Rejected Princesses ~ BRC

Here we are on March 1st…my boys have just left on their band trip to California, and the weather here is less crisp spring, more balmy, sticky pre-summer.  Ugh.  Things are busy and my reading time is limited, so this month’s Book Review Club pick has been the perfect antidote to otherwise lost reading time.

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rejectedprincessesRejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath started as a blog.  A DreamWorks animator, he spent his spare time browsing Wikipedia, feeding his curiosity for amazing women that had never made the history books.  When it became clear his coworkers had never heard of any of them, he used his enthusiasm and skills as an illustrator to tell their stories graphic novel style.  A book deal sprang out of those efforts, resulting in the substantial, royal purple tome that is currently sitting on my nightstand.  In the book, each princess has a page or two of text and a single full page illustration.

From Amazon:

Blending the iconoclastic feminism of The Notorious RBG and the confident irreverence of Go the F**ck to Sleep, a brazen and empowering illustrated collection that celebrates inspirational badass women throughout history, based on the popular Tumblr blog.

Well-behaved women seldom make history. Good thing these women are far from well behaved . . .

Illustrated in a contemporary animation style, Rejected Princesses turns the ubiquitous “pretty pink princess” stereotype portrayed in movies, and on endless toys, books, and tutus on its head, paying homage instead to an awesome collection of strong, fierce, and yes, sometimes weird, women: warrior queens, soldiers, villains, spies, revolutionaries, and more who refused to behave and meekly accept their place.

An entertaining mix of biography, imagery, and humor written in a fresh, young, and riotous voice, this thoroughly researched exploration salutes these awesome women drawn from both historical and fantastical realms, including real life, literature, mythology, and folklore. Each profile features an eye-catching image of both heroic and villainous women in command from across history and around the world, from a princess-cum-pirate in fifth century Denmark, to a rebel preacher in 1630s Boston, to a bloodthirsty Hungarian countess, and a former prostitute who commanded a fleet of more than 70,000 men on China’s seas.

The beauty of this book–beyond the fascinating tales, the funny, witty, conversational style, and the cleverly detailed illustrations–is that each “princess’s” story is only a couple of pages long.  This allows me to read five, or even ten, pages each night before bed and it’s always the perfect amount.  I could see this making a great book for bedtime reading with kids too. In a genius move, the stories are rated with a maturity level 1-5, and marked with flags if they contain violence, rape, sex, abuse, or self-harm (or any combination thereof), which makes steering clear of certain topics a cinch.  To put things in perspective, I’m only about a quarter of the way through the stories (there are a LOT), and I don’t think I’ve read a single one above maturity level 1 yet.

The author’s experience as an illustrator really shines.  He’s made a lot of thoughtful choices with regard to the elements included in the illustrations, and it isn’t difficult to imagine any of these stories potentially being made into an unexpected “princess” movie.  The first story includes art notes, outlining the choices for the illustration, and I loved reading those.  I admit to being a little disappointed that not all of the stories include these notes.  But, it’s a minor complaint of an otherwise impressive book.  The author also maintains a girl-power Tumblr, and a recent post indicates that he is in talks for a Rejected Princesses web or TV series.  That would be very cool indeed.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who thinks women are underrepresented in history books (ALL of us), anyone who likes a bit of humor with their history..ahem, folklore…ahem, mythology, and anyone who is impressed by an author thinking outside the box.

Be sure to click through for the rest of BRC’s reviews!

FCC: I purchased a copy of this book on the recommendation of Deanna Raybourn.

 

Posted in book review club on 03/01/2017 12:10 am | 14 Comments

Agatha Raisin ~ BRC

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a review on here…this blog is getting away from me.  But thankfully, Barrie Summy and my fellow Book Review Club tribe are keeping me on track most months.

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Agatha_Raisin_and_the_Quiche_of_DeathThis month I’m not reviewing a specific book, but a series.  And it’s kind of complicated.  Basically I had listened to Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton as a free gateway audiobook and got a little hooked.  It was a short cozy with a good narrator and it kept my attention through many hours of driving with a rather clever whodunit.  So then I purchased the second audiobook in the series instead of using my monthly credit, because the books are only about five hours long narrated and I’d rather use my credit for a good long story.  I’m about halfway through that one, enjoying it as well, although it’s a different narrator.  Meanwhile, I discovered that Acorn TV (Netflix of British television) is showing an Agatha Raisin series, so I whipped over, signed up for the free trial, and have been binge-watching the first season ever since.  It’s become a bit of an obsession really, but I still haven’t actually read a single one of the books.

