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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-07-09 07:24
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
The Grace Year - Kim Liggett

TITLE: The Grace Year

 

AUTHOR:  Kim Liggett

___________________________

DESCRIPTION:

"No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.
"

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REVIEW:

 

I enjoyed this book and it was a fast read, but something was off.  Maybe it was the incomplete world building (we never find out how they end up in this situation and there are fast jumps in time where we never find out what happened), or the limited character development and flat secondary characters, or the romance (I didn't find it convincing) or the fact that there is no way this little society can survive with this many woman disappearing from the gene pool in one way or another on an annual basis (unless they breed like rabbits and no one dies from anything else like child birth or disease).  Some of the emotions were intense, the writing was evocative,  and the cult-like aspect of what's going on is not that far off from what sometimes happens in real life.  I loved the flower language - I haven't come across that in decades. The story concept was interesting, but the execution fell a bit flat.  I suspect this will be more to the liking of the teenage girl market than it was to me.

 

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review 2020-06-29 12:25
'The Grace Year' by Kim Liggett - Highly Recommended
The Grace Year - Kim Liggett

One of the best books I've read this year.

A dystopian novel that manages to be both a deeply thought-through vivisection of what patriarchies do to women to keep them powerless and an action-packed, character-driven thriller filled with intense emotions.

 
 

'The Grace Year' is a high impact 'I have to tell EVERYONE to read this' book. You don't just read 'The Grace Year', you experience it and the experience changes you and you want to talk about it but the only people who will get what you're saying are the ones who've read the book. So feel free to stop here, read 'The Grace Year', give yourself a day or two to recover and then come back and read the rest of the review.

The opening of the 'The Grace Year' is irresistible:

 

'No one speaks of The Grace Year. It's forbidden. We're told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds and make the wives mad with jealousy. They believe our very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That's why we're banished for our sixteenth year, to release our magic into the wild before we are allowed to return to civilisation.

 

But I don't feel powerful. I don't feel magical.

 

Speaking of The Grace Year is forbidden but it hasn't stopped me from searching for clues. A slip of the tongue between lovers in the meadow. A frightening bedtime story that doesn't feel like a story at all. Knowing glances nestled in the frosty hollows between pleasantries of the women at the market.

 

But they give away nothing.

 

The truth about The Grace Year, what happens during that shadow year, is hidden away in the tiny slivers of filament hovering around them when they think no-one's watching. But I'm always watching. The slip of a shawl, scarred shoulders bared under a harvest moon, haunted fingertips skimming the pond watching the ripples fade to black, their eyes a million miles away. In wonderment? In horror?

 

I used to think that was my magic, having the power to see things others couldn't, things they didn't even want to admit to themselves. but all you have to do is open your eyes. My eyes are wide open.'

This is an invitation to all of us to open our eyes and see the things we don't want to admit to.

 

This opening left me really wanting to know what The Grace Year was and why it is and if she survives it. I loved the intimate, introspective tone of the Tierney, the narrator. She sounds like someone I'd like to get to know, and of course, I'm intrigued by the content which suggests a thriller and not just ideological symbolism.

 

As soon as I started reading the main body of the text, the tone changed, becoming more personal, more focused on threat and response and much more emotionally intense.

 

The first half of the book, which does the initial world-building and describes the first few months the girls spend in their Grace Year was so thick with fear, rage, spite and betrayal that it was emotionally exhausting to read. The patriarchal cage these women are raised in is wrought in a fine filigree of taboos, violence, public shame and private unvoiced rage but it's as nothing compared to what the women are willing to do to each other when they're alone in their Grace Year.

 

'The Grace Year' is wonderfully written but I found myself reading it in shorter slices than usual because I find the tension hard to take. Kim Liggett is superb at creating a sense of a growing, unnamed but unavoidable dread. 

 

You know that many of the girls on the Grace Year are doomed. You may even be able to guess at the form that the doom will take but that misses the point. That suggests that rationality and analysis and pragmatic compromise could hold the doom back but, as you share the world the girls live in, you know that isn't true because that kind of thinking doesn't take magic into account.

