When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

when she woke

Originally published in: 2011

What’s it about: In a near-future dystopian United States, Hannah has been subjected to chroming – her skin genetically altered to bright red – to publicly indicate her guilt as a violent felon in a society that has moved quickly toward a theocracy.

What made me pick it up: I’d heard that this was a modern-day Scarlet Letter with a strong Handmaid’s Tale feel, which was impossible to resist.

My favorite things: While the latter part of the book didn’t wow me, the opening and the premise are nearly perfect. Jordan creates a complex main character who wrestles with her own values as she moves away from a total acceptance of the righteous and utterly restrictive laws that rule much of the country. Though she is in a world where religious moralism reigns supreme and bodily autonomy doesn’t exist, her struggle to find peace with herself and her actions gives hope in a time of what feels like insurmountable tension and divisiveness.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, Naomi Alderman’s The Power, and other dystopian stories with a strong feminist bent.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

future home

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: In the near future when climate change has made winter a memory and evolution seems to be reversing, pregnant Cedar Songmaker connects with her biological family seeking answers about her origin. Her life and autonomy are put at risk in a society increasingly obsessed with protecting the human race by controlling reproduction.

What made me pick it up: I’ve never read Louise Erdrich before even though she’s been on my TBR list for years, so I decided to start with her newest release.

My favorite things: I didn’t really know anything about this book going in, knowing only that Erdrich is known to write mostly literary fiction featuring native characters. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I’d picked up her foray into dystopian and somewhat speculative fiction – one of my favorite areas to read. She does an incredible job of exploring themes of spirituality, identity, family, and resilience in the context of societal collapse.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of speculative and dystopian fiction. A particularly good fit for those who love Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Maddaddam trilogy and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Abby’s Best Reads of 2016


ready_player_one_coverBest Audiobook: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Originally published in: 2011

What it’s about: Wade Watts spends nearly all his time in the immersive virtual world that is the OASIS. He begins to solve the puzzle left by the creator of the world which has stumped players for decades. His progress leads to immediate fame and marks him as a target for other obsessed members of the OASIS.

What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook STAT – this one was available and had been lost somewhere in my to-read list for a while. I was a few years late to pick this one up-but I loved it so much I immediately sought out Cline’s next book, Armada.

My favorite things: Full disclosure: I don’t really have a lot to say about video games or 80’s pop culture, but I found Cline’s enthusiasm for both infectious and it somehow made me really care about the players in the OASIS. He does a great job of making a puzzle in a virtual world feel urgent and meaningful, and even finds the time for a little virtual romance. Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook and he’s so perfect for it that I wonder if Cline wrote it with him in mind.

Who it’s great for: Fans of video games, from the classics through mmorpgs, and DnD die-hards. 80’s pop culture buffs. Readers looking for an exciting dystopian adventure.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


100nightsBest Graphic Novel: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Set in the same universe as Greenberg’s 2013 debut The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a storyteller weaves tales for 100 nights to protect her true love from a lecherous man.

What made me pick it up: l loved The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and was excited to see what Greenberg would create next.

My favorite things: “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORLD AND IT WAS WEIRD.” Greenberg starts off with a bang and doesn’t fail to deliver. Her artistic style is one of my favorites and I’ve found myself flipping through repeatedly to find specific scenes that I loved. This is a kind of adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights/The Arabian Nights that expertly flips the script into a queer feminist retelling. The characters in each tale are as compelling and important as those in the framing story and include several strong women working to overcome dire situations to be independent.

Who it’s great for: Fans of fables and folklore. Readers looking for a collection of stories about love of all kinds. Fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s illustrated works.

Abby’s rating: five-shells

Did you come across any graphic novels or audiobooks this year that you can’t stop talking about?

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

Image result for the country of ice cream star

What it’s about: Set in a post-apocalyptic North America where a widespread disease catches children before they ever reach adulthood, a young girl races to find a cure to save her loved ones.

What made me pick it up: The name piqued my attention because, hey, who doesn’t love ice cream? But the new spin on the post-apocalyptic is what actually pushed it to the top of my TBR pile.

My favorite things: Newman writes in an imagined future dialect that was a struggle to work through at first, but as I got used to it I really enjoyed trying to puzzle out the origins of the language. I love the way she imagines how a society of children would boil down and try to embody the values of older generations. And can we talk about the shameless overuse of Instagram filter on the cover image? What is that-Crema? Rise? Charmes? Whatever it is, it perfectly fits the tone of the book.

Who it’s great for: Fans of dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. Anyone up for a linguistic challenge.

Abby’s Rating: four-shells