Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | My 2018 Spring TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Books On My Spring TBR'. I mentioned in my Winter TBR (and looking at that now I still haven't read any of the books on that TBR - oops!) that I love to tackle high fantasy in the winter, but as it's a genre I've been starting to get back into that's something I'd like to keep going - especially as I didn't actually read any of the high fantasy I was hoping to read over the winter.

Usually I try and do themed seasonal TBRs, but this time I've just gone for books I'm in the mood for at the moment, including some new releases that I'm very excited for!

The Good People by Hannah Kent: I'm definitely a mood reader, but there are certain themes/genres/countries that pull me in at various times of the year, and for some reason I gravitate towards Ireland in the spring. I think it's all that green. I still haven't read this one even though I loved her debut, Burial Rites, so I need to get to it soon.

Gaslight by Eloise Williams: I can't remember the last time I read a Middle Grade book. In all honesty it's not a genre I particularly gravitate towards, but lately I've so been in the mood for an MG book and I couldn't resist picking this one up. Not only is this historical fiction, but it's historical fiction set in Victorian Cardiff which is so unusual given how many Victorian era novels are set in London. I briefly met the author at Cardiff Book Festival last year, she was lovely, and I used to work with the lady who set up the publisher, Firefly Press, who is also incredibly nice. If you're a big fan of MG fiction I recommend checking out their website - they're publishing some great stuff!

Circe by Madeline Miller: This is my most anticipated release of 2018 and it's due out in April! I'm so glad I only read The Song of Achilles last year, I'm not sure I could have waited seven years for another book from Miller.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth: Embarrassingly, I'm pretty sure this was on my Spring TBR last year and I still haven't read it. Oops. Something about spring makes me crave fairy tales and this spin on Rapunzel sounds right up my street. Hopefully I'll get to it this year!

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig: I've been reading Jodi Taylor's Just One Damned Thing After Another recently and it's whet my appetite for more books about time travel. This isn't a time travel book exactly, but the protagonist is a history teacher with a strange genetic condition that's caused him to live for hundreds of years. I picked up an edition that's been illustrated by Chris Riddell and signed by both him and Matt Haig and it's beautiful, hopefully I'll get to it soon.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton: This high fantasy retelling of King Lear features three princesses fighting for their father's crown and sounds like so much fun. I'm one of three sisters myself so I love stories like this.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: African-inspired high fantasy! I know it's a bit of a fantasy trope now, but I love 'magic is banned' stories so I can't wait to read this one.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine: More Middle Grade! I remember reading Ella Enchanted in school and loving it and I've heard so many good things about this one but never read it. I love stories about sisters, as I mentioned before, so I'm looking forward to cross this one off my TBR.

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu: This time some Asian-inspired fantasy! I was hoping to get to this one over winter - especially as I talked about wanting to read more big books this year - but then I started It and I didn't think I could handle two chunky books at once, so hopefully I'll get to this one in the spring instead.

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan: I've never read any Trudi Canavan but friends of mine read her when we were teenagers and loved her work. I've seen a lot of reviews about this one that aren't great, saying it's full of tropes, but do you know what? Sometimes I'm in the mood for a trope-filled fantasy story, and I think this one is going to make me nostalgic for the stories I loved as a child.

Which books made your list this week?

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

This Week in Books | 14/03/18

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

Now | Considering I only gave the first two books in the Mistress of the Art of Death series two stars, it's a wonder I'm reading another book in the series. Usually if I don't love a series I won't bother with the rest of the books, but this particular series is a really easy read and, while I don't think Franklin was the best writer around, I do enjoy her characters and I'm never going to let the chance of reading books centred around women in the 12th century pass me by. I'm actually really enjoying Relics of the Dead so far, especially as this book is set in parts of the UK that I'm familiar with and includes legends I'm familiar with, so it's strangely comforting for a book about potential murder...

Then | For the first time in years I read some Middle Grade and I loved the experience of it. I need to read more children's books and now I have a small selection waiting for me to make my way through this spring. Gaslight was another one that was comforting and familiar, being a Victorian era novel set in Cardiff, the city where I used to work. Look out for my review!

Next | Carrying on with the historical theme - because let's face it, when am I not reading historical fiction ? - I'm feeling myself drawn towards Mistress Firebrand at the moment. Sometimes I like to indulge in a bit of historical romance, and this novel, set during the American Revolutionary War, follows a playwright who once wrote comedies and now writes plays for the Rebels under a pseudonym that have landed her on a British hanging list.

What have you been reading recently?

Monday, 5 March 2018

Review | Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie

by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie

My Rating: 

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

I received an eARC of Princesses Behaving Badly from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book combines two of my favourite things: women and history. I've been a history nerd since my childhood and was lucky enough to spend many days out at museums, castles and abbeys that my parents took me to. Looking back, it makes me sad that the only women ever really mentioned in my history lessons at school were Boadicea, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. All amazing women in their own right, of course, but what about all the other women who contributed to the world's history who have been completely overshadowed by their male contemporaries?

Princesses Behaving Badly aims to set this bias right, and I think it does a decent job of it; there are lots of women in here I'd heard of before, but there were plenty more I'd either never heard of or had heard of but didn't really know anything about.  For example, I never knew just how tragic the life of George I's wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, was. Let's just say George I has quickly become one of my least favourite British monarchs.

There are princesses from all over the world in this book, from many different cultures, races and religions, which I really enjoyed. When we hear 'princess' I think it's easy for us to picture a white, European Guinevere-esque figure - someone from a fairy tale rather than history - so I admire the amount of research that must have gone into the creation of this book to make it so diverse.

I also loved that McRobbie didn't choose to only include the 'nice' princesses, or even the ones that were particularly good at their job. There are women in this book who died defending their country and others who cared more about their wardrobe than war, and by including all of them she hasn't put women on a pedestal but proved that we have been just as diverse as men throughout the centuries.

Having said that, there were some parts that grated on me a little bit. McRobbie has a rant about Disney Princesses in the introduction which I thought was unnecessary, especially as, to me, it came across as 'I'm not like other girls, I don't like Disney princesses because I'm not silly'. I'm not a fan of the belief that Disney teaches girls that they're only worth how pretty other people think they are; I've been a Disney fanatic all my life, so perhaps I'm biased, but one of the reasons I adore Beauty and the Beast so much is because of the message that it's what's inside that counts.

The earlier Disney movies are certainly of their time, but from The Little Mermaid onwards we've had a whole host of strong Disney heroines who are heroic in their own way. No, wearing a pretty dress and a tiara doesn't make you a princess - something another Disney film, The Princess Diaries, addressed excellently - but I'm not going to shame little girls who enjoy wearing dresses and tiaras if it makes them feel empowered.

There were also a few instances where people were described as 'ugly' or 'insane' that made me a bit uncomfortable, especially as these instances didn't agree with other parts of the book. McRobbie criticised Disney for making girls think being a princess is about being beautiful, and then pitied various real life princesses because they hadn't been considered attractive. She also made some excellent points about mental illness not being taken seriously or treated appropriately in the past, only to make throwaway remarks about people being insane. Hypocritical much?

All in all, though, this is a much more positive book than a negative one. This would be an excellent introduction to anyone who wants to learn more about women's history as well as anyone who wants to learn more about history but feels intimidated by non-fiction. This book is written so conversationally that it's a very easy read and there's a wonderful bibliography of further reading included in the back if you want to learn more about any of the princesses involved.

If you're more interested in history that isn't about the royal family then this book probably isn't for you, although the clue's in the title, but wherever your interests lie there are so many fascinating women in this book I think it would be a shame to miss out on learning more about them.