fiction; chick lit *according to Goodreads* <– what does that even mean??
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Review: 4 stars.  Well met, indeed! This book was as advertised. Jen DeLuca delivered a laugh out loud, fantastic romance with sweet little moments between sisters and friends throughout. A Boston girl lost, is found in a small town through the Faire of all things.

After the first line, I started tweeting about it — I tweeted through chapter 5, a preview of sorts — you can view those HERE — just because I kept laughing about things and wanted to document my experience as I was reading.

I didn’t just lol, like one does in a text. I actually laughed out loud at parts of this book. I found so much of it not only witty, but also hilarious. Like, there’s the wit between English teacher Simon and Emily, and the banter between them and their Faire personas is great. But then there’s the hilarity of Mitch and his Faire persona, Marcus. He’s just all muscle and heart.

The juxtaposition of Simon and Mitch is good, and well written. It’s not a love triangle. It’s not the typical anxiety driven, cringeworthy fight over the girl — although. They do actually physically fight over her — male centric triangle. It’s actually so much better.

All the characters lift each other up. They are a real small town. Like, the last small towny books and stories I read were Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Lottery. Not such good small town vibes in either. Like, they don’t always treat people the best in those stories, right? Spoiler for WtCS and TL, but like, people literally die in those small towns. But Willow Creek, like, owns it and wins.

April and Emily is a fun sister dynamic to read. They kind of learn sisterhood as the chapters progress. I’ve not read anything like that before, and I really liked it. I liked Emily’s dynamic with her niece too. Like with April, Emily has to learn how to be an aunt too. It’s fun to see her take on these roles.

When Simon fucks up, as all men in romance novels are wont to do, (trust me, they all do), DeLuca does something really, really good. In fact, I’d say she handles it better than any other romance writer I’ve ever read before. I love when Emily puts her foot down, and April backs her up. The bonds of sisterhood, no matter how new, are still strong.

This is a perfect summer read. I am eager to see what else comes from this author!

Be warned. You WILL go googling renaissance faires after. You will look for your local one, and you will try to get tickets if it’s close enough. Just saying.

Gods of Jade & Shadow Review

image1Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: fantasy; historical fantasy; mythology; mayan; fairy tale;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

Review: 4 Stars. This was a fantastic book. It wasn’t just a fantastic read, it was, like, fantastical. I don’t know enough about Mexican and Central American mythology and wanted to dive into this universe after the first chapter. Sheepishly, my only actual references to anything before this book were movies like The Book of Life and Coco, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Because of this, when Book of the Month had this as an option, I jumped at the opportunity, because I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, and boy I’m glad I did.

I love this book though, because I feel like I’m completely drawn in as a third character on Hun-Kamé and Casiopea’s quest. The imagery, the characterization, and the emotion of this book all weaves such a beautiful tapestry. As I was reading, it felt like, at any moment, I could be transported into the 1920’s right with them. Moreno-Garcia’s way with words is astounding.

It took me a full chapter to really get into this book, not gonna lie. I was bored by Cinderella-esque story, but then Moreno-Garcia literally called me out and wrote Casiopea saying she wasn’t some Cinderella type and so I was like, “okay, dang, sorry… guess I’ll give it a shot.” If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until the chest is opened and the quest itself officially began that I truly got invested in the story.

None of the Leyva family is given much backstory, (aside from Martín) except that they treat Casiopea (and her mother) like servants. Even her mother wants her to fall in line and just suck it up, but it all kind of serves a purpose— there’s no guilt when she leaves, and as a reader, I have no second-hand guilt about her leaving anything behind when her quest begins either.  I guess that’s the intention, and because it works, it furthers the plot along.

I really loved moving through Mexico with Casiopea and Hun-Kamé. Getting to see the different states through Casiopea’s eyes was a joy because Moreno-Garcia really captured the “small village girl experiencing the big city” vibe. From the train rides, to the carnivals, it was so exciting to read.

My absolute favorite part of the book was Juan. The charmer. I went on a short twitter rant about him. (You can view it HERE.) I legit laughed out loud when he threatened to crush her every bone. When he promised to drown her and use her bloated body as an instrument. And then when he backed off so quickly and held his hands up, “I thought we were just playing” — seriously. He was my favorite stop on their quest.

