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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



"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.




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.





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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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review 2020-06-08 01:31
The Traitor
The Traitor - Grace Burrowes

Sebastian (known as Girard at the chateau) was the villain in the previous book. Towards the end of The Captive, Sebastian was humanized, but I was curious if he would become a likable character. While in France, through no fault of his own, he was trapped when war broke out and did what he could do to survive. More is revealed in this book regarding his efforts to save the captured British troops under his care. And the help he had.
Millicent (Milly) was a poor relation thrown into an engagement not of her choosing. With her elderly aunts she comes up with a plan to avoid said engagement. That plan was, to go into service as a companion. She become the companion to Sebastian's aunt Freddy.
This was a wonderful slow burn romance. I could get behind the romance. Sebastian I could understand. I loved how they talked to each other. There was no big misunderstanding. I really liked Aunt Freddy, Micheal Brodie (whose story is next). Brodie's "mission" is revealed in this one.
My only complaint was Henri Anduvoir. The villain got his off the page and I wanted more regarding his punishment. I think he got off too easily.

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review 2020-05-22 01:47
DC Smith Investigates an(other) Unexpected Killing
But for the Grace - Peter Grainger,Gildart Jackson

When I talked about <a href="https://wp.me/p3z9AH-4vh" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the first installment in this series last year</a>, I said, "There's something about this one that got under my skin more than a typical procedural does—it's maybe DC Smith, it's maybe Grainger's style (there's a lot of subtle humor in a dark text)—it's a Gestalt thing, I think. I really dug it." I'm tempted to leave this at that, too. But that's giving this short shrift.


There are three main stories—the least interesting to me (at present, but it keeps coming up, so I expect that it'll be of vital importance and interest at some point) is the "big case" that defined Smith's career. There's a True Crime writer who wants to revisit the case with DC's help. There's a couple of good moments revolving this, but I'm not (yet) seeing the appeal.


The more interesting thread centers on DC Smith's future. Smith's old partner, and father of the newly-minted detective Smith's training, owns a private security firm and wants him to come aboard in a senior position. At the same time, there's an opportunity that many are urging Smith to take in a regional criminal investigation task force. But Smith's inclination is to stick with his current duty—but he's tempted by both over the course of the novel.


But the focus for the book is a death in a retirement home that's identified as suspicious. Smith and his team start investigating this pretty colorful home. The characters—staff and residents—are well-drawn, colorful and the kind of characters you want to spend time with. The case goes pretty much how you'd expect (motive, culprit, and resolution), but there are a couple of twists that keep the reader/listener on their toes. Watching Smith and his colleagues pursue the killer is the joy in this. The pleasure is in the journey, not just the destination here.


Once again, Jackson weaves a spell with his narration—he sucked me in once again. A perfect combination of narrator and text.


A solid follow-up novel, that also provides plenty of incentive to move on to the rest. This is a series you should jump into—in print or audio.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/05/21/but-for-the-grace-audiobook-by-peter-grainger-gildart-jackson-dc-smith-investigates-another-unexpected-killing
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