Have you ever had Marshmallow Fluff? It's REALLY good when you toast some bread and make a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich.
It's NOT that good when you think you're going to read a light history of royal women existing outside of the marry-prince-have-baby stereotype only to find this weird marshmallow fluffy stuff.
Now I will admit...with a title of "Princesses Behaving Badly", I was not expecting an academic piece of historical writing. I was in the mood for some light vignettes about historical women that I could listen to in the car during the drive to/from work. What I got was a weird amalgamation of some "okay" history (and myth), frequent use of odd/crass slang, and a passive aggressive (and condescending?) feminist bias.
The slang cheapened the book. Talking about a princess having balls (or not) or being a badass or pissed as hell might work in an informal blog. In a book that's presenting historical information? Um...not so much.
The feminist bias was fine I guess...we have a book showcasing women that history often overlooks so I expect it to be championing women. I don't think it had to be condescending or passive aggressive in its approach. It came off as defensive in a "see, look what women can do too even if we don't have balls!!" rather than an objective "women were valuable pieces in the historical puzzle" approach. It was off-putting.
The history. There was some...there was also a lot of myth. Granted, some of that is because women were not recorded in history like they ought to have been so we are relegated to discussing myth over fact in some instances. What historical analysis there was, I did enjoy. I wish there was more of it -- once the author stopped using crass slang and wrote about history, it was actually pretty good. Ultimately, short vignettes are too small to get an adequate historical context so I would propose all the shorts be taken with a grain of salt. Chances are there is more in-depth history/research about that particular woman that can provide some context beyond "she was a woman in a man's world" for the reader.
Let me add one more point - I listened to this on audio. I do believe that a book can live or die by its narrator and the woman who read this book wove attitude into her interpretation. For me, the attitude just amplified the slang/condescending approach. If I read a hard copy I may not have latched on to those aspects quite as much? I wasn't a fan of the audiobook.
Maybe this became better as it went along? I DNF'd at about 50%... If you want some very light and fluffy vignettes give this a whirl. If you want some meatier works on women of history, there are some good ones out there as well. Women of antiquity may have been overlooked, but there are some historical works trying to do them justice...
I'm off for a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich...
Divine by Mistake by P.C. cast
Oh...I so wanted to like this book. Diving by Mistake is my second foray into P.C. Cast's writing...and it's the second time I've had to put a P.C. Cast book down (the first book was Goddess of Spring).
It's not that I didn't like the story...I mean, check out the back cover blurb:
The most excitement teacher Shannon Parker expected on her summer vacation was a little shopping. But then her latest purchase--a vase with the Celtic goddess Epona on it--somehow switches her into the world of Partholon, where she's treated like a goddess. A very temperamental goddess... It seems that Shannon has stepped into another's role as the Goddess Incarnate of Epona. And while it has some very appealing moments--what woman doesn't like a little pampering now and then?--it also comes with a ritual marriage to a centaur and the threat of war against the evil Fomorians. Oh, and everyone disliking her because they think she's her double.
Somehow Shannon needs to figure out how to get back to Oklahoma without being killed, married to a horse or losing her mind...
I mean...sounds interesting, right? I thought so. Definitely not your run of the mill marriage-to-a-horse (turns out to be not as creepy as it sounds) romances. Plus, I've seen Cast's writing style compared to Anne Bishop's as well...and since Bishop is one of my favorites, I definitely wanted to check Cast out. Well, there are similarities between the two...namely the strong female lead (but Bishop writes stronger leads), sense of humor and fondness for animals. But Cast's book didn't catch me like Bishop's books do.
With this book and with the previous Cast book I tried to read...I just couldn't finish it. Not that the writing was painful and not that the plot was bad. In fact, I started this book reading at a furious pace because it was funny, clever and really interesting. Then it went from 80 mph to a standstill in about five pages flat. It's like the book was stuck in mud spinning its wheels. The switch from "I care about this character" to "yeah...whatever" happened almost as instantaneously as well. What's weird is that the same exact thing happened with Goddess of Spring as well.
I have a feeling that the story/writing/everything picks back up eventually (because there's a lot of plot out there that needs to be wrapped up)...but I just couldn't make myself wade through the mire to get there.
So...had to put this one down. I would say, though...if the synopsis looks interesting to you then definitely check it out because you may not find the middle part to be sloggish like I did. Maybe I just picked up her books at the wrong time? Even though I didn't finish this one...still giving it two stars because of how much I did enjoy that first bit.
A Girl's Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister
Just couldn't do this one. There's satire and parody...and then there's trying to take it that much further. MacAlister just pushes it beyond the line of parody and comedy into the realm of syrupy awfulness.
I can put up with not liking a side character...but to find the main characters insipid and annoying - nope. Life's too short and there are too many books I want to read out there.
Playground by Jennifer Saginor
That's how far I got before deciding that this one's going back to the library. Totally not worth the time. (There may be "spoilers" in the review...you have been warned)
Again, as I've said with other memoirs, I feel the need to say that my low rating is not a condemnation against the author or her experiences.
No, this only got one star because the writing style was horrible and it was a creepy book.
The writing was so trite and stilted I almost wondered if there was a ghost-writer involved. But then I realized I didn't care enough to try to find out so that will be a question I will never have answered. And I'm ok with that. Saginor also recounts memories in amazing detail. Other reviews point this out as well - how on earth can she remember not only what designers she was wearing, but also the colors of each garment as she walks into various clubs? How can she remember the exact time she left a club? I know authors have to embellish for the sake of filling out a memoir, but too much and the book just seems like fiction.
And cue the creepy. While I wasn't expecting a memoir version of The Girls Next Door, I also wasn't expecting an abusive, perverted, drug-addled father figure, the denigration of every single female the author meets, and a lesbian tryst (that was also statutory rape of the author). The only major description in the book (up to the point that I read) is the sex scene with a Hef's girlfriend. I'm sorry, but I don't want to read a sex scene that involves a child. It's statutory rape and not something that should be glorified in any way...even if the author is "damaged" and "looking for maternal warmth".
And while her childhood was horrific and abusive in its own way, there comes a time when the constant, "I'm like this because my dad made me like this" or "I'm like this because I was a pawn my parents used in their contentious divorce" just comes across as hollow excuses.
Again, I haven't finished the book. I hope the author has pulled herself out from the horrible childhood she was subjected to and I hope she addresses that in the book...otherwise the book is just a collection of creepy, perverted recollections looking to make a buck off of Hefner's popularity.
At 46%, however, I have to call in the towel.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
So...couldn't finish this one.
Seemed like it should be a fun premise, yet the characters were trite and the story line tired and old.
There were some funny one-liners in the book which almost kept me going...but in the end it just wasn't enough.
Looks like I won't be going to Hex Hall/Hecate/whatever it was called anytime soon.