Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Books I read in February: The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, How Hard Can Love Be?, The Marvels, The Sleeping Prince

These be the novels I read in February! I also read some real nice graphic novels, which I reckon I'll talk about in a separate post! Yippee! Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School was lent to me and then I bought my own copy because I liked it so much! How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne was so much fun, definitely lived up to her previous work which I have loved. She just really does teenage voices well. The Marvels by Brian Selznick is a beautiful big heavy shiny book full of illustrations and I really enjoyed the format. And Melinda Salisbury's The Sleeping Prince, a much anticipated sequel, did not disappoint!

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School

Ooh I right enjoyed this! Set in a boarding school for students with special gifts, the daughters of criminal masterminds and outlaws, and famous bug scientists. Amy Thomsett is sent by her mother after her gift for floating has become too strange for her to deal with. With her new friends Amy sets up The Moth Club after the mysterious Hooded Conspiracy abducts a girl from their dormitory. The mystery deepens as a serious case of mass-hysteria, mass-hypnoses completely overtakes the school. I was hooked pretty quickly and loved the way this novel unfolded. I found there to be some weird pace-slowing exposition of characters in a few key places. Also there were SO MANY NAMES to remember, with each student at any time being referred to by their first, second, or nickname, or by their house. This problem probably could've been solved if I had found the big list of students listed by year and house in the back... None of this dampened my enjoyment though. If you enjoy dreary coastal boarding schools, beating up bullies, moth species, female friendships, and superheroes in wartime, then this book is for you. 

How Hard Can Love Be?

The much anticipated second book in the Normal Series. I loved Am I Normal Yet? and Holly Bourne's previous book The Manifesto on How to be Interesting. This one follows Amber, as she leaves the Spinster Club for the summer to spend a few months in California with her mum and her mum's husband, at their summer camp. There's the usual strong feminist discussion throughout, with Amber skyping back home to Evie and Lottie, and with her new camp friends. Amber navigates the summer with said fellow camp councillor friends, trying to figure out her relationship with her emotionally distant and recovering alcoholic mother. There's also a very handsome prom king boy called Kyle who is showing a lot of interest in Amber, much to her befuddlement. So a whole load of issues to tackle all with Holly Bourne's signature humour and wit. Loved it! Not sure what ground the third in the Normal Series will cover, I mean surely that's everything now? Maybe pubes? Not enough Spinster Club pube chat yet for sure. 

The Marvels

On a very different note, I got this beautiful shiny gold book for Christmas and was super intrigued to see how the balance between illustration and text would read. A story of shipwrecked theatrical sailors in 1766 leads in pictures to a story of several generations of sons working and performing in a London theatre. The illustrated story stops with a fire at the theatre and we pick up in 1990s London, with a schoolboy named Joseph who runs away from boarding school to his uncle's bizarre historical townhouse, where he slowly begins to unravel the mysteries of Billy Marvel and his theatrical descendants. The unfolding of the mystery was very enjoyable and seeing the relationship between uncle and nephew grow was rather lovely. It got me right in the heart. And the real stories it's based on were very interesting too. This beautiful book is definitely not style over substance. 

The Sleeping Prince

The Sleeping Prince is the sequel to The Sin Eater's Daughter, which I read in March last year actually. I've been very organised and gone back to have a look at that review, in which I say it felt very much like the first act in a bigger story. The Sleeping Prince certainly proves this, really widening out understanding of the kingdom. I also was hoping for more movement in the form of travel, and um, TICK, so much of this story takes place on the road, exploring different towns, and it definitely fulfils my wish of more depth of understanding of the rest of the kingdom, after seeing it through Twylla's very insular world. The sequel in fact takes place from the perspective of an entirely different female protagonist. Errin, an apothecary, who is the sister of the guard Lief from book one, is living in poverty with her ailing mother in a rundown town. Mysteries and mythologies are all getting untangled from real history in this book, as a war is beginning following the waking of the titular sleeping prince. Errin seeks help from the mysterious Silas to find a cure for her mother and after a lengthy period of suffering in the horrible run down town, takes to the road to take matters in to her own hands. A strong sequel I think! And I am verrrrry much looking forward to the next book where I'm hoping we'll see more of Errin and Twylla's worlds colliding.

Look out for a post on the graphic novels In Real Life, Skim, and Embroideries!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Top 6 Podcasts by Women

Within the last year I have become an avid podcast listener. I think I started by listening to people I liked being interviewed on The Nerdist (over that now), started listening to Comedy Bang Bang religiously, and after Serial became obsessed with This American Life, delving right into the archives. I spent my summer last year walking around the city listening to funny and interesting podcasts and now most corners have a little audio memory that pops up when I walk by. As a nerdfighter I listen to Dear Hank & John every week, and had a fling with Gilmore Guys for a while too. I listened to all the Adam and Joe Show archives I could find, and then super enjoyed Adam Buxton's podcast last year too. But today I specifically want to talk about the podcasts I love that are by women. I made a conscious shift in my listening to find more female voices as a lot of the popular podcasts ruling the roost, and the ones I devote a lot of time too, are male led. This was not a fruitless effort and I am continuing to find funny, entertaining, inspiring podcasts by women all the time. In fact I found a whole bunch more when I was looking at other 'top female podcast' lists in prep for this post. So here are my Top 6 Podcasts By Women, and not just FOR women, I reckon most of these should have universal appeal. In no particular order, here they are:

Hosted by Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider, this podcast focusses on the oft-ignored women of history. I recommend episode 60: Four Inventors for a taste of what the tone of the podcast is like. Normally it is one woman from history per episode, so have a scroll through to find some of your favourites.

Hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz of the New Statesman, SRSLY covers all things pop culture in music, film, tv, books, internet. I recommend episode 29: The One Where They Take it Seriously, a special episode on Friends, which is a little different from their usual episodes but very fun in their in depth analysis of the series. Their special episode on Harry Potter is just as fun. Usual episodes cover current pop culture phenomenon, which is also fun!

Hosted by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, this podcast covers pop culture and politics and everything in between and encourages my new favourite girl-love thing, Shine Theory. I recommend episode 42: Twitter Ninja, which covers the all-lady congress during the DC snowstorm, menstruation and marijuana, and Kanye's Twitter rants. 

Hosted by actor and improver Lauren Lapkus, a frequent Comedy Bang Bang guest also known for her roles in Orange is the New Black and Jurassic World no less! Lauren Lapkus is the guest and her guest is the host in this improv podcast. I believe the guest brings the character and set up for Lauren to improv along to. I recommend the episode Eliza Skinner: Post-Apodcastlypse, which is a very funny post-apocalypse survivor broadcast. Fun fact: I'm listening to this one right now!

Hosted by Phoebe Judge, Criminal is a podcast about crime. I found it looking for a true crime podcast to fill the gap after Serial season 1. I recommend episode 35: Pen & Paper, about a courtroom sketch artist. This episode is not particularly creepy or gruesome, just pretty interesting. There are much more crimey episodes for sure. 

Hosted by Alexandra Fiber & Danielle Gibson, this podcast is pretty much what it says in the title: funny ladies talking about a particular film each episode. I recommend episode 25: Charlies Angels with Tessa Hersh, in which it's discussed whether the 2000 film stands the test of time.

That all folks! Apart from a quick shout out to Black Girls Talking, an awesome podcast that I didn't include in this list because I've only listened to one episode so far!

Enjoy! :) Let me know your recs!