Book Review: Supper Club

Supper Club by Lara Williams

A sharply intelligent and intimate debut novel about a secret society of hungry young women who meet after dark and feast to reclaim their appetites–and their physical spaces–that posits the question: if you feed a starving woman, what will she grow into?

Roberta spends her life trying not to take up space. At almost thirty, she is adrift and alienated from life. Stuck in a mindless job and reluctant to pursue her passion for food, she suppresses her appetite and recedes to the corners of rooms. But when she meets Stevie, a spirited and effervescent artist, their intense friendship sparks a change in Roberta, a shift in her desire for more. Together, they invent the Supper Club, a transgressive and joyous collective of women who gather to celebrate, rather than admonish, their hungers. They gather after dark and feast until they are sick; they break into private buildings and leave carnage in their wake; they embrace their changing bodies; they stop apologizing. For these women, each extraordinary yet unfulfilled, the club is a way to explore, discover, and push the boundaries of the space they take up in the world. Yet as the club expands, growing both in size and rebellion, Roberta is forced to reconcile herself to the desire and vulnerabilities of the body–and the past she has worked so hard to repress. Devastatingly perceptive and savagely funny, Supper Club is an essential coming-of-age story for our times.

Review:
I loved the premise of this book — about women taking up space, finding out what they really want, not changing themselves for someone else, growing into who they want to be.
And there is this in Supper Club. Still, the execution did not work for me. I did not like this book much. The characters mostly annoyed me. I found the female friendships OK. The eating, drinking, doing drugs, etc to excess was difficult to read, but maybe that was the point. The men tended to be terrible, but maybe that was the point too.
Roberta was a shy character, she was drifting through life. She put up with terrible things from men. The Supper Club was a way for her to grow, but I felt like she didn’t grow all that much until the very end. Even after the Supper Club started, she got together with a man who didn’t want her to be herself.
Maybe that’s what is bugging me about this book. The women took all of this freedom and indulged in the Supper Club so they could grow but I didn’t really see them grow. Then there was massive change right at the end.
Overall, the premise was great, but the execution didn’t work for me.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: The Women’s War

The Women’s War (Women’s War #1) by Jenna Glass

In a high fantasy feminist epic, a revolutionary spell gives women the ability to control their own fertility—with consequences that rock their patriarchal society to its core.

When a nobleman’s first duty is to produce a male heir, women are treated like possessions and bargaining chips. But as the aftereffects of a world-altering spell ripple out physically and culturally, women at last have a bargaining chip of their own. And two women in particular find themselves at the crossroads of change.

Alys is the widowed mother of two teenage children, and the disinherited daughter of a king. Her existence has been carefully proscribed, but now she discovers a fierce talent not only for politics but also for magic—once deemed solely the domain of men. Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, young Ellin finds herself unexpectedly on the throne after the sudden death of her grandfather the king and everyone else who stood ahead of her in the line of succession. Conventional wisdom holds that she will marry quickly, then quietly surrender the throne to her new husband…. Only, Ellin has other ideas.

The tensions building in the two kingdoms grow abruptly worse when a caravan of exiled women and their escort of disgraced soldiers stumbles upon a new source of magic in what was once uninhabitable desert. This new and revolutionary magic—which only women can wield—threatens to tear down what is left of the patriarchy. And the men who currently hold power will do anything to fight back.

Review:
I absolutely loved this book! I loved the fantasy and the magic and how it was used to explore the roles of women and men and the power between them.
When three generations of women perform a radical spell, they give women the ability to control their own fertility. The change takes place immediately and has far reaching consequences in a world where women are treated as commodities and are valued for the heirs they bear. This one change gives women new power and forces society to examine the patriarchy under which it has lived for generations.
Stories that make one change in the world and pushes to see the far reaching outcomes really appeal to me, and The Women’s War does not disappoint. Glass examines many aspects of how women have or gain power or how they lose it. Unfortunately, these situations are often terrible and violent and Glass chooses not to shy away from this, including some particularly terrible scenes (just so you are warned).
I also enjoyed the world that Glass created. It is rich, epic, detailed, and the characters are compelling. The magic and the elements it uses are wonderful and beautifully add to the story’s themes. I couldn’t wait to turn the pages to find out what the characters would do next. Alys and Ellin, two of the main characters, are each truly formidable in their own ways and I am eager to see what they do in the next book.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes)

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) by Lorna Landvik

A bittersweet, seriously funny novel of a life, a small town, and a key to our troubled times traced through a newspaper columnist’s half-century of taking in, and taking on, the world

The curmudgeon who wrote the column “Ramblin’s by Walt” in the Granite Creek Gazette dismissed his successor as “puking on paper.” But when Haze Evans first appeared in the small-town newspaper, she earned fans by writing a story about her bachelor uncle who brought a Queen of the Rodeo to Thanksgiving dinner. Now, fifty years later, when the beloved columnist suffers a massive stroke and falls into a coma, publisher Susan McGrath fills the void (temporarily, she hopes) with Haze’s past columns, along with the occasional reprinted responses from readers. Most letters were favorable, although Haze did have her trolls; one Joseph Snell in particular dubbed her “liberal” ideas the “chronicles of a radical hag.” Never censoring herself, Haze chose to mollify her critics with homey recipes—recognizing, in her constantly practical approach to the world and her community, that buttery Almond Crescents will certainly “melt away any misdirected anger.”

Framed by news stories of half a century and annotated with the town’s chorus of voices, Haze’s story unfolds, as do those of others touched by the Granite Creek Gazette, including Susan, struggling with her troubled marriage, and her teenage son Sam, who—much to his surprise—enjoys his summer job reading the paper archives and discovers secrets that have been locked in the files for decades, along with sad and surprising truths about Haze’s past.

With her customary warmth and wit, Lorna Landvik summons a lifetime at once lost and recovered, a complicated past that speaks with knowing eloquence to a confused present. Her topical but timeless Chronicles of a Radical Hag reminds us—sometimes with a subtle touch, sometimes with gobsmacking humor—of the power of words and of silence, as well as the wonder of finding in each other what we never even knew we were missing.

Review:
I was absolutely drawn into this book by it’s fantastic title, and it did not disappoint. I tore through this uniquely written book and enjoyed getting to know the characters of this small town — and reading the yummy recipes!!
The book uses Hazel’s newspaper columns from over 50 years to structure the story of Hazel, the people in her life, and the people who’s lives were touched by her columns. It seems like this might be confusing, but it isn’t because it’s handled really well.
I love Hazel and her no nonsense point of view. She is not shy on giving her opinion and has the courage to say things that might be unpopular — with the understanding that at least she will be engaging people in important discussions.
This book gives strong opinions on a lot of hot social and political topics — everything from feminism, to gay rights, to war, and beyond. I imagine that the author was hoping to be like Hazel, to put her thoughts out there and inspire some discussion. I did find that near the end, it felt like a lot of issues were being thrown at the reader in a bit of a rush.
One of my favourite characters was Sam, the struggling teenager who learns to find his way, largely through reading through Hazel’s columns. He’s absolutely adorable and it was nice to see the growth in this teen and how he learned to inspire others.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me a review copy of this book.
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