Each stop on their quest had a different feel. Someone had secret wisdom for Casiopea, just in case she needed to get out of a bind, Juan brought humor to a tricky situation, an immortal seductress brought temptation and revealed hidden truths, and a sorcerer helped them relay on each other.

The hardest part for me— although beautiful — was when Hun-Kamé explained to Casiopea the reality of what would come should they succeed. “There is no ‘after,’” she whispered (245).

That part hit me straight with an obsidian knife to the heart. Like she’s willing to walk the Black Roads for you bro. And now there is no after. Ouch.

But then later, Moreno-Garcia got me again when Xibalba sees in Hun-Kamé’s soul and “the flowers, linked together, spoke to her. They said, “My love.” (326)  She still has to go back to the Middleworld alone, but at least he’s feeling it, too! I think there’s a speck of dust in my eye.

Overall, this book was beautiful, adventurous, and full of heart. I loved the language, the Mayan myth, and the spirit of the story. It’s made me want to find more stories with the same energy so I can learn more and immerse myself in the culture even further.

It’s a great read that I’d definitely recommend!

Moxie Review

Title: Moxie
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: contemporary; feminism; ya; realistic fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Moxie girls fight back!Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Review: 4 Stars. I read this book on the heels of Samira Ahmed’s Internment. (You can read that review HERE). To say Moxie was a departure from that would be a gross understatement. However, this book was fun and a delight to read. Vivian was a strong and caring and carried the book the whole way through. She was a three dimensional character and really well written by author, Mathieu. She was nerdy and unsure, but strong and caring when she saw others needed her to be so.

Inspired by her mother’s glory days, she creates a zine for her school to empower the girls to fight back against the patriarchal structures in place that hold them back.

What I like is that Mathieu brings up events that are relevant for all girls in all high schools. Dress codes, rape culture, inappropriate groping, lack of administrative support… these are all things girls face in countless high schools.

What’s more, these girls, through their collective coming together because of the zine get actual results. It’s really cool.

The boyfriend character is interesting. He keeps doing this “not all guys” thing and I think I get that he’s trying to learn, and Mathieu is trying to make a point, but his repetitive “I’m not those guys, I’m sensitive, look at me, I get it, you’re cool,” schtick didn’t really sit well with me. I’m wondering if she did this to point out how annoying it is, but the fact that Viv and he stay together in the end makes it all the worse. Like, sure, he’s trying, and sure, he’s quasi-supportive, but like… just because he’s the first guy that ever showed interest in her doesn’t mean she has to stay with him and teach him how to be “not all guys.”

I don’t think it was Vivian’s job to teach him how to be a decent guy. It’s not her job to teach him to shut up and just listen. It’s not her job to realize that girls who say the administration tried to cover up a rape or attempted rape aren’t lying.

/rant
Either way, this book was GOOD. Really good. That boyfriend piece is really just a small part of the plot and the rest of it is really female empowerment centered. The female friendships are strong and the driving force of Vivian’s kickstarting Moxie in the first place. The girls in this high school stand proud and tall together, even when they aren’t sure how to do so, and it’s really remarkable. This book is inspiring. And quick. It was fast paced, fun, well-written, and going in my classroom library.

Moxie girls fight back!

Internment Review

image1Title: Internment
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genre: contemporary; ya; science fiction; dystopian
Synopsis: Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Review: 5 Stars. Internment was exactly as described. Chilling. It was haunting and hard to read, and yet, I couldn’t put it down. I was transfixed by Layla’s horrible reality in our too-close future. Ahmed writes that it’s fifteen minutes into the future of America and it did indeed feel that way.

My heart was in my throat as I turned each page, hoping for a decent ending for the people in Mobius. Not a happy ending, because there could be no happy ending for this book, I knew that for certain.

This book was HARD. I hated every single thing this book made me witness. Every single horror I had to be complicit in, almost. You know? Like… it made me think about what I would do after the 2020 census, if things played out like they did in the book. It makes me wonder if I’m doing enough now. People are literally in cages at the border right now.

