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My True Love Gave To Me and Festive Recs

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It’s December! And I’m really feeling the need to snuggle down with a warm blanket, a few wintery candles, and some cosy festive stories.

Because yes, I am the sort of person who watches A Muppets’ Christmas Carol every year, plays All I Want For Christmas Is You on repeat, and will happily marathon all the festive episodes of Friends to get in the mood.

But I don’t really know that many festive books. I’d love to read sweet, fluffy stories, or bittersweet snowy stories, or… just anything Christmassy.

So, please share your festive recs! What should we all be reading this year?

For my contribution, I offer My True Love Gave To Me, a holiday anthology edited by Stephanie Perkins and including short stories from authors like Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Ally Carter, and Laini Taylor.

Pretty much all the stories are winners, but my favorites include Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (a really sweet New Year’s Eve themed story), Angels in the Snow by Matthew de la Pena (about two college students stuck in NYC in a snowstorm at Christmas), and It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins (hard to summarize, about a girl who’s expecting a non-existent Christmas until she wanders into the Christmas tree lot across the street from her apartment).

For less specifically-festive YA, I’d also recommend Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Both are incredibly adorable contemporary romances set over the length of a school year, the first at an American highschool in Paris, and the second during a girl’s first year of college in Nebraska. They have Christmas elements, but also just a general sweetness to them that I think is really festive.

What would you recommend people read this holiday?

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If you like The Fault In Our Stars, you’ll love…

The Fault In Our Stars is kind of a big deal right now. With over nine million copies sold internationally and a number one movie at the box office, the novel and its author John Green have been the subject of endless discussion and a steady stream of articles, going as far as calling Green “the teen whisperer” and suggesting that he has saved YA literature.

And hey, The Fault In Our Stars is a good book. It clearly speaks to a lot of people. But it doesn’t do anything that isn’t done in many other similar, fantastic books by female authors who were writing long before The Fault In Our Stars appeared on the scene. And it’s sad that a lot of these truly amazing female authors don’t get more attention.

So. Here are some of my favorite YA contemporary novels in the heartbreaking vein of The Fault in Our Stars. If you enjoy John Green’s writing, I really think you’ll love these too.

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Probably the highest profile novel of these books, since it also has a movie coming out this summer, and the one that I think is most similar to The Fault In Our Stars. After a car accident that kills her parents and leaves her brother critically injured, cello prodigy Mia has an out of body experience and must decide whether she’s strong enough to live on without her family, or whether she wishes to die with them.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Author website

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Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

I’m a massive fan of all of Courtney Summers’ books, but I think this may be my favorite. Regina Afton is one of the meanest mean girls of Hallowell High. Then her best friend’s boyfriend tries to rape her, and she becomes ostracized by the very bullies she used to be a part of. As Regina faces ever-escalating cruelty, she tries to find support from Michael, an outcast she herself used to bully, and must face both the person she has been and the person she wants to be. This is a punch-to-the-gut type novel, unflinchingly painful and compelling to read. Also check out Cracked Up To Be and Fall For Anything.

Goodreads | The Book Depository | Author website

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The ultimate book for, well, fangirls, but also for anyone who’s suffered from anxiety or simply doubted the direction of their life. Mega Simon Snow fangirl Cath has been defined by her love of the popular book series (she is, after all, the author of the biggest fic in the fandom) and by her constant companion, her twin sister Wren. But now she’s starting college, the book series is ending, and her sister no longer wants to be her friend. Thrust into freshman year of college with no support, scared to even eat in the dining hall, Cath must figure out who she is as a person when her sister and her fandom are taken away.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Author Website

10231501The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Not enough people have heard about this book. When band geek Lennie’s older sister dies, she struggles to deal with her grief and the feeling that she now has to navigate life alone. She finds solace is sharing memories of her sister with her sister’s ex-boyfriend… until she kisses said dead-sister’s ex-boyfriend in a fit of grief, and is horrified at the person she seems to have become. Impossible to say more than that — it’s just a gorgeous book that you have to read.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Author Website

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A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

Charlie loves music, but is too afraid to perform in front of others. Spending her summer with her grandfather in a small town in Australia after her mother’s death, she desperately wants a friend. Meanwhile Rose, the girl next door, wants nothing more than to get out of this small town. She’s ignored and dismissed Charlie for years, but perhaps now she can use this big city girl’s desperation for friendship as her ticket away. This is a heartbreaking and emotionally real book, all about want that is just out of reach, and what a person might do in order to fulfil it. Highly recommended.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Author Website

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Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Chloe has always been in her sister Ruby’s shadow, willing to do anything that her sister demands. Even if that means swimming in the supposedly haunted reservoir at night. Even when that means finding the dead body of one of her classmates floating in the middle of the lake. Two years after the traumatic incident, Chloe returns to her sister and their small town, only to realize that her charismatic sister may not be all that she remembered. Deliciously creepy.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Author Website

What are some of your favorite YA contemporary novels? Share your recommendations in the comments!

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Looking for New Adult book recommendations

Last week, Emily emailed me, looking for recommendations for New Adult novels:

“I’m getting so very tired of reading NA novels that don’t pass the Bechdel test. I know that a story doesn’t necessarily have to pass the test to be a neat feminist read, but I’d still like to try something with a little more in-depth communication between the female characters.”

