{Review} Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

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Book Details

Title: Red Clocks

Author: Leni Zumas

Pages: 368

Publisher: HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, The Borough Press

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

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Let the fact that I started and finished this book in one sitting be a testament to how amazing it was. That being said, this book was a real surprise for me. I had read the synopsis and thought, “Oh, this could be interesting, yay feminism!” but never thought that it would impact me the way it did. I’m going to discuss this book in terms of what it made me feel and think, and hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll want to read it, too. Also, this might be the most personal review I’ve ever written, but my goodness, this book wrecked me. But first…

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Spoiler-free Summary:

Abortion has been declared illegal in the United States of America, and a law has been enacted that grants life, liberty, and property rights to all embryos upon conception. This law effectively makes any woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy (for whatever reason) a criminal. In-vitro fertilization is also banned and only married couples can adopt. The story follows five very different women as they navigate this new world, each one burdened by her own past, present, and future, but also by society’s expectations of her and who, what, and why she should be. We follow Ro, the biographer (and Eivør, the little known 19th century Faroese explorer who is the subject of her biography); Susan, the married mother; Mattie, the student; and Gin, the forest-dwelling homeopath, as they traverse the choppy waves of imposing legislation and societal pressures, leading each woman down a path she didn’t expect to take.

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Thoughts:

This past week, I had my own biological scare. I thought I had endometriosis and my partner and I discussed whether that would hinder our ability to have a child at some point in the (far, far, faaar) future, if we so choose. It was scary, because it made me ask myself a bunch of questions I never really cared enough to ask: Is that something I even want? If so, why do I want it? And what if I don’t want it? Does that mean I failed somehow? The beauty of this book was the fact that it made you ask yourself many questions and it made you contradict yourself, too. I felt myself agreeing with all of these women at various points in their stories, only to disagree with them in another, feeling as if they each had a point, a right, a reason for their choices, and ultimately, I ended up agreeing with all of them, because they all did.

In a world where the United States of America has a president who (most probably) confuses the word “pap smear” with “pepperoni”, something like this is entirely plausible, and that thought terrifies me. I grew up in the States, but also in Lebanon, two very different countries with very different legislation, perspectives, and implementations regarding women’s rights (or lack thereof), and this book made them all collide. In and of itself, reading this book felt like an act of defiance against those who would try to control our bodies and our lives under the guise of making the world better through archaic or straight-up ridiculous legislation. The writing was resplendent. I don’t even have anything more than that to say about it, but the characters and the stories were even better, and I just loved the very concept of this book and how hard it made you think about these women and their lives.

One of the things that impacted me the most in this book was the idea that children of single mothers were somehow “worse” than those who were lucky enough to be raised in a “normal” two-parent household. I am the child of a single mother, and I can promise you that I wouldn’t trade all the bustling, jostling “normal” families in the known universe for my mother, because she managed to put up with my shit for eighteen years and I turned out okay. The author illustrated the societal and political oppression forced upon women under the heel of patriarchal systems so perfectly, that it left me both in awe and in fury. The fact that all of the women in this book were cornered by society into a certain frame of mind or situation is something that I believe every woman has experienced in her lifetime. The biographer yearns to have a child of her own, but she does not wish to marry and she panics as the clock ticks on her only chance. The student looks forward to college and a career, unburdened by thoughts of diapers and baby formulas. The mother aches for a few hours of solitude and free time away from her husband and children, but feels guilty for wanting her personal space. The homeopath wants to help people, regardless of what society labels her, but is considered a weird forest-hobo by her community and is ostracized. The explorer wants to learn about something she is fiercely passionate about and share her knowledge with the world, but can’t, because she’s a woman.

But aren’t we all labeled as something? Mother, daughter, wife, sister, student, teacher, girl, woman, good, bad… And as I devoured this book, I realized that even I label myself. When my own mother brings up the topic of grandchildren, suddenly, I want to discuss sock preferences or that one soup recipe she made once like, ten years ago. Is having children something we are programmed to want or is it something we want because we truly desire it? What if you don’t want to have children? Why is it that a single woman who is past “a certain age” (I don’t even know what this particular age is, as I can’t locate an expiration date on my forehead) is considered a spinster, while a man at that same age is called a bachelor? Who makes these rules? And more importantly, who has the right to make these rules?

The answer I gathered from this book is that every woman has the right to make those rules for herself, and I could not agree more. This book also left me with a million questions that I have never asked myself and a million more that I have asked too many times. The answers are different for me, just as they are different for you and every other woman in the world.

