The Feminist Book Tag

I was tagged by Rachel for this absolutely wonderful tag and I am so very excited. It comes as no surprise that I am a feminist and love female centric books a whole lot.

1 Your favorite female author

This question is near impossible to answer, there are just too many, but here is a (tiny) sample:

N.K. Jemisin, Lidia Yuknavitch, Megan Stielstra, Amber Sparks

PS: I am only including authors I have read more than one book of.

2 Your favorite heroine

19161852Essun from N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy comes to mind: She is flawed and strong and loving and so so wonderfully drawn. She is allowed to be strong and weak and wrong.



3 A novel with a feminist message

27213181The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch. This book is so absolutely stunning. Lidia Yuknavitch is just beyond talented. I love how personal her fiction is and how centered on female grief and strength. This reminds me that I need to read the rest of her books (am I the only one who sometimes puts of reading books I know I will adore?).


4 A novel with a girl on the cover

34417038The Murders of Molly Southborne by Tade Thompson. Because just look at that cover. Is it not beyond amazing?




5 A novel featuring a group of girls

25533896Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire. I appreciate McGuire’s ideas more than her writing style, but there is no denying that she has found the perfect group dynamics here.



6 A novel with a LGBTQIAP+ female character

35110377Amatka by Karin Tidbeck. While I was not on the whole super impressed, the book has stuck with me and I have so many spoilery thoughts on the way in which Tidbeck plays with the readers’ expectations in a very interesting way. The lesbian relationship being part of that.



7 A novel with different feminine POV

I am going to be sneaky and steal Rachel’s answer for this because like her I am not even sure what this question is getting at.

35412372Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi is for sure different (and impressive and you should all go and read it). Told from the different perspectives of Ada’s multiple selves, this novel might very well be my favourite of the year when 2018 is over. I adored everything about this.



8 A book where a girl saves the world


The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin (is it obvious how much I love it?)

This is slightly spoilery so I am not going into detail.



9 A book where you prefer the female sidekick to the male MC

First, where don’t I prefer the female sidekick to the male MC?! But, the answer that feels most true is Hermione Granger. She is everything I aspire to be: brave, clever, hard-working, honest, loyal, and so on. Without her the series would have been a short one indeed.

10 A book written by a male author and featuring a female character

25452717I will go with The City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett with this one. This is another fantasy series I adore and Shara Thivani is just so very brilliant. She is the emotional heart of the book (and arguably the whole series), while being vulnerable, prickly, clever, and resourceful. Bennett’s women in general are a strong suit of this series: Turyin Mulaghesh is another absolutely brilliant, flawed, wonderful character.

I tag Nadine, Rita, and whoever else wants to do this. I want to hear all your answers!

Review: The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

35681935Verdict: Hilarious, heartwarming, wonderful.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Published by Two Roads, July 2017

Genre: Memoir, Audiobook

Find it on Goodreads.

Why we are all being messed up by gender, and what we can do about it.

‘It’s a boy!’ or ‘It’s a girl!’ are the first words almost all of us hear when we enter the world. Before our names, before we have likes and dislikes – before we, or anyone else, has any idea who we are. And two years ago, as Juno Dawson went to tell her mother she was (and actually, always had been) a woman, she started to realise just how wrong we’ve been getting it.

Gender isn’t just screwing over trans people, it’s messing with everyone. From little girls who think they can’t be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to ‘alt-right’ young men. From men who can’t cry to the women who think they shouldn’t. As her body gets in line with her mind, Juno tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society’s expectations of gender – and what we can do about it.

Featuring insights from well-known gender, feminist and trans activists including Rebecca Root, Laura Bates, Gemma Cairney, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hannah Witton, Alaska Thunderfuck and many more, The Gender Games is a frank, witty and powerful manifesto for a world where what’s in your head is more important than what’s between your legs.

