Classics · Review · Science Fiction

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

After the president and Congress were executed, a religious group took over what was left of the United States, renaming it the Republic of Gilead. Women are forbidden from reading and must wear the (conservative) dress that signifies their class. They no longer own property and must travel in pairs or with assigned Guardians. The only value in a woman is her ovaries. Handmaids exist only to bear children for their assigned Commanders and their barren Wives. Offred, the narrator of this tale, is a Handmaid who has grown used to the system but is disgruntled with it.

Graphic Novel · Modern Fantasy · Review

One Thousand and One Nights Vol. 1 by Jeon Jin-Seok and Han Seung-Hee

In a retelling of the famous One Thousand and One Nights, Jeon Jin-Seok and Han Seung-Hee reimagine it with new characters and stories from around the world. The Shahrazad of this story is a guy who disguised himself as a woman to save his sister from execution, post-consummation. With his life on the line, what stories will Sehara tell the king?

Modern Fantasy · Review · Young Adult

Spinner of Secrets by Annie Louise Twitchell | eARC Review

I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review. In this retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, an abused miller’s daughter is sold to the king for her alleged ability to spin straw into gold. She is to be married to the prince if her gold-making skills are proven to be true. In the process, she starts to fall in love with prince and tries to work out how she will accomplish the impossible task of making straw into gold.

Contemporary Realistic Fiction · Review · Young Adult

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley Cavanaugh, the child of a conservative congressman, is gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and some days as a girl. Now Riley is starting over at a public school and dealing with the congressman’s campaign. A therapist recommends Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent, and Riley creates one under the name Alix. The blog goes viral. Alix/Riley will have to make a decision: abandon the blog or come out and risk everything. Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin, describes one experience of being gender fluid and shows.

Historical Fiction · Modern Fantasy · Review

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

The Fairy Tale Series was created by Terri Windling with the intent of growing a collection of original fairy tale retellings. Patricia C. Wrede joined the series with Snow White and Rose Red. The two daughters of the Widow Arden, Rosamund and Blanche, obey their mother and gather herbs to help them survive in their Elizabethan English town. The widow does all she can to prevent rumors of witchcraft from spreading to them. Two princes of Faerie, both half-mortal, catch up when the elder returns from the mortal realm, but their meeting is broken up by two mortal sorcerers who steal the younger’s magic, transforming the prince into a bear. The bear wanders to the widow’s house. Can the girls and the older brother save the bear from the spell? Snow White and Rose Red tells the tale again with teen girls and the presence of the brother through the whole story.

Modern Fantasy · Review · Young Adult

Ash by Malinda Lo

In a world where fairy presence is disappearing and skepticism about fairies sweep the land, the old ways are kept only in villages close to the Wood where fairy tales are reality. In the wake of her parents’ deaths, Ash becomes her cruel stepmother’s maid in the Royal City. Only her mother’s fairy tales and her dreams of fairies stealing her away give her joy. When she meets a fairy, she thinks her dreams will come true. Then she meets the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, and she starts to fall in love with the huntress.

Classics · Review

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Carrie Meeber, a young woman from Wisconsin, moves to Chicago in the 19th Century in hopes of finding work and becoming successful in whatever she does. When she finally gets to her sister’s, she has trouble finding and keeping work as an inexperienced worker. She meets a dandy traveling salesman on the train who helps her find her way in Chicago—for a price. What ensues is materialism, love affairs, and a fight for survival. Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser, is a critique on capitalism and a spectacle of power and industry.

Contemporary Realistic Fiction · Graphic Novel · Review

Wandering Son, Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako

At the threshold of puberty, two fifth graders, Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki, live with loving families and are well-liked by their classmates, but they share a secret. Nitori is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. As they try to figure out their gender identities and places in the world, they have to deal with their peers’ reactions. Wandering Son, Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako is a coming-of-age manga about two transgender kids and the exploration of gender.

Historical Fiction · Review

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

In 1962, The Sisters of the Holy Redemption holds one of the Magdalen Laundries, the workhouses of “fallen” women (unwed mothers, prostitutes, etc.), in Dublin. Most of the girls sinned by being too pretty, being too independent, or tempting a man. Teagan Tiernan and Nora Craven are sent to the convent for “tempting” a priest and for kissing a boy. They are renamed, given uniforms, have their hair cropped, denied contact with the outside world, and set to work in the laundry. They befriend each other and the nuns’ favorite Magdalen, Lea, and they plot escape.

Classics · Review

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

A Bostonian woman, the unnamed narrator, moves to Dunnet, Maine, a small coastal town. Mrs. Almira Todd, her landlord, keeps her company and invites her into the town and its history. The narrator rents a schoolhouse so she can focus on writing her novel and interviews some major figures in the town. Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed First introduces a small town in Maine from the outsider’s perspective in chapters that are like short stories.