 

The girls have been raised to believe that they will come into their magic at sixteen and that the purpose of the Grace Year is to purge that magic, so they're waiting for it, hoping for it and fearing it at the same time.

 

One of the ways that Kim Liggett makes the tension and the dread so palpable, so hard to bear, is that she focuses on the power of belief. Magic is always based on belief. Faith has power at least in as far as those who have it see the world differently, act differently and judge themselves and others differently. 

 

When the belief is in something benign - treat others as you would want to be treated- all life is precious - then the consequences are more likely to be benign (although the 'all life is precious' can still lead to bombing abortion clinics and 'treat others as you'd like to be treated' can still sustain a regime of unrecognised privilege and make us blind to difference).

 

When the belief is based on the release of a wildness that needs to be purged and that cannot be controlled then the consequence is likely to be violence, the unleashing of hate and fear and the abrogation of individual and collective responsibility. You know that, when the magic ebbs, all that will be left are shame, guilt and stubborn denial.

 

Kim Liggett never articulates this. There are no long passages of ethical discussion. She's the ultimate in 'show, don't tell' and what she's showing feels so real that it's very hard to watch.

 

In the second half of the book, Kim Leggit changes the pace. I won't share the plot details except to say that what happens next goes beyond and comparison to 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Lord Of The Flies' (Ligett has quotations from both prefacing the book) and goes back to the idea of Tierney having her eyes wide open. What she sees over the remainder of her Grace Year changes everything: what she wants, how she sees the other girls and fuels her rage at and contempt for the men who placed them all in this situation.

 

The ending is... well, I was on the edge of my seat, desperate to know what the ending was. The short answer is 'very satisfactory'. It has the punch of a thriller with a brilliant denouement but it also has a deeper level of thought that gives an insight into how women, stripped of overt power, will still work together to nurture hope and find limited freedom through subversion.

 

Nothing is simple in 'The Grace Year'. It's not painted in primary colours. It's immersive and complex and feels very very real.

 

I listened to the audiobook version and was deeply impressed by Emily Shaffer's narration. She took Kim Liggett's text and delivered the emotion, the drama and the nuanced thought perfectly. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

 

 

And after that, go read the book and then tell everyone about it.

 

https://soundcloud.com/macaudio-2/the-grace-year-by-kim-ligget-audiobook-excerpt

 
 

 

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text 2020-06-26 01:21
Short and Sweet Summertime Reading Master Tracker - First Month Update
Because He's Perfect: Anthology for the Movember Foundation - Danielle Dickson,Anna Blakely,Ally Vance,Alice La Roux,Renee Harless,Sienna Grant,Claire Marta,Lexi C. Foss,Tracie Delaney,Dani René,K. L. Humphreys,Elle Boon,Carrie Ann Ryan,Victoria James,Samantha Lewis,Lexxie Couper,Anne Joseph,Victoria-Maria MacDonal
Once Upon a Wedding: A Fiction From the Heart Second Chances Anthology - Priscilla Oliveras,Jamie Beck,Falguni Kothari,Sonali Dev,Sally Kilpatrick,Tracy Brogan,K.M. Jackson,Hope Ramsay,Barbara Samuel,Donna Kauffman
No Dukes Allowed - Grace Burrowes,Anna Harrington,Kelly Bowen
This Wedding is Doomed! - Stephanie Draven,Jeannie Lin,Shawntelle Madison,Amanda Berry
Hearts Entwined (Ladies of Harper’s Station #2.5) - Mary Connealy,Karen Witemeyer,Regina Jennings,Melissa Jagears
Love By the Letters: A Regency Novella Trio - Kelly Bowen,Vanessa Riley,Grace Burrowes
The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations - Karen Witemeyer,Becky Wade,Sarah Loudin Thomas,Kristi Ann Hunter
Serving Up Love: A Harvey House Brides Collection - Tracie Peterson,Karen Witemeyer,Jen Turano,Regina Jennings

Update #1 (June 25, 2020)

9 novellas read (about 25% of total novellas)

1 anthology finished

1 anthology DNF; read 2 out of 11 stories (18%)

 

I feel like I should be further ahead than I am. I am going to read more from my NOOK. No need for random number generator since the BL-opoly game is doing the job. 

