“True nobility isn’t about being better than anyone else; it’s about being better than you used to be.” “Yes, Ma. I am better.” I am better than I used“True nobility isn’t about being better than anyone else; it’s about being better than you used to be.” “Yes, Ma. I am better.” I am better than I used to be.
This was a painful, candid look into Portia's battle with her eating disorder. It takes a lot for someone to show so much of their soul. And while I'm certainly sure she told this story to put it all out there, to face this long, dangerous part of her life, I wished there'd been more time spent on her recovery rather than trying to sum it up in a little epilogue that glossed over things. Too much of this book is triggering and teeming with ideas that someone with an eating disorder or even flirting with one might try to practice while spending nearly no time chronicling Portia's fight back to health. Like I said, a wonderfully candid book that I wished had shown more of the recovery process rather than spending over 2/3rds of the book giving excruciating detail of how she made this disorder "work."...more
Just when I come off a rant with some friends about how much YA novels have been getting on my nerves as of late, I find one that not only doesn’t get on my nerves, but it actually made me get all emotional toward the end of the story. Holly Bodger’s 5 to 1 is set in India in the year 2054. India, whose parents for years have chosen boys to girls seeing them as the more precious commodity, is now faced with a crisis of boys outnumbering girls 5 to 1. Girls are soon given to the highest bidder, but one city, Koyanagar, proposes its own solution from its matriarchs, a solution that would give every man a chance by holding a test that allows all boys to compete and win a wife. After their proposal is rejected, Koyanagar builds a wall and becomes its own country, allowing those who wish to leave one day to do before their country is closed for good to the rest of India. In this new country, women are treated as the highest form of riches, but their lives are still far from being ideal, even in a society where men are cowed, ridiculed, and only valuable for producing daughters.
This story follows two teenagers seventeen-year-old Sudasa, a daughter of a wealthy family who doesn’t want to be a wife, and eighteen year old Kiran (known as Five through much of the novel), a farmer’s son who doesn’t want to be a husband not even to a wealthy wife. However, their destinies, hopes, and dreams still intertwined in this beautifully, heartrending novel of two people who just want to be seen as people and not as their genders.
Each year a group of boys compete in various games of mind and strength to be chosen to be a husband. Sudasa has reached the age where she must take a husband, and Kiran competes because his father wants him to so that he can have a better life, but there are grander plans at work for him that are initially unknown to him. Sudasa begins to realize that the “games” are rigged, no better than what her grandmother claims happened outside the wall of their protected country.
Sudasa knows that this isn’t what she wants for her life, and she knows that, just as she feels like a prisoner, she doesn’t want to make someone her own prisoner by choosing a husband. However, no matter what Kiran thinks of Sudasa, he does see something more in her as the games go on, and Sudasa sees a kindred soul who wants to be free, a soul she wants to help free like herself. How can she do that if she chooses him to be her husband, especially when she must figure out how to run from her own destiny?
First, let me get this out the way for you YA romance lovers. This is not a romance, at least not in any conventional sort of way. There is a girl, and there is a guy. There are burgeoning feelings, but nothing that can truly be acted on in the society they live in, Besides, they’re strangers so they’re not completely sure of their feelings for each other in such a short span of time, and their feelings for each other may be more representative of what the other stands for in this fight against society. There’s no instant love here.
So, if you’re expecting a two teenagers treading through hell and hot water because they just have to be together, this is not your book. If you’re expecting some happily ever after romance tale, this is not your book. That’s not to say that this doesn’t end promising, depending on your view as the reader (and I’m an eternal optimistic, so I feel good about what I believe to happen), but if you think you’re going to get two hot teenagers shoving their tongues down each other’s throats while yelling “DOWN WITH THE AUTHORITY!”, you’re not.
And as much as I grouse about how romance is shoehorned into YA books because that’s what everyone expects, this is one I would not have minded it in because I feel it could’ve been done in a tasteful way. However, I feel it was more important that it didn’t happen as expected because there were far more important issues at play here than romance.
With that out the way, let’s talk about why I enjoyed this book. First, it was a reversal of roles with with men being seen as mostly useless if they couldn’t produce female heirs. Many are relegated to guarding the country’s walls or other more domestic or laborious tasks if they don’t win the games. However, women aren’t much better off. They have a better standing, but they’re bound to strict rules such as what foods are best for producing female heirs, whose blood will produce the most girls because this boy has many sisters.
