I was gifted a copy of Westering Women by Sandra Dallas from St. Martin’s Press in order to participate in a book tour. This was the first time I’ve been a part of a book tour and I really felt bad when the book I was reading was problematic & flat, because I couldn’t hold up my end of the bargain with the book tour with positivity & light.
The characters were flat and the pacing was slow. But beyond that, I felt uncomfortable with the problematic amounts of racism, misogyny, and abuse that were everywhere in the novel.
The background of this novel is that a group of women, escorted by two reverends, leave Chicago to find husbands in California. Our main character is Maggie, who is fleeing her abusive husband with her daughter, Clara. The entire novel follows the women on their harrowing journey across the United States – and all of these women have some secrets that get revealed throughout the novel.
While I was reading the book, I experienced a NUMBER of uncomfortable feelings & had really interesting conversations with friends about the moral obligation of historical fiction. This particular book upheld the stereotype that all Native Americans are “savages.” It had only one character of color with a name — and this character was lied to throughout the entire book about her parentage. Every man in the book (except one or two) was an absolute piece of garbage who abused their wives or raped their children while drunk.
I totally get that in the era, women were powerless to leave their abusers, were taken advantage of. I understand that to the travelers on the Overland Trail, Native Americans were seen as savages. I understand the context of this novel. What I don’t get is WHY another novel that perpetuates these notions was published by a major publisher in 2020.
We need to be more critical of the content we consume. I am pushing to get more #OwnVoices novels into my school library AND into my own reading life. This book is unfair to the marginalized voices in this story. I am constantly trying to be a better ally, educator, parent, and reader — and this book is NOT one I can recommend if you want to be the same.
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for sending me an Advanced Readers Copy of Tweet Cute, Emma Lord’s debut young adult novel. This was a deliciously adorable read that will be super popular when it comes out later this month!
The story is told in two voices. Pepper’s parents own a burger chain called Big League Burger, and they’ve just decided to start selling a special grilled cheese sandwich. Jack’s family owns a deli called Girl Cheesing, where the most popular sandwich’s recipe, passed down by Jack’s Grandma Belly, happens to be the ‘special’ sandwich at Big League Burger. Jack & Pepper happen to manage the Twitter accounts of the two business, and their meme war, ragging on each other’s sandwiches, goes VIRAL.
Pepper & Jack also happen to attend the same school and participate in the same after school activities. They start off as enemies, but end up becoming friends and despite the tough words on Twitter, they actually kind of feel bad about hurting one another. Pepper’s a skilled baker, and Jack is a great app coder, both important sub-plots that play into their story. There’s also lots of fun family drama and some really goofy side characters. I also just loved the use of memes and tons of pop-culture references.
All in all, this book was totally adorable. It was a quick and fun read, and one that made my mouth water! I was craving grilled cheese sandwiches & Pepper’s baked goods the entire time I read this book. If you like enemies-to-lovers YA stories, this one should be on your TBR! It’ll be out on January 21, 2020.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore was another choice in my December Book of the Month box and I am so, so glad I chose this one. This tells the story of Mickey, a Philadelphia police officer, who realizes her younger sister Kacey, an opioid addict, has gone missing. The tension is ratcheted when Mickey realizes that there appears to be a serial killer in her precinct, Kensington, a neighborhood known for its sex work and drug trade — and Kacey’s stomping grounds.
This dual timeline story partly focused on Kacey & Mickey’s childhoods and how so many memories and relationships are marred by drug use and poverty. They were raised by their grandmother because their mother suffered from addiction. It really highlighted how cyclical these patterns can become, and how hard they are to break.
The other timeline focuses on the mysterious circumstances in Kensington, and Mickey’s life as a single mother to her son, Thomas. I really enjoyed the focus on Mickey’s investigation into her missing sister, and the difficulties faced with being a female police officer. The neighborhood of Kensington itself was a fascinating snapshot of the world of the addicted.
I loved the quick pacing of this book, including short chapters and quick dialogue. Some may be turned off by the lack of quotation marks, but I found that it enhanced the pace. I also loved how the author made me feel that the city of Philadelphia — all its neighborhoods and politics — was another character in the story. It was reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s police procedural novels.
I am a huge, huge fan of this book and will be looking to add some of Liz Moore’s backlist novels to my TBR. I gave this 5/5 stars and I cannot wait for others to read this when it is officially published on January 7, 2020.