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Blog Tour: Legends of the North Cascades

Synopsis

Dave Cartwright is already living on the edge, with a blue-collar job he hates that barely pays the bills, a house on the verge of foreclosure, a failing marriage, and the recurring memories of three tours in Iraq. His only bright spot is his sometimes too-wise daughter, Bella, who sees and understands much beyond her years. When the unthinkable occurs, Dave makes a seemingly over-the-top decision to move with Bella to a cave in the wilderness. As they embark on this compelling and challenging backcountry adventure, Bella’s reality takes an unforeseen turn, retreating into the ancient world of a mother and son who lived in the cave thousands of years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. What unfolds amidst the struggle to survive is a meditation on both the perils of isolation and the human need for connection. 


Review

The mountains were a place to admire and respect from afar, to pass through furtively and give thanks for safe passing. They were not to be trusted, these mountains. Especially not in winter, when they hid their treasures, and withheld their bounty. The North Cascades could bury you in a heartbeat, they could lose you, they could play tricks on your mind. The mountains were not a place to go for answers.

The Legends of the North Cascades is written from multiple perspectives across dual timelines. One being set during the Ice Age and the other in the present. The two storylines converge on each other not just in the setting, but also with the themes of isolation, enduring and the making of legends.

The pacing of the book was rather fast as it is written in short chapters, many of which read like interviews from the townsfolk that Dave and Bella have left behind. For some he is a madman. For others he will forever be a hero.

I found Dave to be a likeable character who loved his daughter wholeheartedly. He wanted the best for her but was too proud and stubborn to seek help even when he knew his demons were getting the best of him. Bella was perhaps my favorite character. She is full of heart and spirit. Curious and full of imagination, she is the brightest star in this book.

There were points in the dialogue where I felt the book would have benefitted from having a sensitivity reader. After authorities show interest in their living situation, Dave likens laws to slavery. As a descendant of slaves I know I am not the only one who would find fault with this sentiment. Following a law or a rule, no matter how heavy-handed or inane, is not the same as being enslaved. It just isn’t. And to try to diminish it like that or try to conflate your anger at the system or your unwillingness to follow the rules with being enslaved never works. At another time S’tka talks about outliving her purpose: “that’s all the Great Provider had in mind when he created a woman — to carry men. Carry them in their wombs, and on their backs, and in their hearts, to carry their burdens, and bear their disappointments until such time that a man no longer needs them.” In my opinion neither of these statements were necessary to move the narrative along.

Overall, the writing was beautiful. I could just about turn to any page and find sentences that I could read over and over again. I was captivated by Dave and Bella’s story and was invested in her outcome.

The whole rickety bulwark of Dave’s defenses were crushed to splinter beneath the realization that . . . he still could not guard Bella from grief or harm, any more than he could deprive her of love and meaningful connection. Bereaved, we are but orphans, dispossessed, impoverished in our solitude. Our only buffer against the cold, cruel world was one another.


Meet the Author

Jonathan Evison is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All About Lulu, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, Lawn Boy, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! and Legends of the North Cascades.

In his teens, Evison was the founding member and frontman of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

Born in San Jose, California, he now lives on an island in Western Washington with his wife and family.

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Blog Tour: Hot Stew

Synopsis

Brilliant young British writer Fiona Mozley turns her keen eye from the gothic woods of Yorkshire to the streets and pubs and cafés of contemporary London in this much-anticipated follow-up to her debut novel, Elmet.

In the middle of the bustle of Soho sits a building. It isn’t particularly assuming. But it’s a prime piece of real estate, and a young millionaire, Agatha Howard, wants to convert it into luxury condos as soon as she can kick out all the tenants.

The problem is, the building in question houses a brothel, and Precious and Tabitha, two of the women who live and work there, are not going to go quietly. And another problem is, just where did Agatha’s fortune come from? The fight over this piece of property also draws in the men who visit, including Robert, a one-time member of a far-right group and enforcer for Agatha’s father; Jackie, a policewoman intent on making London a safer place for all women; Bastian, a rich and dissatisfied party boy who pines for an ex-girlfriend; and a collection of vagabonds and strays who occupy the basement. As these characters—with surprising hidden connections and shadowy pasts—converge, the fight over the property boils over into a hot stew.

Entertaining, sharply funny, and dazzlingly accomplished, Hot Stew confronts questions about wealth and inheritance, gender and power, and the things women must do to survive in an unjust world.


Review

Hot Stew is Mozley’s sophomore effort. Her debut Elmet reached critical acclaim earning nominations for both the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Award. Agatha Howard is the sole beneficiary of her father’s wealth. She has decided to renovate his properties so that she can turn over the properties for a hefty profit. But first she must clean up the area by evicting the “undesirable” tenants who have long standing leases. At the same time she must contend with her half sisters as they fight for what they believe is their rightful portion of their father’s inheritance.

The Aphra Behn is a pub in the soho section of London that houses a brothel upstairs and a homeless camp in its basement. Among the colorful people that live there is a couple of drug addicts nicknamed Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee named so because of the magic tricks they play with customers’ money and Tabitha and Precious who are sex workers.

“All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn . . . for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”

 Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Indeed a hot stew is brewing as these women join forces to protect their home. Protests break out and draw the attention of feminists, religious zealots, politicians and the press. Mozley is pretty clear cut on who the good guys are in all this as she examines power and gentrification.