I wish I had a list of books to recommend. My own forays into the new adult genre have generally been incredibly disappointing. But it’s been several months since I checked in on things, and I’m really hopeful that, as the genre grows, more good stuff will emerge. So, does anyone have any feminist New Adult novels to recommend? Books with believable female characters who actually interact with one another?

For my part, a couple of books come to mind:

Fangirl by Rainbow RowellThis is marketed and sold as YA, but it’s about a freshman in college, which I think puts it in the NA bracket. It’s about fandom, but it’s also about a girl with social anxiety as she struggles to find her place in college, including dealing with her somewhat belligerent but ultimately roommate and once-best-friend, now-acting-distant twin sister. A great read.

Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess. I had mixed feelings about this book, because the protagonist was a bit ridiculous and parts of the plot were over the top and resolved far too easily. But it’s a new adult novel about a group of recent college grads, living together in Brooklyn and attempting to figure out life. It has a wide range of female characters, it’s a fun read, and when it nails life as an early twenty-something, it really nails it.

Just One Day by Gayle FormanAnother book that’s sold as YA but is about college. It’s fun and heartbreaking, and the fading high school friendship between two girls is one of the main themes.

Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson. This one is a rare Bechdel test despite being from the perspective of a male character. It’s about a guy who’s very dissatisfied with his life, gets a job at a craft store to find a girlfriend, and falls for the male manager instead. It’s funny and Gilmore Girls-y and fanfic-y and has a great cast of female characters, from the other employees to the protagonist’s best friend to his mom, the Jane Austen sequel writer. Recommended!

Let us know your New Adult recommends in the comments!

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Book Recs: Books about Mothers

This is a call for book recommendations!

Last week, reader Dina commented asking for book recs that have “interesting and complex characters who happen to be mothers,” like Catelyn Stark. Characters who are mothers, but who retain their own personalities as well.

And I have to admit, I’m pretty stumped. I certainly can’t think of any books where the mother is the main character, although I have a few where mothers are interesting secondary characters.

So please help! If you know any books that fit the description, please comment and let us know. :)

For my (not entirely fitting) recommendations, I have:

Tides by Betsy Cornwell (not a mother character, but the grandmother character is a fascinating figure with a rich story)

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (the mother characters aren’t the main focus by any stretch, but they’ve very interesting and have a lot of depth)

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (about a woman who can’t have children, and her semi-adoption of a fairy tale like child who lives in the wilds of Alaska)

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (the mother character is fabulous, although it’s not exactly clear who she is until the end).

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Request for Book Recs!

Over the weekend, I got an email from Nina, asking for recs for books with protagonists like Brienne of Tarth. Specifically:

Prominent female characters who aren’t just great warriors but who really have to struggle for their place in a male-dominated world. Preferably characters who aren’t children or teenagers but grown-up women.

wish I had some recs to share, because I’d love to have read more books with characters like Brienne. But I’ve been racking my brain for days, and I really can’t think of anything that I’ve read. My best suggestion is The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb, which has a mutant hunter girl called Thymara who sets off to start a new community with a bunch of other outcasts and has to struggle against the guys’ attempts to force her into the gender roles she was partly trying to escape. But she’s neither a warrior nor a grown-up woman, so it’s hardly a good match!

So… does anyone have any recommends to share? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

 

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Book Recs: Best Historical Fiction

I recently finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl (I know, I know, I’m about a decade behind the rest of the reading world), and despite the frequent historical inaccuracies, it’s given me a bit of a taste for historical fiction!

The only problem is that, apart from historically-set fantasy, I’ve never read any historical fiction before, and I don’t even know where to start in my hunt for books.

So… please give me all your recommends!

What are some good, feminist-friendly historical novels? Historical accuracy not necessarily required (although enjoyed!).

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If you love Arya Stark, you’ll love…

I recently got an email from a reader, asking for sci-fi/fantasy recommendations for books with main characters like Arya Stark. Prominent female characters who aren’t just badass swordswomen or magicians, but complex characters with limitations, a darkish personality, and a thirst for revenge, without being inherently evil.

I wish I could help. I’ve been wracking my brain for days, trying to think of books that fit the bill, and I haven’t been able to come up with anything. I have a few suggestions, but nothing that really fits. And this makes me sad, because a badass, damaged female protagonist on a vengeance kick sounds great.

My best suggestion is Graceling by Kristin Cashore, as a novel about a girl who believes she’s pre-destined to be a detestable killing machine, and struggles against this identity, and against the people who have used her for her whole life.

Another idea is The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan, which tells the story of a slum-dweller who despises the magicians and everything they stand for, and then finds out that she should be one of them. Gregory Maguire’s retellings from the villain’s point of view, particularly Wicked, might also be worth checking out.

Does anyone else have any recs? Any books with characters like this that they’ve enjoyed? Please comment and share!

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Summer Recs: Classics Edition

Since it’s getting to the season of long flights on planes, lazy beach days and seemingly endless evenings of no new TV, I’m writing a series of feminist summer recommends to keep the bookshelves full and hand luggage impossible to lift.

Although most books from the English Literature canon aren’t exactly what you would call “feminist” (thanks, centuries of oppression!), there are also some real gems out there. (Although, as I studied 19th century literature at college, that might not be a universal opinion…). Even better, most of them are out of copyright, meaning they can be added to your Kindle or iPad for free!

(All summaries are taken from the Penguin Classics editions).

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