Friday, October 4, 2019

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Optioned by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be a major motion picture!

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

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, 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 their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their 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.

Add to Goodreads –

Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Spoiler-Free review.

There are times where I’ll add a disclaimer to my review, stating how I’m not sure how to review the novel. Added to this issue, I wish to maintain a spoiler-free review, simply because I went into it blindly and found a higher entertainment value due to it.

When I see the tagline of a novel featuring the titles of novels by other authors, I tend to steer clear, my ethics getting rubbed raw. It’s just a personal pet-peeve of mine, how you’re not to compare yourself to others. But in this case, I tend to agree. It’s helpful for readers to know that The Grace Year is an amalgamation of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies.

As a feminist, this novel was beyond difficult to read without being filled with rage. However, as a feminist, this novel had a spark of hope at the ending, where women were empowered instead of subjugated.

Set during an indiscriminate era, in a world built around the false belief systems of religion, where men are the voice of God and women are reduced to nothing but the harbingers of sin, all to keep the men in power and the women under their constant control.

Every year, the mature girls (I believe it was sixteen years of age), an entire grouping of girls are segregated, some chosen to become wives, whereas others are chosen to become workers or outcast for the males’ pleasure. These girls are coming into their magic (the ability to have a voice, see logic, and notice how everything isn’t as it seems). They are sent off to endure their grace year (to break them into their role of subservience).

What happens during the grace year is tragic, heinous, gut-wrenching, and beyond difficult to read. It’s a mix of environmental factors and mental suggestion, along with actual evil human beings. The girls aren’t thought as human beings, but ITs, evil creatures who need to expel their magic.

What I struggled so hard with the world building, not so much how twisted and intriguing I found it… the mothers and fathers sent their daughters there, a choice made for offspring in their care. What monsters they truly would be, to send your own child to certain death to satisfy a perverse need to be in control. The outcast women of that age group weren’t subjected to the grace year, so how come the Poachers didn’t cull their own mothers and sisters for never releasing their magic? As children were born outside the Country. The Poachers not seeing these young women as humans, so why did they see their own sisters as humans? Why did only the girls from town have magic?

Another hard facet to digest is how God-fearing people had no issue murdering without a second thought, as long as it suited their own needs. The need for power. The need to balance the genders, so there would be more men than women.

Absolutely fascinating and equally frustrating, I read The Grace Year in a single sitting, unable to put it down. Equally feeling compassion for the girls, while also loathing how weak the majority were for believing the lies, never questioning the conditioning, never standing up for themselves (at their encampment).

The novel itself proves how we women are our own worst enemies, the internalized misogyny running so deep we don’t recognize it. We may not be separated by the males in this day and age, but our judgments, vocal admonishments, and jealous hostility toward our sisters is what keeps us from banning together in solidarity. Our sick need for male validation, as if our fellow women are our competition. This mindset making it possible to be subjugated by the very ones we all so desperately need to validate us.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to on-scene violence and fade-to-black sexual situations.

Kim Liggett, originally from the rural Midwest, moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She's the author of Blood and Salt, Heart of Ash, The Last Harvest (Bram Stoker Award Winner), The Unfortunates, and The Grace Year. Kim spends her free time studying tarot and scouring Manhattan for rare vials of perfume and the perfect egg-white cocktail.

Connect with Kim

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Grace Year by Kim Liggett to read and review.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Cranberry Boys by Scudder James Jr.

Is it possible to have it all—even for a boy from a dying town of old cranberry bogs? Even for the son of religious zealots who will never accept his being gay? Even if his closeted boyfriend will never acknowledge their relationship and dates girls to distract people?

Sixteen-year-old cross-country runner Zeph hopes so, because he isn’t giving up on his happily ever after. He has big plans for life after high school and for his relationship with Connor… even if Connor insists they keep it secret.

Then Bronson, an old friend of Zeph’s, returns to Watermarsh after being kicked out of boarding school with secrets of his own in tow. But they keep their eyes on the prize and start a blog to impress colleges who often dismiss small-town students like them.

But not even Zeph can run from everything as his home life implodes and the love triangle he’s stuck in with Bronson and Connor begins to crumble. He’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to hope—even if it means a covert trip to Bronson’s old prep school.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Harmony Ink at Dreamspinner Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

When we first meet Zeph (great name), his life seems pretty good. His best friend Connor is his secret boyfriend, he is on the track team, he is well liked, he has solid parents (even if they are religious zealots), and a really cool attic hangout in his dad’s factory.

It doesn’t take long before Zeph’s life starts to become complicated. He’d rather things with Connor not be secret. And are you really boyfriends if your secret boyfriend is getting it on with girls? Then Bronson returns to school having been gone for several years. He his openly gay and interested in Zeph, and Zeph finds being with Bronson so much easier than being with Connor. Add in issues with his parents, issues with being in the closest, general teenage angst, and suddenly Zeph’s easy life is anything but and things get quite serious.

I was fascinated by Zeph. He is a good guy but there were times when he didn’t stand up for himself or speak up when I thought he should have, and it frustrated me. But it interested me too. He was intelligent, why did he seem so tongue tied at times? I wanted to learn more about Zeph and the further into the book we got, the more I understood him.

There are some very difficult scenes in this story and also some uplifting ones. Zeph’s journey sucked me right in and I even cancelled plans I had made so that I could stay inside and keep reading. Cranberry Boys is an excellent young adult novel that is about more than just the romance, it is about growing up and it is really well done. A solid four stars from me.

Scudder James Jr believes happily ever after begins today. Junior high was terrible, boarding school better, and college the place he met the boyfriend he married (despite a pit stop in a fraternity). He started in finance because he thought he had to, but instead became a counselor for refugees, a fundraiser, and a teacher of sex and spirituality classes. After Chicago, Seattle, London, and Japan, he’s back in Boston where it all started. His favorite place to write has a harbor view of two colonial ships.

Scudder loves telling stories in print and on film. He’s thrilled that his short LGBTQ films have shown around the world in places as unexpected as Alabama and East Africa. Twenty years ago, he was diagnosed with a debilitating neurological disease that doctors are bewildered has disappeared. Scudder is an avid meditator and passionate about appreciating every moment.

One of his favorite mornings has been waking up on a boat in Patagonia with his perfectly imperfect partner and hiking an island of 130,000 penguins.

Connect with Scudder

Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Cranberry Boys (Watermarsh Tales #1) by Scudder James Jr. to read and review.