Book Review: Vox

Vox and coffee cupVox by Christina Dalcher

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

Review:
I’ve been hearing about this book for awhile, but have finally got the chance to read it (for a book club that is now cancelled!).
The concept for Vox is interesting: a dystopian future where women are limited to speaking only 100 words a day. The premise is set up as something that could happen in the US (the book takes place in the US) in a realistic way, with the erosion of rights for women, with distraction techniques, with people who are too busy to vote and protest.
There were definitely parts of this book that I liked. I enjoy taking a concept and pushing it to the extreme, as this author did. I loved how she also used her own knowledge of linguistics to fuel much of the book.
However, I didn’t like the main character, Jean. Usually that’s OK, I don’t need to like the characters. Still, I found, even in this book billing itself as a feminist exploration, that she kept waiting for someone to safe her. She was remarkably passive for much of the time. Perhaps this is to highlight how important it is for everyone to vote and stand up to injustice.
I also found Jean’s attitude toward her male children problematic. I know that her daughter was in more danger than her sons, but I found it hard to buy into a mother who would so easily, potentially leave some of her children behind.
This book is a mixed bag for me — interesting concept, great research, but the main character acts in ways sometimes that I have a hard time buying into.
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Book Review: Things in Jars

Things in Jars with bookmark and catThings in Jars by Jess Kidd

Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.

Review:
I really enjoyed this unique historical fantasy book. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and the author has an amazing vocabulary, often creating sentences that I stopped to re-read.
Bridie is a fantastic character. I love her no nonsense attitude. She’s smart and unconventional and the kind of character I enjoy. She does things on her own terms. I also especially liked her housemaid. The supporting characters added so much to this book.
The author also does an interesting job in weaving in myth and the paranormal into Victorian life. She has clearly done her research on early medicine, which I found it fascinating.
The pacing of the book did suffer a little in the middle, but all of the wonderful characters amply made up for that.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.
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Book Review: Follow Me

Follow MeFollow Me by Kathleen Barber

From the author of Truth Be Told (formerly titled Are You Sleeping)—now an Apple TV series of the same name—comes a cautionary tale of oversharing in the social media age for fans of Jessica Knoll and Caroline Kepnes’s You.

Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.

Review:
This is an interesting book, exploring social media, influencers, how real (or not) they are, how we look at them, and the real life consequences, especially given technology.
I enjoyed this book well enough, but didn’t love it. I thought it would be more intense and less repetitive. It just seemed some of the relationships were going in circles.
The book is told from 3 points of view: Audrey, a social media influencer, her friend Cat, and Him, the stalker.
Audrey was what I suppose a young woman trying to become an influencer might be like. I did find her annoying at times, though, especially around her own personal security (no spoilers but the situation around where she lived felt like something I would definitely not put up with).
Cat’s insecurity wore on me, though I did enjoy trying to figure out who He was.
Overall, I guess I thought the book would be more intense, though I did enjoy it. This is probably a case where this just wasn’t the right book for me because I can see how it would appeal to others.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.
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Book Review: Fishing! A Novel

Fishing! A NovelFishing!: A Novel by Sarah Stonich

A hilarious saga of fishing, family, and three generations of tough, independent women—the first in a trilogy 

Having fled the testosterone-soaked world of professional sport fishing, thirty-something RayAnne Dahl is navigating a new job as a consultant for the first all-women talk show about fishing on public television (or, as one viewer’s husband puts it, “Oprah in a boat”). After the host bails, RayAnne lands in front of the camera and out of her depth at the helm of the show. Is she up for the challenge? Meanwhile, her family proves as high-maintenance as her fixer-upper house and her clingy rescue dog. Her dad, star of the one-season Big Rick’s Bass Bonanza, is on his sixth wife and falling off the wagon and into RayAnne’s career path; her mother, a new-age aging coach for the menopausal rich, provides endless unwanted advice; and her beloved grandmother Dot—whose advice RayAnne needs—is far away and far from well.

But as RayAnne says, “I’m a woman, I fish. Deal with it.” And just when things seem to be coming together—the show is an unlikely hit; she receives the admiration of a handsome sponsor (out of bounds as he is, but definitely in the wings); ungainly house and dog are finally in hand—RayAnne’s world suddenly threatens to capsize, and she’s faced with a gut-wrenching situation and a heartbreaking decision.

First published in 2015 under a pseudonym, this first installment in a trilogy filled with hilarity and heartbreak unspools with the gentle wit and irresistible charm that readers of Sarah Stonich have come to expect. Fishing! eases us into unsuspected depths as it approaches the essential question . . . when should life be steered by the heart, not the rules? 

Review:
I really enjoyed this quirky book about RayAnne, a professional sport fisher who reluctantly becomes a talk show host on her fishing boat.
RayAnne’s character was fun for being so oblivious to her own talent and empathy, all the while trying to figure out her life and family relationships. There were many bittersweet moments, along with some off beat humour.
My favourite parts of the book were the interviews on the boat for the TV show. I loved these interesting women and the idea of such a different kind of talk show, one with real women doing interesting things rather than celebrities.
This was an engaging, light, interesting book that I quite enjoyed.
Thank you to Netgalley and The University of Minnesota Press for the review copy.
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