In short: I loved every second of this. I adored the warmth, the humour, the pop culture reference, and how very very positive this was. I listened to the book as read by the author and I can only recommend this. Juno Dawson brings an absolute wonderful joy to this memoir that I just really needed.

Compared to other memoirs I read in my month of reading mostly memoirs, this was lighthearted and fun. This does not mean that Juno Dawson does not have a lot to say, which she does, brilliantly so. She just refuses to use a narrative of sadness for her own journey and I am glad. Coming out stories are not always awful and that gives me hope.

I agree with a lot of Juno Dawson’s thoughts on gender – and that felt nice because I am often the most radical in my social circle. I wasn’t at university (not by a long shot) but back in my small town and with in-laws who are very much of the opinion that boys and girls are fundamentally different and that girls should always wear pink (I am exaggerating, of course, but only a little) I do sometimes feel a bit weird. So listening to somebody who so very eloquently has similar thoughts was absolutely lovely.

I am around the same age as Juno Dawson and as such really appreciated a lot of her pop culture references a whole lot; I mean I was always going to love a book that references Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I just had so much fun listening to this. Please do check this one out if you haven’t already.

Review: Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657Verdict: Unbearable. Painful. The opposite of cathartic. Impossibly brilliant.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Published by Counterpoint Press, February 2018

Genre: Memoir

Find it on Goodreads.

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Mailhot “trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept.” Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, re-establishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.

I don’t think I have the words. I have been trying and failing to write a proper review for days. This book has rendered me speechless, so this will be a super short review.

Terese Mailhot’s memoir packs an unbelievable punch into a book this short. I could not stop reading it: her language is hypnotic, her turn of phrase impressive, her emotional rawness painful. This book does not follow conventions, Terese Mailhot tells her story the way she wants to and needs to. She is unapologetically herself. She bares her soul and hides it at the same time. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

I have been reading and loving many memoirs the last few years, but this is definitely one of my favourites. I cannot recommend this enough.

First sentences: “My story was maltreated. The words were too strong and ugly to speak. I tried to tell someone my story, but he thought it was a hustle.”

Review: Once I was cool – Megan Stielstra

18528073Verdict: I want to read everything Megan Stielstra has ever written und will ever write.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date read: January 21st, 2018

Published by Curbside Splendor, May 2014

Find it on Goodreads.

In these insightful, compassionate, gutsy, and heartbreaking personal essays, Stielstra, whose essay “Channel B” was recently featured in Best American Essays 2013 edited by Cheryl Strayed, explores the messy, maddening beauty of adulthood with wit, intelligence, and biting humor.

The essays in Once I Was Cool tackle topics ranging from beating postpartum depression by stalking her neighbor, to a surprise run-in with an old lover while on ecstasy, to blowing her mortgage on a condo she bought because of Jane’s Addiction. Or, said another way, they tackle life in all of its quotidian richness.

When I read Megan Stielstra’s second collection of essays late last year, I had to rewrite my “best of the year”-list. As such it comes as no surprise how much I enjoyed her debut essay collection. I just adore the way she writes essays, from the structure to the sentences to the messages, I find it beyond incredible. The only reason I “only” rated this four stars is because her other collection is just that strong and there are some essays there were a bit too similar.

Megan Stielstra writes about many things: about feminism, about postpartum depression, about love, about mortgages and many other things more. I adore the way she does it and the warmth she projects. She holds herself accountable while still being nice to herself as well as to others. (Her essay on niceness was just wonderful to read) I like the ultimately hopeful feeling of this book despite its heavy subject matters.

Like many of my favourite essayists she writes about the importance of art and literature and education and does so wonderfully. Her writing is accessible while still being clever and deep; which I find very impressive indeed.

I don’t have all that many things to say about this except for this: I am a fan.

Review: The Rules Do Not Apply – Ariel Levy

32572166Verdict: Intensely readable, very thought-provoking.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date Read: January 4th, 2018

Published by Random House, 2017

Find it on goodreads.

