Monday, January 30, 2017

Here We Are edited by Kelly Jensen (Review)

Release date: January 24th, 2017
Publisher: Algonquin BRYR

Description (from Goodreads):

Let’s get the feminist party started!

Here We Are is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it really means to be a feminist. It’s packed with essays, lists, poems, comics, and illustrations from a diverse range of voices, including TV, film, and pop-culture celebrities and public figures such as ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her sister Mia, politician Wendy Davis, as well as popular YA authors like Nova Ren Suma, Malinda Lo, Brandy Colbert, Courtney Summers, and many more. Altogether, the book features more than forty-four pieces, with an eight-page insert of full-color illustrations.

Here We Are is a response to lively discussions about the true meaning of feminism on social media and across popular culture and is an invitation to one of the most important, life-changing, and exciting parties around.

WHAT AN IMPORTANT, DIVERSE BOOK! If you have a teenager in your life, this makes a brilliant gift, especially at a time like this. 

Here We Are is a collection of essays, lists, illustrations, etc. all about feminism. It has been edited by Kelly Jensen and I think she has done an amazing job putting together such a diverse, intersectional set of works by writers from different walks of life. 

I can honestly say I enjoyed every single one of the pieces from this collection and I loved the way the book is organized. It is accessible and easy to read and it really managed to make me think about a lot of things. I loved the intersectional approach it offers to feminism, featuring voices by writers of different races and sexualities because after all if your feminism is not intersectional, it's not really feminism at all. 

I suck with reviewing collections like this, so I will keep this short, but want to just say that this book is a true gem, an extremely worthy collection of thoughts about self-identity, the relationship between popular culture and feminism, body image, the relationship between feminism and race as well as feminism and disability, and so much more. 

To finish with this review, here are a few of my favorite quotes:

My body is fat. I won't win any awards or lose any points for saying that. I am merely stating a fact. I am fat. - Angie Manfredi (this is a statement I can really identify with and I loved Angie's essay as a whole because it really just hit home in many different ways)

When you want to be someone else, you can never be yourself or learn who you really are. - Alida Nugent

Women are humans. Complete, complex, flawed, beautiful, worthy humans. So to expect an impossible level of perfection from ourselves is, in fact, self-oppression. It's denying ourselves the pleasure and privilege of being real. - Lily Myers


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen (Review)

Release date: September 6th, 2016
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter
Publisher: Chronicle Books

Description (from Goodreads):

Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.

I picked up Bad Girls Throughout History on a whim while looking for something quick and interesting to read. Bad Girls Throughout History is not flawless, but nevertheless, it is a beautifully illustrated collection of short descriptions of lives of some pretty remarkable women. 

The sections on the different women from Lady Godiva and Catherine Great to Tina Fey and Nora Ephron are fairly short and the illustrations are to die for. While a book like this might not be the best source of research for example on someone like Jane Austen whose life has been written about so much in detail, a book like this can inspire especially younger readers to do more research on the incredible women they can read about from the pages of this book. 

While the first half of the book is more focused on women from all around the world, the book, in general, is quite focused on North America. Because of this, I was bothered to see that no First Nations/Native women were included. While reading through other reviews for this book, I noticed that this was something that quite a number of readers had noticed. Considering the history of North America, one could expect to see Native/First Nations women mentioned here.

Bad Girls Throughout History is a beautiful coffee table book that will make a great addition to any home library. I especially recommend it for those who want to give a meaningful, educational gift for the young women in their lives. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bittersweet (True North #1) by Sarina Bowen (Review)

Release date: June 14th, 2016
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Description (from Goodreads):

The new series is set in Vermont. True North is populated by the tough, outdoorsy mountain men that populate the Green Mountain State. They raise cows and they grow apples. They chop a lot of wood, especially when they need to blow off steam. (Beards are optional but encouraged.)

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. 

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

After reading a number of non-fiction books, I was looking for a fun, romantic novel to end my reading year with. Bittersweet, the first novel in Sarina Bowen's True North series was exactly what I wanted, and so much more. It has a great set of characters, romance, some sexy-times, and perhaps most importantly, a tangible chemistry between its two leads. 

After a few failed attempts to succeed in college, Audrey enrolled into a culinary school and succeeded in a way no one expected she would, least of all herself. While time at the culinary school was a success for her, life after graduation hasn't been quite what she imagined. Rather than being in the kitchen, doing what she does best, she has become an errand girl/assistant to cocky male chefs who think they can do anything better than Audrey can. 

Griff's life hasn't gone quite as he planned it to go either. When his father died unexpectedly, he had to put his own dreams on hold and move back home to help his family with their apple farm in Vermont. Now, he is an aspiring cider maker and the resident hot grumpy guy -- so damn attractive, but so damn difficult to actually approach. 

When Audrey is given the assignment to find farmers from Vermont to participate in a local produce project, Audrey and Griff come across each other for the first time since college. Both are made to question the possible feelings they might have had for each other in college, as well as the potential for a future where they are more than just a buyer and a seller. 

Audrey and Griff are the dual narrators of Bittersweet. While Bowen could have easily picked just one of them to be the sole narrator of the novel, and the story would have still worked out quite well, it is nice to read both of their perspectives to the situations they are in. I loved reading about the backgrounds of both Audrey and Griff, and the things they have gone through before the events of the novel kick into action. 

One of the highlights of Bittersweet are the family relationships, which I think Bowen writes interestingly and with care. Bowen focuses not only on biological familial relationships, but also on companionships and friendships just as close as family relationships. I especially loved the banter between Griff and his workers (the male leads of the follow-ups to this novel).

"What's your plan?" she startled me by asking.
"I just told you my five-year plan. What's yours?"
Easy question. "To get Daphne and Dylan through college."
"That's not what I mean. What's the beautiful part?"
I gathered her hair in my hand and smoothed it off her shoulder, because I couldn't stop touching her. "I'm holding her right here."

The development of the relationship between Audrey and Griff did not raise any red flags for me (no abuse, no glorification of violence, etc) and Bowen's writing was able to make me emotional a number of times. I wasn't a huge fan of the sexy times scenes and I was slightly annoyed by the continual use of the word "babe" (if you have read some of my previous new adult reviews, you might know how much I hate the word "babe"), but other than that, I had not issue with the romantic aspect of the book. 

I have a definite soft spot for grumpy yet gentle guys, so Griff definitely hit a spot for me, and Bowen writes in a manner that really made me able to imagine what he looks like (which is definitely a good thing)! I am so looking forward to reading the next book from this series at some point, probably when I am in the mood for something well-written, yet romantic and quick to read.