Their country has seemed to regressed to simpler times. Cell phones and televisions are mentioned, but technology isn’t allowed inside of Koyanagat, so they aren’t aware of how India or the rest of the world actually fares. They only know what they’re told. Some of the older generation can remember cell phones and televisions, but only in memories of being young. They only know what the rulers of their societies tell them, and the society is founded on some anger for men, which isn’t completely unfounded. But anger has a way of become hatred and rage when not bridled.
The women of the society are still unhappy with their positions. They’re afforded better treatment, but most of them know that its a gilded cage for them. Still, while not exactly forced into arranged marriages, the games aren’t much better and put many men in the position to embarrass themselves in front of spectators. I thought this reversal of roles was very interesting. Often people like to believe that a society ruled by women would be a peaceful, benevolent one. For the most part this one is on the surface, but women play politics just as well as men, but with much less bloodshed and much more deception.
Kiran’s initial strategy is not to win at all because he doesn’t want a wife. He doesn’t want to be just some man who’s used for possible female heirs he can produce. He wants to go home. While I repeat, this is not a romance. His feelings for Sudasa isn’t rooted in wanting to love her and take her away. He’s almost willing to submit to free her from a cruel fate of another suitor, but at the same time, he doesn’t realize she wants the same thing for him. She wants to free him. She knows having him as her husband, he’d be kind, but she also knows that would clip his wings. She wants something better for him.
I know some may try to accuse Kiran of “white knighting” for her just based on what I’ve said, but that’s not what it is at all. They have their place. They’re playing their separate parts with as little suspicion as possible, and even they don’t know know what they intend to do to help to other or if they can be a help to one another. They don’t get a chance to discuss this. These are just wishful thoughts of idealistic teenagers who wants to do something good for someone they fee deserves it.
There’s some care there for the fate of the other, but mainly, they understand they have to make it out on their own. And if anyone is trying to be the “white knight” of this story it is definitely Sudasa. Both Sudasa and Kiran knows that life outside of Koyanagat may not be better, but they believe they’ll be allowed to be more than just a man and a woman whose only purpose is to produce female heirs. They’ll be allowed to be people, to have dreams, to live as they see fit. The ending of this story is what kind of made me get emotional because it leaves Kiran and Sudasa’s fate up to the readers.
Now, what I didn’t care for in this book is how vague everything seemed. There’s not much detail for most of the surrounding or people . Some of the clothes are described, but very simply. I would’ve loved more detail in this story. Some of the side stories that tied into the main story felt a little disjointed and out of place. I definitely see where Bodger was trying to go with some of these side stories, but they didn’t segue well into the main story. I didn’t like there’s obviously so much politicking going on behind the scenes and as I mentioned the society itself seems built on anger toward men, but we don’t really get to explore than beyond a short rant from Sudasa’s grandmother. I know a child wouldn’t know everything, but there was just something missing that I needed t make a true impact for me.
That might’ve made me give the book just a tad lower rating, but the way the story was told was just so beautiful. I couldn’t begrudge it for those things. I absolutely adored how Sudasa’s and Kiran’s chapters were told.
Sudasa’s chapters are told in free verse where you get lines like:
Have to wait my turn. Have to follow the rules. Have to smile like I agree. Have to Have to Have to Have to Choose him.
Kiran’s chapters are told in prose:
The president is not at all like the powerful icon I imagined her to be. She’s more like I remember Amma: small and delicate with a sari that dances behind her as she walks. Of course, the president is clad in white, the color that shows eternal mourning of a lost child, while Amma never wore white. She wore reds and oranges and deep greens. Colors of celebration, of happiness. Perhaps she wears white now. Now that I am dead to her.
It’s kind of ironic how their chapters are told. Sudasa’s in a clipped tone that can’t always find its words. She loves poetry, but sometimes, it just seems more like she doesn’t know what to say about her situation, about her family life, about what’s going on around her. So, she expresses it in the simplicity of verse. There’s so much beating in her heart and mind, but it’ll only come out in short, powerful phrases. Kiran, on the other hand, is a simple farmer’s son, but his chapters betray a busy, intelligent mind, as well, one that is verbose and full of ideas and hopes for his people as well himself.
Still, I wished for a little more from this book. There was so much more impact that it could’ve made, but it was still a beautiful read.
Again, a review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Children's via Netgalley. All opinions stated here are my own. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me this opportunity....more
A review copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
Sam Maggs is known around the internet for writing articles about how gA review copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
Sam Maggs is known around the internet for writing articles about how geek culture and women intersect. She’s contributed to the book Chicks Dig Gaming and sites such as The Mary Sue, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a bias toward her for being a fellow BioWare lover.