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules–about work, about love, and about womanhood.

“I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.”

In this memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her own story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed–and of what is eternal.

To talk about this book, I have to also talk about memoirs and my relationship with them in general. This book challenged me and my ideas of memoirs, especially those written by women. I have talked about my enjoyment of memoirs elsewhere so it is safe to say that it is a type of book I gravitate to and read a lot of.

Ariel Levy’s memoir is a memoir about loss: the loss of her child, her spouse, and her house. She talks in absolute honesty of that loss and of the person she was beforehand, a person who thought that ‘the rules do not apply’. Living an unconventional life mostly governed by what she wants rather than her surroundings, she stands before a massive pile of broken pieces, having to rebuild not only her life but also her understanding of it. So far, there are plenty o similarities to any number of brilliant memoirs I have read in the last few years (exhibit a, exhibit b, exhibit c), but there is a crucial difference, I think: Ariel Levy does not apologize for the person she is, with all her flaws and edges. This is not a memoir about growth through loss, because why should it be? I adore this, somehow. I adore how unapologetically herself she is, even if that person is probably not somebody I would be friends with. And why should that be a criteria to judge a literary work on to begin with? I think, and a brief look through reviews seems to agree with me, that often female narrators (in fiction) and female authors (in non-fiction) are somehow judged on likability. As if that has any influence whatsoever on the literay merit. As if the way she deals with her (horrific) loss is in any shape or form up for debate. This is her life and her book and her way of framing the story. (This is something I also find to be the case in Lidia Yuknavitch’s writing as well as in Maggie Nelson’s writing, both authors I enjoy immensely and who are also criticized occationally for making things all about them.)

I found this memoir intensely readable, very gripping, and super thought-provoking. Ariel Levy’s writing is impeccable, her structure (both within a sentence as well as in the complete book) works absolutely wonderful, and her voice is perfect. The made me realize that I need to stop thinking about the likability of an author; it made me question my assumptions about the genre. I am so very glad to have read this.

First sentences: “Do you ever talk to yourself? I do it all the time.”

Review: The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial – Maggie Nelson

31817301Verdict: Yes, Maggie Nelson IS brilliant.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date read: December 28th, 2017

Published by Vintage, 2017 (first published 2007)

Find it on Goodreads.

In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.

The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.

Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.

Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts was one of the first non fictions books I read when I decided to vary my reading a few years back. I adored it – Maggie Nelson’s particular brand of intellectual maybe even academic memoir writing resonates with me. As such it is a bit of shame that it took me so long to read another of her books. But now that I read this, I will for sure read all her other books as well.

A few months before Maggie Nelson published her book of poetry, Jane, which focusses on her late aunt who fell victim to a violent murder, she is contacted by a police officer – the case seems to have finally been solved (more than 30 years later) and an arrest will be made soon. This book chronicles this time where fiction and fact collide. Maggie Nelson and her mother sat through the whole trial.

She does not only chronicle the trial but also muses on our society’s fixation on murder, especially on murdered young women. She talks about this obsession while also never losing sight of the fact that she perhaps is doing exactly the same thing the media is doing: telling Jane’s story without maybe having the right. This reflexive self-consciousness was my favourite part of this book. She makes her own experience vey much the center of her work while also understanding this and acknowledging it. This is very brilliant. This focus on herself and on the role of her art is so well done and I adore that she does not apologize for putting herself in the center of her book.


Most Anticipated Books of 2018 (so far)

I have seen a couple of blogposts and Youtube videos floating around where people talk about their Most Anticipated Books of 2018. This coming year feels like the first year where I actually have a few books I am looking forward to reading. Normally I have maybe a handful books I know will come out soonish but currently I spend so much time looking at books that I have a proper list to share. The list is ordered by publication date and I have tried to write one or two sentences explaining why I want to read each book. The links lead to the goodreads pages.


