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Jess Reads

Feminist library assistant. Music enthusiast, tea & coffee addict. Sherlockian & casual gamer.


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Currently reading

The House of Impossible Beauties
Joseph Cassara
The Book of Joan
Lidia Yuknavitch

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - Ta-Nehisi Coates WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER revisits the best of Coates's writing in The Atlantic from the past 8 years - one for every year of Barack Obama's presidency - in the context of today. Coates doesn't mince words; we are living in a racist, imperfect time and there's no guarantee America will see that end in any of our lifetimes. President Obama's election couldn't change it, and now the country has embraced shameless, boldfaced racist rhetoric in direct response to his administration, rather than pretending it doesn't exist. The truth is that America as we know it could not exist without systemic racism built into our laws, into the very founding of the country itself. We have to acknowledge this past in order to start any reasonable discussion of racism today.

This is not a hopeful book. There are no answers within the pages. But if there was ever essential reading, this is a fine place to start.


George - Alex Gino, Jamie Clayton A heartwarming story of a girl who just wants to be accepted as one.

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America - Rebecca Solnit, Katha Pollitt, Randa Jarrar, Kate Harding, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Sarah Jaffe, Samantha Irby, Sarah Hepola, Jill Filipovic, Nicole Chung, Sarah Hollenbeck, Meredith Talusan I received an eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Nasty Woman" became a feminist rallying cry brought about after (and during) the Third Presidential Debate of 2016. It's bold, angry, and kind of fun. But on Election Night, many women watched in horror and heartbreak as DJT was elected President and they feared what this new administration meant for them. NASTY WOMEN is a chorus of diverse voices and experiences: Immigrant, native, women with disabilities, queer and trans women, all with various ethnicities and religious adherence. No issue is unrelated in feminism, and the reflections of each writer address the multitude of causes worthy of our time. By the last page, one thing is clear: We need a multifaceted, intersectional, INCLUSIVE feminist movement, and all hands are on deck to resist further damage to our democracy.

The End We Start From

The End We Start From - Megan  Hunter I received an eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The world (as far as we are made aware) has flooded, and our protagonist gives birth to a baby we only know as Z. As people and resources disappear, her main goals are to keep her baby alive and still find moments of joy and connection in her new life. Climate fiction with a poetic lens.

Ultimately, I wanted to like this book more. A story of a refugee mother and what she endures to survive has the power to be compelling and beautiful. However, despite some lovely writing, it fell flat for me while reading it. The characters were hidden behind letters as names, and it was difficult to be drawn into their world. I'm sure this was intentional, to emphasize the impermanence of the day to day and that their survival was dependent on an ability to adapt. Sadly, it didn't resonate as much as I had hoped.

Moxie: A Novel

Moxie: A Novel - Jennifer Mathieu This is the book I wish I'd read as a teenager. I was unapologetically feminist growing up, but had no idea what a Riot Grrrl was, no idea that there were waves of feminist thought, and no idea that others might be just as tired as I was of the double standards throughout school. Viv feels real and flawed, fumbling around in her anger, taking a stand, and finding friends along the way. (I love the constant references to punk music and have definitely made a playlist as a result.)

Mathieu makes sure to include other resources and history at the end of the book for context, pointing readers to other resources, and ways to fight back against sexism and injustice. Feeling empowered? Great! Let's talk intersectionality. Let's talk accountability. Let's talk activism.

Ultimately, MOXIE's message is: It's easy for the powerful squelch dissent when the voices are few and frightened; it's impossible to stop the roars when we stand together in solidarity. (Because Moxie girls fight back!)

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby: A Novel

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby: A Novel - Cherise Wolas UPDATED REVIEW 9/26/17:
This is a brilliantly written (debut!) literary novel at 500+ pages that reads both like an intimate memoir and a sweeping epic. The language dazzles as we become infatuated with, invested in, and infuriated with Joan Ashby: The Writer. Her craft is the single most important thing to her, and her ambition never wanes as she begrudgingly accepts motherhood. Reading her stories and knowing her sacrifices makes an eventual betrayal that much more painful. I’m halfway convinced that Joan Ashby is the real writer here, and Cherise Wolas is her literary agent. Wolas has an immense talent for storytelling and I will gladly read anything else she writes.

I received an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I almost didn't read this book. The description and the cover art definitely grabbed my eye, and I have a weakness for all protagonists named Joan, but I don't read "women's fiction" or much "contemporary family life" at all. Give me gritty realism and raw facts; even my taste in poetry tends to hit hard. I didn't want to read about another woman coming to realize that motherhood was a blessing in disguise, despite her sacrifices along the way.

I could not be more happy to be entirely wrong about this novel.

I am besotted with the way Wolas writes. I would read and reread entire paragraphs, languishing in their beauty before I was ready to move onward to the next delicious sentence. I, too, have fallen under Ashby's spell and would be delighted if any of HER writing were published today. I would read anything Ashby wrote, and the same now goes for Cherise Wolas, even if I have to wait 28 years in the meantime. I know it will be worth it.


