Wednesday, May 15, 2019

[Book] Maid by Stephanie Land

Book cover
Start from one mistake, one that is tragically common - becoming a parent a little to young.  From that point, almost everything that can go wrong in someone's life while still making the best possible choice for the circumstance is laid out in the first four chapters of this book.  This beginning is a treatise on despair and government anti-poverty programs.

The arc doesn't exactly get better from there, but it starts to be framed in a way that shows gratitude for the things that haven't gone completely wrong, though things do continue to go wrong.  It reminds me of parts of my own childhood being raised by a single mom.  Those memories of being able to do the really simple things that don't cost a lot of money.

There is a lot to unpack here about how poor people are treated as fundamentally broken and lazy.  This is a really good reminder that people are people, and that the hardest working among us often do get the least reward.

Some of my most well-off acquaintances truly believe that they got there through smart-decisions and being willing to put in the work: That luck has very little to do with it.  Those are the people that I really think should skip this book.  I think they'd get the wrong thing from it.  Ultimately this is a memoir from a New York Times Best-Selling Author.  Someone who, through smart-decisions and being willing to put in the work, climbed out of poverty.  In a strange way, this book would only prove the narrative that merit is all it takes.

Read this if you want to go on a journey through some beautiful places in the Pacific North-West while experiencing some truly painful arcs.  Like any good memoir, I come away from this book feeling like I know the author, and really like her as a person.  Maybe you'll feel the same.  Trigger warnings for domestic violence, emotional abuse, medical gore, hoarding and bodily fluids.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

[Book] Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Book cover
This is the second book that I've reviewed by Naomi Novik, the first was Uprooted.  At a high level, there are some parallels between these books, but they are definitely different worlds.  Here's a quick overview of the setting:

A Jewish girl of about 16 named Miryam lives in a medieval small unwalled town with the name of either Pakel or Pavys, but the residents simply called it town which is a third of the way between two larger cities in the Kingdom of Lithvas.  Year over year, winters in Lithvas are getting longer and growing seasons dangerously short.

Anywhere in the kingdom, but most often in the forest near town a magical road of white ice to a winter kingdom of the Staryk will sometimes appear.  The road is a magical, almost dimensional, crossing that the Staryk king is able to open.  Lithvas itself is not a magical place, but the road and the Staryk kingdom is.  The Staryk use the road to pillage Lithvas for gold.

There are three women in this book who are all under-estimated in their own ways, and who all find a greater strength through doing the right thing and not having permission to do so.  Three times at the end of the book I wept with pride.  The character arcs are strong, and even the villains are mostly sympathetic (one exception).

Read this for strong women kicking ass and getting things done.  Content warnings for graphic violence and mention of rape in past context without graphic rape descriptors.