The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year (Kim Liggett) is set in a society where young girls are thought to hold bewitching magic which is the source for men’s lust and drives the older women to jealousy. At 16, the girls are sent away to fend for themselves and live in isolation from the rest of society in a remote camp in the wilderness for a whole year. This is known as the Grace Year, and is the period in which they must embrace and use up their seductive magic and then return home to become obedient women and know their place in the social hierarchy. The “lucky” ones go on to arranged marriages, whilst the others are assigned work. Escape is not an option, as if you do not return from your Grace Year, even if you were to die and your body is unaccounted for, then your family suffers in return. Does this sound bleak? Throw in the fact that poachers lurk beyond the camp, waiting to capture and kill the girls to sell their body parts on the black market, and it becomes frightening. This year it is Tierney’s turn.

The story follows her fight for survival; survival in both the landscape and survival among her own peers. Some reviews I had read liken The Grace Yearas a cross between The Hunger Games and Lord of The Flies mixed with The Handmaid’s Tale, and I can definitely agree with them.

I finished this book a few days ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind! It’s raised many questions and thoughts, and I think this book would be a great pick for a book group and there would be lots to discuss. This is because there are many choices Tierney has to make, and the reader may not always agree with all of them. What one reader may have wanted for her, another may disagree.

What made the book unique to some others that I’ve read recently is the use of symbolism and the language of flowers. This is used a lot through the book and a careful reader would be able to pick up on some clever foreshadowing. That is not to say that there weren’t any twists, I thought there were so many twists! Particularly in the last third of the book when I thought I’d figured something out, I hadn’t. I was kept on the edge of my seat by the end. I also found it was a lot more graphic than I was expecting. For a book some would label as YA, it doesn’t hold back on the gore.

I liked Kim’s writing style in The Grace Year and the first person perspective makes it easy to follow and know what Tierney is feeling. The description is done to build a picture in your mind and you can imagine all the settings and place yourself there. The description is not overdone though and the story keeps flowing. Once you are past the introduction and the Grace Year is underway is when the book gets really good. The writing manages to evoke a feeling of tension in the right places. Although there are times when it slows, I didn’t feel like the plot went off course at any point. There are a few time jumps though which some readers may not like and wish for more explanation, but as the story takes place across a year it is necessary to have these gaps.

The book explores a women’s role in society and the patriarchy. There is definitely a feminist feel to the story, and it is about girls and their choices (and the choices made for them) The Grace Year divides the girls when it should bring them together, and that’s what I feel the author was trying to do through Tierney. Does she do what’s right for herself or does she do what’s right for the group? When is ok to lie? At what point do you tell the truth? The ending was very thought-provoking for me although this is hard to discuss whilst remaining spoiler free!

I liked The Grace Year so much because I think it had most things I like in books. It had characters to root for, a surprise love interest, a touch of the unknown and mysterious, and an ending that left me thinking, but not wanting. The particular bits I loved most would give away plot points so I guess you’ll have to read it and discover them for yourself!
I would recommend this to fans of The Hunger Games, but I would also think anyone who enjoys a bit of rebellion and girl power would enjoy it. I would like any feminist to pick it up, as their opinion on Tierney’s choices and how other characters behaved may well differ to mine, but I think that’s the beauty of The Grace Year. It stays with you, makes you think and would start a great discussion.

NetGalley provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. This book will be published in Autumn 2019.

The Hunger Games Playlist

I feel it’s only right I share my playlist that I made for The Nerd Daily after the great news today that there is to be another Hunger Games book!

It’s going to be released in May 2020 and is a prequel set in the 10th year of the games.

The story, its themes, and the messages are still relevant today – so hopefully this music gets us all fired up again!

https://www.thenerddaily.com/playlist-the-hunger-games-suzanne-collins/

And I may even re read the books yet again!

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

I love a good stand alone novel, and Lauren Oliver does some of the best, so I picked up Broken Things pretty much straight away. I think she writes characters really well, you get to see inside their heads, and no one is ever perfect. Broken Things focuses on Bryn and Mia, two former friends who were accused of the murder of their friend Summer back when they were thirteen years old. It was said to be a childhood game gone wrong but the girls claim they are not to blame.
The story centres around a book they were writing together – a fan fiction sequel to Summer’s favourite book; The Way Into Lovelorn. In orders to move on from the past, it becomes necessary to revisit Lovelorn again in the present.

As Broken Things is told from the point of view of both Bryn and Mia, it covers a wide range of issues. It touches on depression and hoarding as a condition that is out of control and how it effects those around them. There is also some focus on anxiety and finding your voice. Luckily though there are also the positives in recovery.

For me, I enjoy seeing more LGBTQ characters in books. One character is a lesbian, and one character is bisexual. Both the words bisexual and lesbian are used in the book which is good to see on paper. Be warned though, the book also has derogatory slurs mentioned towards a character.

One criticism I do have is the age of the characters in the “then” parts. They are recently turned thirteen year old girls. The language used is slightly disturbing, along with some things that they got up to. Discussing sex, messing around with older boys, the use of the word “pussy” is something my friends and I would never have been doing when we were thirteen. However, I guess everyone is different, but I would have found the story more realistic if they were even just a year older.