Are you even a woman if you don’t have a child? YES. Are you a woman if you choose your self, your career, your life, your dreams, your anything over having a child? YES. Is it okay to not know? YES. Is it okay to be uncertain? YES. Are you a woman if…? And there is no if.

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Rating:

5star-rating

This book is so important and I’m so glad I read it, because it was captivating and thought-provoking in the very best of ways. All of the uncertainties we tend to feel as women when we dare to reach outside that limited box of roles that society has given us come crashing down like little waves in this book, and I love it. There shouldn’t be a box of roles or outfits or jobs. There shouldn’t be an expectation or an expiry date. This book is a searing reminder that, no matter what you choose, it is your choice, and nobody has the right to take it from you. I strongly urge everyone to read this book, as it is a beautiful and meaningful look into what it means to be a woman and how our choices shape us. Your purpose does not come attached to your gender, and that is something that, sadly, always bears reminding in this jaded and unequal world of ours. So, please read this book, and tell your mothers, sisters, friends, crochet club, etc. to read this book. As always, happy reading!

Also, this:

 

*Thank you so much to HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, The Borough Press for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review*

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{Review} Rough Animals by Rae Delbianco

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source: Goodreads

 

 

Book Details

Title: Rough Animals

Author: Rae DelBianco

Pages: 304

Publisher: Arcade Publishing

Release Date: June 5, 2018

 

 

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Spoiler-free Summary:

Rough Animals tells the story of Wyatt and Lucy Smith, twins hewed from the stubborn earth of their family ranch in Box Elder County, Utah. Having scraped by for years since their father’s untimely death, their ranch is threatened anew when a wild-eyed and mysterious girl appears with a gun in hand and death in her wake. Seeking restitution for the cattle she killed, Wyatt embarks on a long and treacherous journey through the unforgiving desert, one that will challenge not only his body, but his soul as well. In a gripping and breathtaking epic that is sure to have you clutching your seat from beginning to end, Rough Animals manages to steal your heart, your soul, and your breath in one fell swoop.

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Thoughts:

You know when you start a new book and you just know that it’s going to be a favorite for years to come? The kind of book that grips you by the hackles from the first line and never lets go? The kind that you have to ration your reading of because you don’t want it to end? This was one of those books. That being said, I’m going to try my best to be coherent, because, as you can already tell, I am in love with this book. So, bear with me.

  • Writing: Rae Delbianco’s debut novel doesn’t read like a debut novel. It reads like a masterpiece from a veteran of the written word. This young and talented wordsmith has been compared to Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson, but I won’t talk about that comparison here, because Delbianco’s style is unlike anything I’ve ever read. While it does combine McCarthy’s subtle yet harsh realism and Johnson’s engaging lyricism, it is a style that is wholly hers. It is rare to come across an author whose writing style can invoke a literary case of Stendahl syndrome, leaving her reader both in shock and in awe. I found myself highlighting sentences and passages for their sheer beauty and rereading pages upon pages simply to relive the emotions they invoked. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful and raw and brutal and perfect the words contained in this book are, at least not in any form that wouldn’t be laced with expletives and heartface emojis.

 

  • Plot: While I am aware that westerns, thrillers, and literary fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I truly believe that a great book defies classification of genre. The plot and the premise of this book are intense and fast-paced, leaving you breathless and nervous in the very best way. Yet the writing is almost symphonic in its beauty, juxtaposed with the cruel and arduous setting of the merciless desert and the pulse-quickening events that take place there and beyond. Wyatt’s trek across the desert following the death of his cattle (and by consequence, the potential death of his ranch) is a terrifying and brutal journey, accentuated by the harsh realities of survival and those of human morality. His journey home is reminiscent of Odysseus, hindered by obstacles, threats, and truths that are as ruthless in their undeniability as the scorching heat of the desert itself. The fact that this story is propelled forward by the sudden arrival of a crazed and deadly child is a testament to the power of the characters themselves. That little girl scared the shit out of me and I loved every second of it.