I don’t typically read cozies, but I love the Cotswolds setting of this one and all the characters are unique and interesting.  Agatha herself reminds me of a person in my own life who can be rather abrasive and sees nothing wrong with saying whatever’s on her mind.  It amuses me in literature much more than in real life.  There’s also humor, a love interest, and various little village side stories.

From Amazon:

Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry–but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

I recommend Agatha Raisin for anyone who likes a good cozy, a light, humorous mystery, or a quick, entertaining read.  Here’s the trailer for the series debut, now showing on Acorn.  I think they’ve made Agatha quite a bit more likable than she is in the books, but maybe that’s just me.  If you decide to go for the free trial, let me know.  I’ll shoot you an email and earn myself a bounty of one free month. 😉  Enjoy!

Be sure to click over to read the rest of this month’s reviews!

Posted in book review club on 02/01/2017 12:10 am | 11 Comments

A Study in Scarlet Women ~ BRC

I’ve only read a single Sherlock Holmes novel, and it was while I was in high school.  The Hound of the Baskervilles was required reading, and I enjoyed it (can’t say the same about Moby Dick).  So, while I am a fan of the CBS series Elementary, the BBC series Sherlock, and the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law movies, I haven’t read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s other works.  Thus, when I picked up Sherry Thomas’ latest, a historical mystery entitled A Study in Scarlet Women, I wasn’t aware that the title was a clever play on a Conan Doyle serial, A Study in Scarlet–or that the story was modeled loosely on the original.  I chose it because I’m a fan of Holmes and Watson fan–in all their many incarnations–and because Sherry Thomas is a really excellent writer.

scarletwomenFrom Amazon:

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
 
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Charlotte has many traditional Holmes characteristics (not counting her penchant for keeping track of how much plum cake translates to an extra chin), but she is, as expected, not blessed with the freedom subscribed to the original Holmes.  She makes a deal with her father that if she’s not found someone she wishes to marry by the time she’s twenty-five, he will fund her education, which she’s hoping to parlay into a position as headmistress of a girls school.

It comes as no surprise to anyone–except Charlotte–that he reneges on their agreement.  In retaliation, she decides to ruin herself and thus avoid a marriage she doesn’t want.  As expected, she is quite thoroughly successful.  This one decision is the impetus for the drastic turn in her fortunes:  Charlotte leaves home, and the woman responsible for spreading her ruin throughout society is found murdered, with both her father and sister considered prime suspects.  But Charlotte, having carefully studied Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage (a Who’s Who of Britain’s aristocracy), has connected this murder to two other recent murders, prompting her to send a letter (penned as Sherlock Holmes) to the coroner.  Suddenly, London is agog with curiosity–who is this Sherlock Holmes and what does he know?–but Charlotte is running out of funds and getting desperate.

A somewhat anonymous benefactor and a new patroness are her saving grace.  While consulting on the case of the three murders, Charlotte takes in clients needing help with little mysteries, all while pretending to be the sister of the mysterious Sherlock Holmes.  As can be expected, all the mysteries get neatly tied up, and Charlotte is left in prime position to embark on a new life, which will continue on in future Lady Sherlock books.

Without giving anything away, I will tell you that I thought Ms. Thomas did an impressive job of tying this story back to the original Sherlock Holmes stories.  It’s ingenious really.  So clever.  Make no mistake: this book is its own story–completely unique and fresh–but with the built in appeal of a much beloved classic character (different as she may be).  The only stumbling block for me was the heavy dose of information right at the beginning.  Within the first few pages, three or four storylines were introduced with various characters, and I had a bit of trouble keeping them all straight.  I did have to go back and re-read a few sections over again, but that is a minor detail for an otherwise stellar start to a series I’m very much looking forward to continuing.

Attention FCC: I bought this book, and now it’s a keeper!

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Posted in book review club on 11/02/2016 12:10 am | 8 Comments