Perhaps the best part of the book for me was when Precious discusses the agency of women and ownership of our bodies. It was a different take on sex work. None of these women were being “pimped out”. They have come to this life through different avenues, but work as a collective to protect and take care of one another. There is one scene where Precious and Tabitha are asked whether they are a couple. Tabitha responds that not only do they share a bed but they share finances. They go on vacations together. When one is sick the other nurses her back to health. If they have a rough day the other is there to listen to them vent and run them a bath. The depth of their relationship is beautiful. But Mozley tells us early on that their relationship is not sexual. The problem comes in how we view and define “couple”. If you define couplehood by sex then you are reducing it to something so very basic, as sex is a fundamental need. What really makes a couple? Our ideas about sexare constantly being tested in this book. I was with Mozley when she was talking about how women can choose to have sex, that we can desire and enjoy sex, that we can define what it means to use. But when I got to that one sex scene – EWW! All I can say is that it was really awkward and even if I ascribe the concepts of choice and control to it , I did not see how it added anything of subatnce to Mozley’s message.

For the most part the other women were rather ancillary and do not get much treatment in the book. In fact there are so many characters that I had to draw myself a map. At first I was getting frustrated, but then I thought about how fantasy novels are constructed and the time authors take for world building. The way I’m seeing it now is that Fiona Mozley is building up this world so that while the action is brewing and old secrets are bubbling up to the surface we can see more clearly the extensive impact that these power struggles have on this community.


Meet the Author

Fiona Mozley was born in East London and raised in York, in the North of England. She studied history at Cambridge and then lived in Buenos Aires and London, working at a literary agency and at a travel center. Her first novel, Elmet, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2017. She lives in Edinburgh with her partner and their dog.

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Blog Tour: Libertie

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Synopsis

The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with an unforgettable story about the meaning of freedom.

Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark.

When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new novel resonates in our times and is perfect for readers of Brit Bennett, Min Jin Lee, and Yaa Gyasi.


Review

Libertie is an historical fiction set in the late 1800s. Our titular character is named for her dying father’s wish for her to know true freedom. But Libertie, although intelligent, well spoken, and beautiful will struggle to be released from society’s strongholds. In the book her mother’s character is loosely based on Susan McKinney Steward, the first black doctor in New York state. Although this bit of history is interesting, Libertie is not focused so much on the mother’s accomplishments but on the relationship between mother and daughter. Throughout the book we are asked to consider what freedom is in all its nuances and to examine the chains that hold us captive.

Susan McKinney-Steward

The book opens with Dr. Sampson raising a man from the dead. Libertie stands in awe of her mother and begs her to teach her how to heal. But she soon realizes that this man — although he escaped the shackles of slavery and the grip of death — he is not free. His undying devotion to a dead woman leaves him haunted by her memory and Libertie skeptical about love.

Libertie’s mother is able to get her medical degree as she passes for white. But she knows this option is not open to her dark skinned daughter. She goes about trying to find a way to ensure her daughter’s agency in a new unsure landscape where freedom has just been won for the slave. But in her doing so, she ends up thrusting her aspirations upon Libertie.

Despite her status and fair skin our doctor is still bound by other women’s perception of her, their judgment and their fickle natures. She is confined by grief over the loss of her husband and family and fear for the safety of her daughter. Her tongue is tied every time a white patient shuns Libertie or remarks on her color.

When Libertie travels to Haiti we are able to see the contrast between the two countries. Haiti gains its independence early on and is under the rule of black people. But there still exists a separation between those that serve and those that are in authority.

Through these experiences Libertie comes to know that freedom is not just escaping that which binds you, but knowing who you are, what you want and finding the voice to proclaim it boldly.


Kaitlyn Greenidge

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel is We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin Books), one of the New York Times Critics’ Top 10 Books of 2016. Her writing has appeared in the Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, Elle.com, Buzzfeed, Transition Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, American Short Fiction and other places. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study other places. She was a contributing editor for LENNY Letter and is currently a contributing writer for The New York Times. Her second novel, Libertie, will be published by Algonquin Books on March 30, 2021. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Blog Tour: Girlhood – Teenagers From Around the World in Their Own Voices

Synopsis

What do the lives of teenage girls look like in Cambodia and Kenya, in Mongolia and the Midwest? What do they worry about and dream of? What happens on an ordinary day?
 
All around the world, girls are going to school, working, creating, living as sisters, daughters, friends. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We hear about a few exceptional girls who make headlines, and we hear about headline-making struggles and catastrophes. But since the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, why don’t we know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines? From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty-one teens from twenty-nine countries in Girlhood Around the World share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs. They invite us into their day-to-day lives, through their eyes and in their voices, in a full-color, exuberantly designed scrapbook-like volume. 


My Review

This is a colorful anthology that gives you a glimpse into the lives of teenage girls from all over the world. From as far away as Kazakhstan to as close to home as Bayonne, New Jersey, we get to see these girls’ hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. Ahuja includes maps and statistics for each country showing the challenges faced by women in those societies. The personal journal entries allows you to hear each girl’s perspective and what she values most in life. Teenage girls will see that despite the differences there are many shared experiences. It is a wonderful to show young girls that they are not alone and that they have it in them to persist and rise above the challenges they face.

I started reading Girlhood with my 9 year old daughter. I wanted her to see how other girls from around the world lived. Although she enjoyed the first few stories, I soon realized that some of these girls’ experiences were beyond her scope and maturity level. These were conversations that I was not ready to have with my daughter just yet. As a woman though, I am grateful that this anthology exists and wish that it was available when I was a teenager.

That being said, I think this book would serve well as either a social studies or writing text. Middle school girls would benefit from having this as part of their curriculum.

Special thanks to Amanda Dissinger for access to this title.


Meet the Author

Masuma Ahuja is a freelance journalist reporting on gender, migration and human rights. She was previously a producer at CNN and national digital editor at the Washington Post. She uses words, photos and emerging media to report and tell stories about gender, migration and the impact of politics of people. Her projects have ranged from long-form stories to sending disposable cameras to women around the world to document their days to crowdsourcing voice mails from Americans about the impact of the 2016 election on their lives. She was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.