 

  • Characters: Wyatt is quite possibly one of my favorite examples of a character who is, at once, highly moralistic and extremely conflicted. It is such a literary delicacy to see internal conflict take place within a character in such a brilliant way as to make you, the reader, feel that same level of conflict. It is both his humanness and his pure, unadulterated devotion to that unbending, unruly, and callous land that make you root for him throughout this novel. Lucy, his twin sister, is the mirror in which we see the parts of Wyatt that he does not show us himself, their symbiotic relationship blurring the edges of what light and darkness truly mean. Their relationship is one of the fiercest and most profound I have ever seen, with a closeness and devotion that breaks your heart and mends it over and over again. The girl with the gun, the wild-eyed child with a TEC-9 and his cattle’s blood on her hands, is a character that will be ingrained my mind forever. She is unapologetic, lionhearted, and formidable. I don’t even know what to write about her, because she is beyond explaining, in the sense that her character is portrayed so perfectly that she is a real person, just like Wyatt and Lucy, and how do you explain a real person? They just are who they are and there are adjectives you can use, but not nearly enough of them.

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If someone ever asked me to rate Ulysses, I’d say there weren’t enough stars in our galaxy to do that. I feel the same way about this book. There wasn’t a single page I didn’t love, a single word I felt was out of place, or a single moment where I wasn’t moved or scared or fascinated or amazed. I truly believe that this book will be considered a classic one day, and its author a legend. For anyone looking for an incredibly well written and heart-thumping story, for a gritty and fast-paced thriller, or for a book that will simply blow your mind, then I wholeheartedly recommend this novel. As I said, not enough stars in the galaxy, but I’ll settle for five out of five (just imagine they’re made out of millions of tiny stars).

5star-rating

As always, happy reading!

*Thank you to the author for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*

 

 

 

On the Line between Fantasy & Literary Fiction: Writing for a genre (or three)

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https://www.instagram.com/thejoyceanbooknerd/

As readers, we tend to categorize our reading preferences in the form of genres. Some of us might like one or two specific ones, while others are open to a whole bunch of them. Now, my question is: Why can’t it be the same for writers?

Writers are told to find a market and to write according to what that market wants. This logic makes sense, as any writer with the intention of publishing their work hopes to achieve some form of commercial success. But what if a writer wants to write books in a multitude of genres? Dan Simmons, for example, writes science fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and horror stories. Jay Kristoff writes fantasy, new adult, and science fiction. What’s to stop any writer from writing the stories they want to write, no matter what genre they fall under?

I recently started writing a new book, while still editing the second draft of my first book. This isn’t a shocker, considering that we writers tend to stretch ourselves thin quite often. The weird part of this two-book adventure I’ve decided to embark on is that these two books are completely different. When I finished writing my first book, a new adult fantasy with a literary twist, I thought I’d pick up on the second book immediately (it’s a series). Alas, the writing gods did not agree, and I found myself writing a new story, a semi-autobiographical fictional account of the 2006 Beirut war. The writing, the characters, the premise, and the message are completely different. It’s a story I never even imagined writing, but somehow, it’s a story that suddenly needs to be written. The way I see it, books that tell a fantastical story of adventure and dragons and mermaids are books that give us an escape from the real world; they’re a breath of fresh air in a new world. But books that tell a true story are the ones that make us look at the real world with new eyes; they leave a mark on us and help us understand things that were once blurry or unclear.

I’m not blurb-ing about my books, don’t worry. But the point of this post was to address that innate fear that so many of us feel as writers, that our story might not “fit” on a particular shelf. Will our books be read? Will they be liked? Will they be loved enough to be read again and again? These are questions that might linger in the backs of the minds of many a writer, but the real questions are: Do you want to read your book? Do you believe in it? Would you want to see a book like it on a shelf somewhere? If the answers to those questions are yes, yes, and hell yes, then your book is worth it.

Beverly Cleary, the legendary childrens’ and young adult fiction writer, once said: If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.” These words should be our mantra in those moments when we’re tempted to delete our words from existence. Write what you want to write. Write for yourself first and regardless of which shelf or section your book ends up on, know that your story deserves its place there. So, if you haven’t started writing that book yet, then there’s no better time to start than today!

TJB Editing Services are now live & open!

In case you didn’t know already, my day job is editing. Having worked as an editor for over six years in journalistic, literary, and media organizations, as well as two years as a freelance editor, it is my goal in life to help fellow writers publish great books for readers to enjoy.

So, I am excited to announce that my TJB Editing service is now up and running! You can find all the information you might need on the TJB Editing Services page of this site. Services will include developmental editing, copy-editing, proofreading, critical feedback, and more! It’s not just for novels either, but also includes editing services for academic projects as well.

I want to work with you and make your book or project the best that it can be! Feel free to ask me anything either in the comments or via any of my social media!