January 30th, HarperOne

There is no way I am not reading this. I love memoirs written by women and this sounds timely and important.


35840657Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot

February 6th, Counterpoint Press

A memoir? Written by a woman? Who grew up on a Native American Reservation? Blurbed by Lidia Yuknavitch and Roxane Gay? There is no way I am not reading this.

35892355Folk by Zoe Gilbert

February 8th, Bloomsbury Press

These interconnected short stories set on an island and playing with myth and fairy tales sound right up my alley. The cover is also absolutely stunning.

35412372Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

February 13th, Grove Press

I am currently reading this and it is blowing my mind (which is why I am including this). This heartbreaking story of mental illness is approached differently to what I have read before and I have already so many thoughts.

36262478The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen

March 8th, Head of Zeus

Fantastical short stories that play on fairy tales – yes, still exactly my cuppa. In fact I have included this in my five star prediction post.


35068524Not that bad edited by Roxane Gay

May 1st, Harper Perennial

It is no secret how much I admire Roxane Gay and her thoughts. While this anthology of first person essays written about rape and rape culture will for sure make me angry and sad, it sounds important.

35448496The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

May 31st, Hamish Hamilton

The blurb is vague but sounded intriguing and the cover is just absolutely stunning. This sounds like an introspective, feminist work with maybe a speculative element and I am so here for that.

Florida 36098092by Lauren Groff

June 5th, Riverhead

I adored Fates and Furies, and I love short story collections, this was a no brainer, really.


Lies Sleeping (Peter Grant #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

June, Gollancz

This is one of the very few series I keep up with. I just love Ben Aaronovitch’s brand of urban fantasy and I cannot wait for this.

36896898Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

July 10th, Del Rey

I really enjoyed Uprooted and this sounds similar (in a good way). I like fairy tale retellings so very much and Naomi Novik manages to hit the language just perfectly.

32600407Sick by Porochista Khakpour

August 8th, Harper Perennial

This memoir about Porochista Khakpour’s struggle with illness sounds right up my alley. I am very much in the mood for non fiction lately and I wish I could read this already.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

August 14th, Del Rey

It is the last part of the brilliant Winternight trilogy. Do I really have to say more?

Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab

September 25th, Tor

Vicious is my favourite of V. E. Schwab’s books. I just adored it so much and I just cannot wait to read the next book in a series that I did not know would be a series.



What are your most anticipated books for the upcoming months? Let me know because obviously my TBR is not big enough already.

Review: The Wrong Way To Save Your Life – Megan Stielstra

32600746Verdict: Just go and read this.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Date read: December 13th, 2017

Published by HarperPerennial, 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece “The Wrong Way To Save Your Life,” she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family’s goes up in flames. “Here is My Heart” sheds light on Megan’s close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she’s imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra’s work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.

Intellectually fierce and viscerally intimate, Megan Stielstra’s voice is witty, wise, warm, and above all, achingly human.

This book snuck up on me: I was enjoying it and then suddenly I was loving it. I am so very glad that this was the 100th book I finished this year.

Megan Stielstra writes about a variety of topics: academia, feminism, her pregnancy and marriage, her struggle with postpartum depression, the story of her mortgage drowning her, gun control, and many more things. The essays are loosely structured around themes of fear but are so much more than that. It is fearless and honest and stylistically wonderful. It is unflinching – but also ultimately hopeful. I love how she holds herself accountable and how she wants to make the world a better place, one action at a time. This is needed; I needed to hear this.

I love the way Megan Stielstra’s language flows and how her essays are structured, both the individual pieces and the collection as a whole. Her sentences pack such a punch that I had to reread lengthy passages just to be sure I appreciate them as they should be appreciated (and then she says this: “I am not a good enough writer yet to explain what that did to my heart.” – if she thinks there is room for improvement then I cannot wait to read what she does next. It will blow my mind.).