Autoboyography - Christina Lauren I received an eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever seen that tumblr post (Natsui) that reads how the OP can keep a poker face during some of the kinkiest erotica they'll ever read, but struggle to keep from reacting during the stupidly cute moments in a story? This book's very tame on the graphic descriptions once the romance starts to heat up, but there were so many adorable cringe-y moments in this book and I. Loved. Them. I think it's fantastic that Tanner's unapologetically, unquestioningly bisexual. And in case you or any character forgot, he'll remind you. Sebastian isn't brainwashed by his faith. You'll get to experience why he loves it, why it makes sense to him.

I'm tapering off of the honeymoon period from reading this book, so my revised rating is closer to a 3-3.5. It's a good book, and totally worth reading if you enjoyed FANGIRL or CARRY ON (Rowell).

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks - Annie Spence Dear Annie,
You have saved me from my book slump. You understand what it’s like to dedicate your life to the library, and have infused your pseudo-literary-memoir with so much humor and relatability that this Midwestern library worker wonders whether she might have crossed paths with you at a workshop or on Twitter. (I’m pretty sure we order the same drinks at the bar.) I want to share your witticisms with my bibliophile friends, especially those who admit we’re all snobs but still can’t get enough of our favorite fanfiction tropes. Thanks to you, my TBR list has grown. I’m grateful, but I may not forgive you for that.
Let’s be friends,

The Gene: An Intimate History

The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee I am in utter awe of this book. Truly. It's fascinating and troubling and I wanted to start reading it all over again once I finished.


Rewind - Marilyn Kaye I, sadly, am no longer the target audience for this book. I decided to read it after growing nostalgic for the early books of the REPLICA series. Naturally it was a breeze to read through, and it's entertaining on a very basic level, but Grown-Up Me was disappointed with all of the "handwave-ium" explanations for how everything was actually possible. The second book of the trilogy sends Amy inside a human body as a pathogen? The third book sends her into the future? At one time I would have eaten this up. I think I'll bow out and hit up the other books on my massive TBR list.

Thank you, Marilyn Kaye, for writing the REPLICA series and possibly igniting my interest in genetics so many years ago.

With or Without You

With or Without You - Zane Riley WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Zane Riley is the second book in the “Go Your Own Way” series. It continues the story of a developing romantic relationship between two high school seniors. Between college plans, a violent homophobic attack on one of the boys, and dealing with falling in love with your polar opposite, this book is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century - Timothy Snyder This little book packs a punch. If you’re feeling uneasy about the state of the world, this may not alleviate your fears, but it may better prepare you for thoughtful action to prevent making the same mistakes committed during the previous century. The only reason I call this a "coffee table book" is because if it's on your coffee table, you will see it every day, you will think about its message every day, and it will be the starting point of many conversations with people who come to visit. If I had a few hundred dollars, I'd buy copy after copy to hand out to people who want to know why resistance is necessary.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris, Neil Patrick Harris This was, to put it simply, fun. While I'm sure the book's novelty choose your own adventure element was great, I think NPH's narration just gave it the extra boost of enjoyment. It's full of wit and snark, as to be expected. It's also thoughtful and just a bit sappy. (I should check our download to see if we have access to any of the PDFs with David's recipes - I definitely want to try those!)

The Readymade Thief

The Readymade Thief - Augustus Rose I received an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to like this book more. The plot was meaty and intriguing, and I kept wishing I didn't have to put the book down to work or sleep. However, the resolution seemed weak after all the work and research put into the rising action. We almost don't have time to get to know Lee since she's trying to survive one thing after another, after another... Drugs? Yep. Hacking? Sure. Art conspiracies? Absolutely. Secret societies? Certainly. Violence? You bet. (I've refrained from writing more since it falls into spoiler territory.)

The Readymade Thief is pretty darn approachable for both YA and adult readers; I found it difficult to categorize as one or the other. It's suspenseful, packed with action, and somewhat sad.

Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto

Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto - Jessa Crispin If I was to summarize this book's message, it's that we've given up radical ideals for comfort and convenience. Act on your conscience. Demand the change in society by actually forcing it to change. It's hard to ignore that point. The problem I see is that by keeping a movement on the fringe, we delegitimize its mission and it's harder to encourage much-needed change in the greater population. People burn out, and other people don't pay attention. Crispin is of the opinion that watering down the message won't get us anywhere either.

So yeah, support local businesses, get involved with grassroots activism and put yourself out where it's uncomfortable. I'm on board with that, and it's something that people should hear. It's a quick read, but packed with opinion. Add this to discussions of capitalism, feminism, racism, and how Western society works.

Zombies, Run! The Way of All Flesh (Books 1-6)

Zombies, Run! The Way of All Flesh (Books 1-6) - Naomi Alderman Locked room murder mystery complete with a colorful cast of characters...and the ever looming threat of the undead. You'll not need to have played Zombies, Run! at all to follow along, but it just adds to the enjoyment when you recognize a few voices from Abel Township.