Samira Ahmed wrote this book in response to the 2018 refugees being taken from their children (see Author’s Note). Layla and her family were in a liberal town, in a liberal state, and her neighbors, her friends, they just let them get captured and taken and stamped with a permanent barcode, and put in an internment camp.

Where there are unspeakable horrors and atrocities, there is Hope. Layla and the people of Mobius do the unthinkable in the face of the unknown, because the fear helps them focus on the end goal. Her bravery and her endless faith was inspirational.

This is the type of book that makes you think about what side of history you need to be on. It reminded me of The Hate U Give (see my review for that one HERE), of Night by Elie Wiesel.

It was painful and hard, but necessary to read it. It wasn’t my usual book, but I needed to read it, especially right now. Ahmed’s use of timely political rhetoric, unfortunate and unpresidential rhetoric, and current events makes this book a must read in this day and age.

The Author’s Note is something I want to make copies of and read with all of my classes. Often I tell my classes that if we don’t read our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Ahmed writes that we look back to our history to use its rhetoric for instances like this.

As hard, horrifying, and raw as Internment was to read… it was worth it. I would recommend this book to everyone.

The Poet X Review

THE-POET-X-e1542251351500Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: poetry; ya; contemporary; fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Review: 5 Stars. Have you ever read a book and literally read every single word? And focus on every single word? Maybe you have, but I haven’t. I read really fast, I mean, fast, and so I go through words like… Pop Rocks. You don’t just eat one Pop Rocks piece at a time, you pour the package into your mouth and get the experience that way. I take in full sentences like that, not word over word, but full sentences at a glance.

It’s really hard to explain. I understand everything I read, with amazing clarity but I’ve never focused in, really looked at the words used in every single sentence in a book until The Poet X.

Of course I’ve analyzed literature and poetry for school work, and I read words out loud of course, but if I think about words on the page, The Poet X, made me think about the economy of words, and the precision with which to use them.

The whole book is poetry, told in narrative, about Xiomara, a Dominican girl growing up in a strict home, trying to find her voice. She uses this book as her journal so readers gain insight to her as she writes her feelings down about her family, religion, growing up, boys, and poetry.

Acevedo has a powerful way of expressing the thoughts and feelings of a girl growing up in a stifling home. Of a girl growing up in a body she has no control over. She’s got so many powerful poems in this book.

My favorite is “Unhide-able” because Xiomara is trying to come to terms with her body in a house that wants her to cover up her body, in a neighbor that wants to catcall her body, in a generation that wants to speak out about her body and the jealousy that comes along with it. She writes:

“I am I unhide-able.

Taller than even my father, with what Mami has always said / was “a little too much body for such a young girl.” / I am the baby fat that settles into D cups and swinging hips / so that the boys who called me a whale in middle school / now ask me to send them pictures of myself in a thong.

The other girls call me conceited. Ho. Thot. Fast. / When your body takes up more room then your voice / you are always the target of well-aimed rumors, / which is why I let my knuckles talk for me. / Which is why I learned to shrug when I name was replaced by insults.

I’ve forced my skin just as thick as I am” (7).

So many women go through this same thing. So many teenagers and women alike just have to take this kind of criticism and this kind of rumor gossip mill stuff and Xio captures it perfectly here in this one poem. Xio learns to shrug the gossip off, like many of us do, but at 16 — what kind of message is she internalizing?

At the climax of the book, Xio writes, “The world is almost peaceful / when you stop trying / to understand it” (223). It’s so powerful, right? Acevedo has such a gift for language. If you’ve never heard any of her actual spoken word, please do yourself a favor and go (HERE) now. She’s so amazing.

The story Acevedo weaves through her poetry is one about self acceptance more than anything but it takes a huge family detonation to come about. That hit home for me. I think it does for a lot of people. It’s so relatable and honest. It’s hard to find out what we’re meant to be when we aren’t allowed to be ourselves, right? I think Acevedo captures that so well in this book.

Do yourselves a favor. Get this book. Binge it. You’ll thank me.

 

** I don’t have any affliation with Barnes and Noble, buy it anywhere you want, just buy it.