Overall this was a good mystery but don’t expect it to be a fast paced one. I enjoy Lauren Oliver’s writing style and her honest, real portrayal of people the most. Expect to be a little bit uncomfortable.

Trigger warnings for animal abuse, and general violence.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand Review

I can’t really decide what this book wants to be, but in a way, that’s good because it could appeal to all sorts of readers. I’d recommend it to those that don’t have a particular favourite genre and that like a bit of everything. It’s marketed as a YA thriller which is fitting enough, but there is also a horror vibe, and supernatural, and even mythical and fantasy tones to it. It doesn’t take the route I expected it to take from reading the blurb.

In short, the plot of Sawkill Girls is about 3 girls on the island of Sawkill Rock; Marion, Zoey, and Val. Girls are disappearing at an increasing rate, Zoey’s best friend Thora was one of them, and Marion’s sister is next. The story sees the unlikely trio having to work together to find the source of evil that has taken root in Sawkill and stop it before it’s too late.

The book is definitely creepy, and there are plenty of dark and uncomfortable moments and lots of blood. Major trigger warnings for abuse (family abuse, abuse of power, sexual abuse)

A good thing is Sawkill Girls wins points for girl power and diversity. There’s girls forming friendships, girls being brave, girls helping each other, and standing up for themselves. There is more than one character of colour, a steamy f/f sex scene, and good asexual representation. The word asexual is mentioned on page which is a great step in the right direction for YA books.

One thing I do take an issue with is the attitude towards men. Sawkill Girls features the kind of feminism that is built on hating men, which I guess isn’t really feminism at all. The agenda seems pretty forced at times and does the book no favours. For example here are some of the comments in Sawkill Girls;

“Screw that book, it was written by men”

“I feel sort of weird doing this. Like I’m some sort of asshole professor mansplaining the situation to you.” (From a male character after actually being asked to explain something)

“Can I once again apologise on behalf of men everywhere? Because we can really fucking suck sometimes?”

“Sometimes?”

“Most of the time.”

“Marion couldn’t imagine a God like the one she’d grown up hearing about – some man sitting in the clouds, maneuvering the pieces of the world to suit his whims because he, of course, knows best.”

Overall I couldn’t love this book. I liked it, but not as much as I really wanted to. The story was unique but there was only really one character (Zoey) that I felt anything for, and I couldn’t engage with the writing enough because in parts I felt like it dragged. Unpopular opinion but I felt it tried too hard, however, I did like the mystery, the setting, and the diverse characters.

Foxhole Court music

Can’t believe it’s been a year since I read The Foxhole Court for the first time. This one took me by complete surprise. It’s tense, funny, violent, and a bit odd. But it has everything I love, great characters, angst, people you love to hate, team spirit, and found families.
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Thanks to this book I have a popular book playlist on Spotify with over 200 subscribers and that has never happened before 😍 (here is the link!)https://open.spotify.com/user/sarahtime/playlist/6j1y9Gd60G0D7xQbZQmmDa?si=xhKwoyRgS3yf6Wz6sVFJVA

If you don’t have Spotify you can find the songs on my blog, or leave a comment!
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I’ve also met some great people on Instagram because of this book, and it’s many memes 😂.
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Long live The Foxhole Court! This is the moment you stop being the rabbit ❤️

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)

I still find it difficult to write about The Raven King even though I finished it nearly a month ago. The very first time I read it years ago, I was almost at the end and my boyfriend came home to find me sat up in bed panicking and nearly in tears. That’s a dramatic ending for you! Though the series can seem slow at times (although a good slow) , the last third of The Raven King really ramps it up. So much happens, it’s almost a shame the book isn’t longer.

Maggie took a risk introducing a couple of new characters in the final book in a series, and although some reviews I’ve read show that not everyone thought this worked, it worked for me. It all links up and comes together well, it is called The Raven CYCLE after all right?

In the first book there is a sense of wonder and “it’s starting” and in The Raven King I found there was an ever present sense of urgency and “time is running out”. It’s time for Gansey to find his King, it’s time for Ronan and Adam to save Cabeswater, it’s time for Blue to find out about her Father, times almost up for Noah, and it’s time for Henry Cheng to enter the fray.

There are so many adorable moments and scenes in this book. Some are heartwarming, but some hurt. Some parts are trippy and creepy, but some parts are funny and the banter is still there. My only criticism is that I wished Mr Gray and Noah got better endings.

Reading this properly a second time felt very personal. I’d never realised how anxious Gansey was, and how Henry found it difficult to express himself in the right words. This series speaks to me on such a deep level. I know I’m going to read it over and over again.
I’ve yet to find another book that will make me root for a magical forest. I’ve yet to find another description of such a perfect kiss. I’ve yet to read a book that uses the phrases “fuckweasel” and “murder squash song“. The Raven King is full of madness and magic but having read the three books before it, you roll with it and you embrace it.

Cabeswater, my boys, and Blue.. We will meet again, sooner than you might think.