WWW Wednesday – Issue 1

WWW Wednesday is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I highlight what I’m currently reading, what I recently finished reading, and what I plan to read next. This weekly event is hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words.

After sharing my lists of the books I’m most looking forward to in 2019 (70 Middle Grade Novels I Can’t Wait To Read In 2019, 150 Young Adult Novels I Can’t Wait To Read In 2019 and 45 Adult Fiction Novels I Can’t Wait To Read In 2019) it didn’t make much sense for me to continue posting my Waiting on Wednesday feature each week after consolidating that into three posts. Instead, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to try something a little different! I’ve been looking for new ways to discuss what I’m reading on a more regular basis on Pop! Goes The Reader and was really delighted when I discovered Taking On A World Of Words‘ WWW Wednesday feature, which seems like it will help me do just that. I’m so excited to give it a try, so let’s get started!

Title The Water Cure
Author Sophie Mackintosh
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Publication Date January 8th 2019 by Doubleday
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The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men

King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters: Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or, viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cultlike rituals and therapies they endure fortify them against the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.

When their father, the only man they have ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two strange men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blisteringly hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?

A haunting, riveting debut about our capacity for violence and the potency of female desire, The Water Cure both devastates and astonishes as it reflects our own world back at us.

I’ve only just started The Water Cure so I can’t speak too specifically about it yet (I’m currently at 10% in my Kindle edition) but I’m already impressed by how vivid, lyrical and haunting Mackintosh’s prose is. I was in the mood for something drastically different after reading two middle grade novels in a row, and The Water Cure definitely fits the bill! I intentionally learned very little about this book before I began reading because I wanted to be surprised, but I think any novel about women attempting to escape the dangers and damage of toxic masculinity (quite literally, in this case) seems particularly apropos at the moment and I can’t wait to read more!

Title Property of the Rebel Librarian
Author Allison Varnes
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date September 18th 2018 by Random House Books For Young Readers
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When twelve-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can’t give up books…and she realizes she doesn’t have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It’s a delicious secret…and one she can’t keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library’s popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle – a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it’s powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read.

Equal parts fun and empowering, this novel explores censorship, freedom of speech, and activism. For any kid who doesn’t believe one person can effect change…and for all the kids who already know they can!

I had such high hopes for Allison Varnes’ debut novel about a twelve-year-old girl who starts an underground banned book library for her classmates after her parents spearhead a campaign of censorship against her beloved middle school library but, ultimately, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed by Property of the Rebel Librarian. While the concept of the novel is excellent and has an incredible amount of potential, the execution leaves a little something to be desired. Property of the Rebel Librarian does an admirable job of underlining some of the absurdities of censorship (i.e. June’s parent’s censoring her books after she has already read them), but it doesn’t feel as though the novel takes a strong enough stance against literary censorship and for an individual’s right to read. Because the situation is taken to such a preposterous extreme, it’s a little hard to take these very important issues seriously. Most disconcerting are June’s parents, who are never explicitly condemned for their behaviour in the text. They’re portrayed as well-intentioned and therefore sympathetic and above criticism or reproach, but their relationship with June and her older sister is toxic and borders on abusive. June is a delightful character and the novel’s underlying messages about standing up for oneself and speaking out against injustice are wonderful but I think my expectations got the better of me this time.

Title Ella Unleashed
Author Alison Cherry
Pages 208 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date September 25th 2018 by Aladdin
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Ella Cohen was skeptical when her mom started dating Krishnan just a few months after her parents’ divorce. But two years later, she really likes having her new stepfather around. When she decides to enter a junior dog show, Krishnan even lets her start handling his dog, Elvis. She’s determined to become an expert handler, even after her first show ends in disaster.

Unfortunately, some things are harder to control — like Ella’s dad, who has changed a lot since the divorce. He used to be laid back and fun, but now he hovers over her constantly, terrified she’s going to shatter into a million pieces if she so much as hints that everything in her life isn’t perfect. Ella is particularly upset that his animosity toward Krishnan keeps him from coming to watch her handle Elvis, especially when she wins a lottery spot in the National Dog Show in Philadelphia.

When Ella’s best friends suggest she find her dad a date to the dog show, it seems like the perfect solution. If her dad has a new girlfriend, surely he won’t mind so much that Ella’s mom has a new husband. So Ella decides to play matchmaker, going so far as to create a fake online dating profile in order to find her dad his one true love.

But it turns out people, much like dogs, aren’t always so easy to control, and Ella’s plan backfires at the worst possible moment. Can Ella manage to bring her divided life together in time for her moment in the spotlight?

After being a little let down by Property of the Rebel Librarian, I searched my shelves for something I knew I would enjoy and was quick to select Ella Unleashed, which I was lucky enough to receive for Christmas. Alison Cherry’s middle grade novels never disappoint, and thankfully Ella Unleashed was no exception. The novel’s inclusion of dog shows as one of its primary settings was unique and a lot of fun, and Ella was a sensitive, vulnerable and thoroughly loveable character whose heart was always in the right place, even if it does lands her in some sticky (and often hilarious) situations along the way. Ella Unleashed would make a wonderful gift for a child of separation or divorce, as the novel encourages an open dialogue between parent and child and explores some of the potential fears and uncertainties experienced by a child as their family undergoes this difficult transition. I highly recommend Ella Unleashed and Alison’s other middle grade novels, The Classy Crooks Club and Willows vs. Wolverines for readers of all ages!

Title The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Author Sabina Khan
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, F/F Romance
Publication Date January 29th 2019 by Scholastic Inc.
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Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali has always been fascinated by the universe around her and the laws of physics that keep everything in order. But her life at home isn’t so absolute.

Unable to come out to her conservative Muslim parents, she keeps that part of her identity hidden. And that means keeping her girlfriend, Ariana, a secret from them too. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life at home and a fresh start at Caltech in the fall. But when Rukhsana’s mom catches her and Ariana together, her future begins to collapse around her.

Devastated and confused, Rukhsana’s parents whisk her off to stay with their extended family in Bangladesh where, along with the loving arms of her grandmother and cousins, she is met with a world of arranged marriages, religious tradition, and intolerance. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds allies along the way and, through reading her grandmother’s old diary, finds the courage to take control of her future and fight for her love.

A gritty novel that doesn’t shy away from the darkest corners of ourselves, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali provides a timely and achingly honest portrait of what it’s like to grow up feeling unwelcome in your own culture and proves that love, above all else, has the power to change the world.

This particular question is always going to be difficult for me to answer because I’m a bit of a mood reader and what I want to read can change from one moment to the next, but I know that I’ll be making The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali a priority in the very near future. Scholastic was kind enough to send me an early copy for review and I’ve been looking forward to Sabina Khan’s debut for months so this is one book I know I’ll be reading very soon!

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Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!