This is the her first published book dedicated to geek girls. I’ve been in fandom since the late 90s, and I’ve watched it evolved over years. I’m old, and I’ve seen many things throughout the years in the various fandoms I love(d). I dabble in everything from games to television. Much of this information wasn’t new to me for that reason, but I still found Maggs’ tone engaging and fun. This is a gentle guide for girls and women who may want to to be more active in fandom communities and meet more people who share those loves online and offline. It explains things such as how to deal with the various trolls they’ll encounter, how to protect themselves on sites even from other fans, and explain basic fandom terms to them. What’s a SuperWhoLock? Why does fandom hate Aquaman? What’s a glomp? What’s a squee? How do you deal with different types of trolls? These are questions she poses in her book along with ideas.
This book also serves as a jumping point for girls and women who may not be in fandom at all right now, but are curious and want to know different places they can start/what might interest them. This book is in no way divisive or says that one fandom is better than others. This book just grouped things together in the simplest terms that would make it easy for some who would be overwhelmed by everything fandom and wouldn’t know where to start. It gives a very general idea of fandom.
Briefly going back to the conversation I referenced earlier in this post, she also includes different levels of fandom geekiness without coming across as condescending (to me). In case you’re wondering my level is hardcore because I have at least one fandom tattoo. My first geeky tattoo (I have two, and coincidentally, the author of this book has the same tattoo) was the Spectre tattoo from the Mass Effect series, and if you’re wondering why this is so important to me, feel free to read my Tumblr post on the subject if you want to know more.
I also have a Deadpool Corp tattoo, too, but I will not continue to overwhelm you with just how much of a geek I am… today... I did appreciate little sections like that. To me, it didn’t come off as if she was saying that if you don’t have a tattoo of your fandom, then you’re no good. It was just a tongue-in-cheek assessment of how far some of us go for our fandoms.
On top of this, there are brief interviews with various notable women in the geek community such as Jamie Broadnax who runs BlackGirlNerds (who I absolutely squee’d about being featured) and Victoria Schwab, author of A Darker Shade of Magic. I wish these interviews were longer, but I was glad to see even short interviews with such a diverse group of women in geek culture. And there are fun, cute illustrations throughout to punctuate her writings.
I saw this book get some really bad reviews from other reviewers, so I was a little worried at first because it’s easy for me to fly into a geek girl rage about fandom. (Well, I’m an Aries; it’s easy for me to fly into a rage anyway.) It’s so easy for writers to write books like this and come across as being insulting. However, I found this book to be pure fluff and tongue-in-cheek that’s meant to be informative for new people and to poke fun at the same time at some of serious vets.
I guess some people were expecting some enraged geek girl manifesto as inspired by Anders (from BioWare’s Dragon Age) and nailed to the door. If you’re expecting that, this is not for you. You’re getting a kinder, gentler Anders hugging kitties direction here, and I was okay with that even as a fandom war veteran. If you want something more than that, I can’t really recommend this book for you. And I can understand wanting more from this book because there are bits that are lacking, but I’m not really the target audience other than to be support as a veteran for women and girls who may be slowly embracing this side of themselves. And I’ll totally hold your hand as you navigate fandom because, despite what anyone claims, that’s what this book encourages–camaraderie and safety because this can be a very toxic community.
This is a complete homage and love letter to the fangirl that encourages girls and women to embrace this part of themselves, even when some people would try to silence us or say that isn’t “ladylike.” Maggs shows that we are a growing force that refuses to be complacent, and no matter if you consider yourself new to fandom or an old hand, we’re in this together and we’re going to continue to change this landscape together....more
This book spans the relationship of two girls -- the wealthy Caitlin and the underprivileged Vix. This follows them from the summer of 1977 to the sumThis book spans the relationship of two girls -- the wealthy Caitlin and the underprivileged Vix. This follows them from the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1996. Cait and Vix meet in school when Cait asks Vix to accompany her to her father's house in the Vineyard. After that, Caitlin's life was never the same again. Vix is smart, observant, maybe even a little shy while Caitlin is vivacious, outgoing, and opinionated.
Most of the book is told from Vix's POV with subchapters from some of the supporting characters POV. However, Caitlin never gets a subchapter. We're left to figure her out from Vix's reactions to her and the reactions of the other characters. Caitlin gets a lot of reaction for her "don't care" attitude.
This book is about so much more than the relationship between two friends. It also focused on the complexities of relationships between women, women and men, between parents and children, etc. And then, there's the usual growing pains mixed into this story making it an excellent read.