**********************************************************************************************

Original Post

I decided that my summer reading project was to read anthologies and novellas/shorter works (150 pages or less) off my NOOK and Kindle. Short and sweet is the theme for this year, as I wanted space to read longer works at my leisure without feeling unproductive. Also, I want to have short works ready to read so I can structure my days around reading and other hobbies, errands, and such and not the news or social media (BL exception, of course) - I really need to get off my phone more, that screen time tracker is not good for my health.

 

Dates for this reading project: May 25th (Memorial Day) to Labor Day (Sep 7th) - 106 days. I am aiming for one story from an anthology or novella per day, with the goal of averaging about 100 pages per day. I put a few winter holiday ones on the list for a Christmas-in-July reading week. To kick off the project, I will be starting the longest anthology and use Random Number Generator to pick a novella. After that I will use RNG or go by mood - probably the second method most of the time.

 

Anthologies

1. No Dukes Allowed by Various Authors 0/3 stories read

2. This Wedding is Doomed! by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

3. Hearts Entwined by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

4. Once Upon a Wedding by Various Authors 2/11 stories read; DNF the rest.

5. Because He's Perfect by Various Authors 20/20 stories read - FINISHED!

6. Love by the Letters by Various Authors 0/3 stories read - Currently reading

7. The Christmas Heirlooms by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

8. Serving Up Love by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

 

Novellas

Nook:

1. Changing Leaves by Edie Bryant

2. The Cost of Hope (The Cost of Love #1) by G.S. Carr

3. Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove #1.5) by Tessa Dare

4. A New Life (West Meets East #1) by Merry Farmer Done!

5. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

6. Hollywood Holiday (Hollywood Headlines #2.5) by Gemma Halliday Done!

7. Out of the Storm (Beacon of Hope #0.5) by Jody Hedlund

8. A Lady of Esteem (Hawthorne House #0.5) by Kristi Ann Hunter

9. A Search for Refuge (Haven Manor #0.5) by Kristi Ann Hunter Done!

10. Love by the Letter (Unexpected Brides #0.5) by Melissa Jagears

11. Love on the Prairie (McKinnie Mail Order Brides #1) by Ciara Knight

12. Love in the Rockies (McKinnie Mail Order Brides #2) by Ciara Knight

13. Mrs. Sartin's Secretary (Lords of Chance #2.5) by Wendy LaCapra

14. That Healing Touch (Cutter's Creek #1) by Kit Morgan

15. The Christmas Mail Order Bride by Kit Morgan

16. What Lies Behind Us (World War II Sisters) by Sierra Rose

17. A Little Light Mischief (The Turner Series #3.5) by Cat Sebastian

18. Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club #0.5) by Joanna Shupe

19. A Hero's Promise (Culpepper's Ring Novella) by Roseanna M. White

20. Fairchild's Lady (Culpepper's Ring Novella) by Roseanna M. White

21. Mail Order Cowboy (Gold Valley #1.5) by Maisey Yates

22. Hometown Heartbreaker (Copper Ridge #3.5) by Maisey Yates

23. Claim Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge #4) by Maisey Yates

 

Kindle:

24. Proper English (England #0) by KJ Charles Done!

25. Dance All Night (Dance Off #2.5) by Alexa Daria Done!

26. Willow: Bride of Pennsylvania by Merry Farmer

27. Engaging the Competition (With This Ring? Novella) by Melissa Jagears

28. Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure (Worth Saga #2.75) by Courtney Milan Done!

