I’m currently in the middle of a “30 days of manga” challenge but I’m not going to talk about all the issues individually but I have some other books I want to talk about. This week I have a truly feminist YA fantasy, a “meh” historical fiction, and a YA contemporary where the movie is better. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Genre: YA fantasy
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
“My anger builds as I realize how thoroughly my mind has been poisoned that I would be shocked to see women in these positions.”
This book does not shy away from the brutality of war the mistreatment and gore Deka and others like her have to face. From the beginning, Forna makes this clear and gets to the point. Forna has also given YA audiences the truly feminist fantasy they need. Women are shown in positions of power at the training facilities and the girls have such a focus on protecting each other, working together, and friendships. While there is a budding romance in this story, Deka’s friendship with Britta (who is absolutely the cutest) is valued just as much if not MORE than her romantic interest. While I had an idea of what the twist was going to be, I still really enjoyed reading The Gilded Ones. This story is largely about building up the word and Deka discovering her powers and origin and sets up for an interesting series. I don’t usually have the urge to annotate fantasy but when I re-read this in preparation for the sequel, there are some places I’d like to go back and highlight.
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
Release Date: 1945
Genre: Adult historical fiction
In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from the American War of Independence (1783), looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.
Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.
“The greatest thing is to have someone who loves you and—and to love in return.”
I barely have thoughts about this book. It wasn’t bad by any means; I just listened to the story and had no thoughts about what was happening. It was truly the most middle-of-the-road story I’ve ever read. I usually find some enjoyment in books set in this time period but for some reason, I just didn’t feel any connection to what was happening. There is drama and our main character has some heroic moments but by the end, I was just upping the audiobook speed as much as I could. I might try and watch the BBC series and see if that makes me more interested because, by all accounts, this should have worked for me but it just didn’t and I wish I knew why.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on.”
I was really unsure about this book, especially in the beginning. I found myself preferring the film in part because the plot is lacking and also because Willowdean is a bit judgemental of others. The more I thought about the story, the more I was okay with her being a bit unlikable in the beginning. I don’t need to totally love main characters and I think she learns too as the story continues. One of the major takeaways from the story is that people deserve to exist just the way they are. Whether they’re fat or have imperfect teeth or whatever, they don’t have to want to change. I think people expect people with physical imperfections to WANT to change them but sometimes they don’t And that’s okay.
Speaking specifically about the fat rep, I thought this was pretty good. There’s a balance between insecurity (mostly caused by her mother) and knowing that she doesn’t have to and doesn’t want to change. I really related to a lot of what Willowdean was feeling especially when she felt insecure about being touched. It’s like you become hyper-aware of what your body must feel like compared to what the beauty standard must feel like. While I think the plot was a bit slow, I’ll likely pick up the sequel from my library eventually because there are things I enjoyed about this story including, but not limited to, the Dolly Parton references. I was reminded of how good “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That?” is. Can’t stop listening to it.
What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!