Stephanie Vanderslice has always been spectacular, but this time she’s really outdone herself. If you like books about the writing life (and honestly, who doesn’t?) get ready to fall in love with this book. Stephanie gives us insider tips, treats us like friends, explains the mysterious process of submission (that amorphous time after they said yes but before your book hits the shelves). She talks about literary citizenship and platform and tribe, and how our mindset really ought to be “us,” not “me vs you” or “me vs them.” Reading these pages you feel the growing certainty that what you’re doing matters, intrinsically, and this author is absolutely cheering you on in your successes and, in spirit, ready to hand you the kleenex and ice cream through the tears. Stephanie is one of those rare writers (teachers, mothers, humans) who is truly good to the core! She genuinely cares, and that’s what makes her words so special to hear.
I recently had the delightful experience of watching The Handmaid’s Tale show at the same time as I read The Handmaid’s Tale the book by Margaret Atwood. Season 1 of the show follows the book so exactly it’s incredible, and impossibly well done. The main change of note from page to screen was the diversification of the cast, which was a very nice update.
Watchers may recognize the star character Offred played by Elisabeth Moss from her previous roles in Mad Men and The West Wing; best friend Moira is now a gay African American woman played by Samira Wiley, whom everyone will know from Orange Is the New Black. Madeline Brewer, also from OITNB, plays Janine, while Nick is played by Max Minghella, previously of The Mindy Project. Ofglen, now a gay woman, is played by Alexis Bledel, of the long-running Gilmore Girls. OT Fagbenle plays Luke, who is also now an African American character.
The other main difference from the book is that watchers of the show get to see what is happening with Luke, while readers and the Offred of the book are left wondering, wishing they knew. Season 1 ends the same way the book ends, so subsequent seasons are the invention of the show makers. But in an unexpected turn of events, Margaret Atwood recently announced that she will write subsequent volumes, making the stand-alone novel the first in a series.
Especially now, in an America under Trump presidency, the limitation of liberties and sexist oppression of women is hauntingly familiar. Atwood foresaw with frightning accuracy the ways that a society could be collapsed. Let’s keep marching, signing petitions, and doing everything we can to fight against prejudice.
This book was really good, really fast, and surprisingly all-ages appropriate! (I just figured there’d be a sex scene somewhere in there, but no!) The great thing about reading a re-telling (like Cinder, Ash was a re-telling of the Cinderella story) is seeing how the individual author breathes new life into an old story. The pillar character of the cruel stepmother is present, of course, but she doesn’t come across as empty tribute. The character was painted realistically, and the reader believes this is a person who enjoys petty cruelties and taking out her anger on others. Instead of a fairy godmother, Lo’s cinderella has a fairy prince, and they aren’t just passing acquaintances. For much of the book Sidhean is Ash’s only friend. Another realistic aspect of the story Lo gives us is the pain Ash experiences at losing both her parents, particularly her mother. When Ash mourns at her grave, on more than one occasion, we feel her pain with her.
But perhaps most striking about this version of the story is how Lo has cast our heroine’s love interest not as the prince of the kingdom, but as the king’s huntress. So here we have two young women attracted to one another as the central love story, and it’s so refreshing! This is one of the most essential reasons we retell old tales — to make them accessible and relatable to new audiences. Unlike a book might be if targeted toward adults, this novel isn’t focused on sexual tension or desire; all of the nuance here is the nervousness of first love, wondering “what is this feeling?,” blushing and turning away, being unsure of what to say in that other person’s presence. You’re going to fall in love with Ash, Kaisa, and Sidhean, and you’ll be left craving more of them when you finish this short volume.
The quiet afternoon opened up between them like a woman stretching her limbs.
[If you love re-tellings of old tales and want something a little more adult, check out Tanith Lee‘s White as Snow. It’s fantastic, too.]
For the Diverse Reads challenge (here and here) the mini-monthly challenges are sexuality and gender for June & July. Yay! I was thrilled to read this sweet first-love story between two young women.
The Book Date Full House challenge I’m counting this book as my Middle Grade novel. It won an award in a “children’s” category, and there’s nothing in it that would be inappropriate for younger readers.
Reading Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is going to be tiring and distracting—because you won’t be able to put it down, and when you do, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it!! This book is absolutely fantastic. It’s a fast read, but that doesn’t detract at all from the beautiful moments of raw humanity, compassion, and sincerity. This book isn’t about flawless heroes; it’s about characters with histories and secrets and struggles and fears. Put another way, this book is about people, and you will fall in love with them, believe in them, and mourn for them. Sullivan has created an entire world within the lives of just a few characters. In addition to telling the story of the characters, this book is a love letter to its city of setting: Denver. Walk its streets, feel its chill, be glad to duck into your bookstore and feel the warmth of home, here in the pages of Sullivan’s debut novel.
She noticed that his windshield was growing little laces of ice, the night outside working its way in.