29. Dueling the Desperado (Brides of Blessings #4) by Mimi Milan Done!

30. Where Snowy Owl Sleeps (Brides of Blessings #9) by Mimi Milan Done!

31. Birth of the Butterfly (Brides of Blessings #11) by Mimi Milan Done!

32. Miracle on Ladies' Mile by Joanna Shupe

33. After a Fashion (A Class of Their Own #0.5) by Jen Turano

34. The Husband Maneuver (A Worthy Pursuit #0.5) by Karen Witemeyer

35. Worth the Wait (Ladies of Harper's Station Novella) by Karen Witemeyer

 

 

 

 

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text 2020-06-19 20:16
#FridayReads - June 19, 2020
Birth of the Butterfly - Mimi Milan
Proper English - K.J. Charles
The A.I. Who Loved Me - Alyssa Cole
New Year, Same Trash: Resolutions I Absolutely Did Not Keep (A Vintage Short Original) - Samantha Irby
Once Upon a Wedding: A Fiction From the Heart Second Chances Anthology - Priscilla Oliveras,Jamie Beck,Falguni Kothari,Sonali Dev,Sally Kilpatrick,Tracy Brogan,K.M. Jackson,Hope Ramsay,Barbara Samuel,Donna Kauffman
Love By the Letters: A Regency Novella Trio - Kelly Bowen,Vanessa Riley,Grace Burrowes
Beneath a Ruthless Sun - Gilbert King
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy - Carol Anderson Ph.D.,Dick Durbin

It's Juneteenth, the day the last enslaved person was told the war was over and they were free. Yesterday, I attended (via Zoom) a panel discussion organized by Next Gen Climate Action Committee, a political action group my friend works for, on Celebrating Juneteenth and Ensuring Black Voices in Progressive Spaces. It was a great discussion and I am glad my friend invited me, considering I live in Kansas and the group works in VA on VA matters/policies. Rep Don Scott really spoke to my head and heart and he was on for just a few minutes. 

 

It's rainy and much cooler here, so no poolside reading today. I've got a beef soup simmering in the slow cooker for dinner; just have to whip up some cornbread to go with it and I am good to go. Spending the day reading and tonight I am going to watch Soledad O'Brien's documentary on the early days of COVID-19 in the US (it is airing on Hearst stations, so I am hoping to catch it streaming online).

 

Tomorrow is Litha/Summer Solstice and I have plans: including a hamburger picnic (using a plant-based "ground beef") and making Lemon-Ginger-Raspberry Zinger sun tea, while reading in the sunshine. Sunday is Father's Day, so I making a special easy breakfast for the hubby to enjoy, followed by pool time and a nice dinner. 

 

I'm finishing up Birth of the Butterfly for BL-opoly, then taking the weekend off from the game; right after that I want to knock out finally Proper English by KJ Charles. For COYER #BLM RAT, I am reading The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole and New Year, Same Trash by Samantha Irby. That's my weekend. 

 

Next week I will be working my way through Beneath a Ruthless Sun and One Person, No Vote for the library's adult SRP prompts. I swapped out Once Upon a Wedding anthology (that first story is a slog and I am still not done with it) with Love by the Letters anthology which I should get done by the end of the week (it is only 3 stories). I might just skip to the Sonali Dev's and Pricilla Oliveras' stories in the Wedding anthology and call it good - those were the reasons for picking up the anthology in the first place. And then whatever the BL game goddesses decide for me to read. 

 

Happy Juneteenth! Happy Father's Day! Happy Reading!

 

 

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review 2020-06-19 00:12
I Am Enough - Grace Byers,Keturah A Bobo

For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

A sweet, lyrical book with a heartfelt message. The illustrations are a nice balance of simplistic background with more detailed characters. It was fun to see the different situations play out in the pictures such as swinging, racing, reading, etc.

The narration is also simple, going through poetic statements that follow the same form such as, "Like a champ, I'm here to fight. Like the heart, I'm here to love." Throughout the book, a variety of actions and characters are presented and there is an emphasis on not letting differences define one's worth.

An important message told in a lovely way. A beautiful book.

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