A few things that annoyed me with this story was the contrived ending. It seemed almost as if Blume was trying to make her readers feel sorry for Caitlin. I didn't. I felt more sorry for Vix.
And another personal grievance was the way that Vix kept on forgiving even when Cait did the unthinkable. I think this irked me because I know firsthand what it's like to keep forgiving a person who keeps breaking your heart.
Other than that, loved this book. I read it in one sitting. This book made me nostalgic for some of my own friends....more
Early 20th century (1938) lesbian literature. This was a painfully beautiful novella revolving around a young woman named Morgen Tuetenberg. In the beEarly 20th century (1938) lesbian literature. This was a painfully beautiful novella revolving around a young woman named Morgen Tuetenberg. In the beginning of the story, Morgen is caring for her sick father, the renowned painter, Fritz Tuetenberg. During a walk, she meets a pianist named, Royal St. Gabriel, who falls for her at first sight. The death of Morgen's father leaves her empty, and Royal wishes to fill this emptiness, but Morgen doesn't feel truly complete until Toni enters her life.
This story dragged a little in the beginning, but not for long. This story runs a gauntlet of emotions from love to grief to indifference. With this being so short, you seem to be watching strangers. You don't have much of a chance to get too intimate for the characters. You care for them, but only in that detached way.
I think the strong point in this story was the theme of human emotion and love. I was rooting for Royal. I really liked the guy, but love is capricious and Morgen had to do what made her happy. I think she did start to love Royal, but he still wasn't what she needed to fill that void.
There really isn't too much more that could be said about this book without giving it away, so I'll just stop trying to find the right words to describe it. If you ever get hands on a copy, definitely read it. It's a touching story....more
This is the story of Ninah Huff, the granddaughter of the founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind. Say that threThis is the story of Ninah Huff, the granddaughter of the founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind. Say that three times fast. I dare ya! Basically, the people of the congregation spend their time striving to do the "Lord's good" while denying themselves earthly pleasures (No TV, very little free time, you get the picture) because they don't want to be stuck on earth when the good Lord comes back. To avoid earthly sins, the members of the church are known to inflict pain upon themselves such as sleeping on nettles or walking on pecan shells.
The story is also told from Ninah's POV. She's a young girl struggling with religion and life in general. She questions what she is being taught in her community, but at the same time, she feels ashamed and guilty of the changes going through her -- particularly her attraction to a boy named James. Despite, Ninah and James's efforts to avoid temptation and sin, the two come together in the biblical sense, and the outcome tears their little community apart.
I thought this was a very beautiful story following the trials and tribulations of not only a teenager growing up under such strict beliefs but the desires of the heart and flesh, the questioning of religious beliefs. Ninah makes such a transition in this story. She goes from a timid teenage girl to a young woman who knows her heart and believes that God's love comes from more than just pain. She finds strength when so many obstacles stood in her way. She forces a community to change, to face it's hypocrisy, and above all, Ninah finds a sense of self.
I also loved the characters in this book. They were so beautifully drawn out. You could imagine them vividly. Everyone from Ninah to Corinthian, the woman who the community considers a backsliding whore. You feel for these people. You can probably think of people who share some similar attributes. Maybe not as religious, but we all know drama-queens and people who strive to please others.
Ninah's story is so heart-wrenching, but beautifully written. I could not put this book down, and I already want to read it again. All I have to say to that is, "Whee, Jesus."...more
I gave into temptation after seeing the ads for the movie all over Goodreads. Wow, what a story. I wouldn't say this was a hard story to read, but mucI gave into temptation after seeing the ads for the movie all over Goodreads. Wow, what a story. I wouldn't say this was a hard story to read, but much of it is dreary. This book takes place during a time when women were only seen as vestibules to bear children--particularly sons. Other than that, their lives were "worthless," and they were often viewed as another mouth to feed for their husbands' families.
Living life under strict patriarchal codes, women were not allowed to air their grievances. They were encouraged to accept their lot in life and believe that everything that happened to them was their own doing, something they deserves. They were taught that they only achieved perfection through pain. However, these woman created a secret language used to convey their true feelings to one another.
This books follows the journey of two women whose spent their lives as loatongs (old sames)--women paired together to be the emotional pillars to each other that their husbands could not be for them. Their history together is painful, and their relationship poignantly illustrates the ever shifting face of female relationships.
Women, and our relationships with one another, are such complicated things. Even though this story takes place during a time long before women had many rights, some things remain true. Some of the same tricks they used then, we use now. We still share so many of the same fears, hopes, aspirations, etc. These things still affect us no matter our races, geographical locations, social statuses. Beautiful story....more