I am having difficulties explaining my love for this book, so let me end by saying this: I had to rewrite my “Favourite Books of the Year”-post for this. It made me cry, it made me smile, I could not stop thinking about this (and thus missed sleep), and I have already bought Megan Stielstra’s other essay collection. Go and read this.

Friday Favourites: Book Edition #1

I like talking about the things I like (who doesn’t, I guess), so I will be trying to post about my favourite book related things regularly (I will aim for every second friday but I’ll have to wait and see if I can manage that). I will talk about my favourite authors and why they rule, about my favourite genres and why they make me happy, my favourite books and why they stick with me. And so on and so forth. There are so many things I love about books, I am sure I will be able to go on for a while. So without further ado, here’s this week’s thing I love:

Kassandra by Christa Wolf


Mit der Erzählung geh ich in den Tod.

There are no words to describe how much this book means to me. The first time I read it in my teens, it overwhelmed me but also made me feel awed; I have reread this book plenty of times but still, I am in absolute awe in the face of the work of genius Christa Wolf has created here.

“Kassandra” is part stream of consciousness, part eulogy, part feminist manifesto. The daughter of Priamos is sitting in front of the castle in Mykene and knows her life is nearly over; most people she knows are dead and the Troy she grew up in isn’t anymore – but she is still strong, still herself, still unashamed and thinking back on her life. Christa Wolf created a wonderful character, her reimagining of Kassandra is vivid and undeniably brilliant. Kassandra is flawed, her fall is very much her own making, but she owns it, herself, everything; she is always herself even in the face of tragedy, she does not lie to herself, does not make herself out to be more than she is, she is my absolute hero. Her relationship with Aeneas still to this day is my favourite fictional relationship; her refusal to agree to morally wrong decisions even if her disagreement does not change a thing is something I aspire to.

The book is short but every sentences, every word, every contraction is deliberate and packs a punch; not one sentence is without a reason in the greater flow of this work. A mixture between long, run-on sentences and short ellipses makes this book insanely readable but at the same time forces the reader to pay attention to every single thing going on.

I love this book, have loved it for a long time and will definitely keep rereading it forever.

What are your favourite re-tellings? It is one of my favourite types of books and I am always looking for recommendations; especially for re-tellings with a feminist twist (because I am nothing if not predictable).


Review: Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado

33375622My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date Read: November 4th, 2017

Published by Graywolf Press, October 3rd, 2017

Verdict: Beautifully written, poignant, sad, feminist short stories with a supernatural side.

Find it on Goodreads.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

I was really looking forward to this book ever since I saw a review by Roxane Gay for this; then when I read and loved one of these short stories earlier this year I was even more excited – and I was not disappointed in the least. I absolutely adored these stories and what Carmen Maria Machado has to offer. She writes just the kind of slightly unsettling and very upsetting short stories that I just adore. Her stories are twisted and mean but also beautiful beyond words. They have a core feminist message while also being stylistically awesome and never losing sight of the humanity at the core of them. The stories are highly inventive, can be read both as a social commentary and often as love stories, her characters feel real and her language is precise and wonderful.

As is usually the case I adored some stories more than others but overall this was a very strong collection and I can absolutely understand the praise it has garnered (it has been blurbed by Roxane Gay and Jeff VanderMeer among others).

I loved “The Husband Stitch” (this is the story I had read before), maybe even more so the second time around: this inventive rumination on what secrets women are allowed to keep made me mad and sad at the same time.

In “Inventory” a woman looks back on her past lovers as the world comes to an literal end around her. This story felt very different than the rest of the collection but I loved its wistful melancholy and the bleak surrounding Carmen Maria Machado evoked.

My favourite of the bunch was the novella “Especially Heinous”, written as short blurbs for a TV show (think “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” ) filled with ghosts with bells for eyes and doppelgängers that are eerily similar but very creepy. This story was unsettling and creepy but also packed an immense emotional punch.

PS: This is book is so beautifully produced; the pictures online do not really do it any justice.