Review: The Passion – Jeanette Winterson

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Rating – 3*

Jeanette Winterson is a genius when it comes to writing, it makes me sad that I only discovered her this year. I am very quickly finding she’s becoming one of my favourite authors, I just don’t know how I didn’t get to her sooner. This book surprised me in a very good way, and I don’t really know how to explain it, but I’ll try.

The Passion follows two protagonists, Henri and Villanelle at the time of the Napoleonic war. When going in to this I didn’t expect it to be a historical story, but it works. It works fantastically. Henri is a French soldier, hand picked by Napoleon to serve his dinner, and considers himself in love with him. Villanelle is a young Venetian girl who is wild and expressive, she goes to casinos and attracts trouble wherever she goes. On the surface, you can’t imagine the two lives of these people intersecting but they do, and how they do is incredible. Their stories are full of love and loathing, revenge and murder, and although there are no happy endings, there are some understandable, satisfying conclusions.

While Henri’s narrative is the one I enjoyed more of the two, I found his voice a lot more easy to follow, and his story a lot more chronological, Villanelle is a very interesting character who I couldn’t help but be entranced by. She inherited webbed feet, a characteristic usually found in boatmen’s sons, she cross-dresses and explores the city. She’s a free spirit and I loved reading the bits of this story from her perspective. I’d easily have read a 500 page novel about Villanelle.

I think with Winterson’s books they’re all going to be those I return to for comfort. I can definitely see myself curling up with this book again in the future, reading cover to cover, and finding so much more and appreciating it all the more. As it stands I gave this book 3*, because I wanted more from it, but over time I think it could definitely worm its way in to my heart and be boosted

The TBR Tag (Take Two)|| Blogmas Day 16

 

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Happy Weekend my dearest readers. Today I’m being a wee bit lazy and bringing you a tag post. I have previously done this tag but I think it’s a really good way to review my TBR and see how much things have changed in 2 and a half years.

The original can be found over here. So without further ado lets get in to it!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
My TBR is now all on Goodreads for the most part. But I don’t really have a ‘pile’ as such. All I know is it is now over 200 books high, but I don’t care. I only have my physical book collection on Goodreads though, I have a good number of audiobooks and books on my iPad which probably bump it up.

Is your TBR mostly print or eBook?
Like I said above, I only really track my physical collection. Though I probably have around 100 eBooks to read – either those I have purchased myself or review copies. So I only really ‘track’ my physical collection – but I do probably have more physical books than eBooks now.

How do you determine which book to read next from your TBR?
I go with my gut. I’m a lot less target oriented than I was when I started the blog, and while I like challenging myself and reading things outside of my comfort zone, I’m a lot more of a mood reader now. Often I’ll sit there and read the first few pages of a dozen books before picking what I want to read next, which is time consuming and also causes me to have a lot of deja vu but it works for me now.

A book that’s been on your TBR the longest?
Too many of them have been there for a long time with me saying “I’ll read you one day, but not right now”. One of the longest serving inmates on my bookshelf has to be The Night Circus – I bought it when it was a new release in paperback (which having just googled was 2012!) Oh dear.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
I haven’t bought a lot of books recently actually – but one that springs to mind is A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. It’s both murderous and science, and it got me very excited.

A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
Right now – none of them. I bought beautiful editions of books, not because they were beautiful but because I wanted to read them AND I like my shelves to look pretty. None of them were purchased purely because of their appearance, I wanted to read them before I went shopping for them!

That makes a change!

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
None of them. I intend to read every book I own at some point, and if that desire goes for any one of them I’ll send them to a charity shop without as much as a tear!

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Becky Chambers third book in the Wayfarers series. Hands down the book I am most anticipating next year. Though the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale is close second!

Oh and Kirsty Logan is releasing a new book next year. That’s a must by!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you?
Embarrassingly the answer to this question hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still The Lord of the Rings series. I did actually go off the idea of reading them for a long time, and got rid of the copies I owned. I have since re-purchased and I am determined to read them eventually.

Also, The Night Circus.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
Right now, none of them. My friends aren’t really big readers, and noone really gives me direct recommendations! So, feel free to recommend books to me!

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
All of them?! If I had endless hours I’d sit and read them all. If I have to pick it would be A History of Magic – the book released in conjunction with the British Library for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. And I pick it because it is as large as the illustrated editions and not exactly portable, so I need a day or two with nothing on where I can just lose myself in it!

How many books are on your goodreads TBR?
At present, 173. But I haven’t updated it since September so it will have definitely changed since then – as I said initially it’s quite close to the 200 mark in physical books now!

 

 

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

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Rating – 4*

The Bear and the Nightingale is a book that I have been seeing everywhere since it came out earlier this year but I kept ignoring it. Every time I saw it I was drawn in by the cover but, for some reason, I just didn’t pick it up – and having read it now I think maybe subconsciously I was waiting for the right time to read it. This, my readers, is the perfect Winter book to curl up under a blanket with and that is just what I did. I curled up and read it in one sitting and I cannot tell you how good it felt to do that with a book after so long!

I’m not familiar with Russian fairy tales and folklore but, honestly, you don’t need to be to enjoy this. In the first chapter the fairy tale this is based on is recounted to the children by their nanny. It’s the story of the frost demon – Morozko – who is the Russian equivalent of Jack Frost.

“In Russian, Frost was called Morozko, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.”

As a reader we’re following the life of Vasya. Vasya is everything I could dream of in a fairy tale retelling, she’s strong willed and wild, she doesn’t conform to societal norms of the culture she lives in – which in Medieval Russia is very misogynistic and not at all easy. Vasya, at least to me, was very much like Merida in Pixar’s Brave and that’s how I was picturing her.

Vasya is different, and when her mother was pregnant with her she could tell this. She knew that Vasya was to have a gift much like her Grandmothers – she can see the spirit guardians around her home, and those in the wild around her. To most these spirits are fairy stories, but everyone still adheres to the old ways – honouring those spirits, leaving food out for them and such, and while that still happens all is well. But then the old ways fall by the wayside leading to devastation in the community. Vasya doesn’t give up though, she continues adhering to the old ways, honouring the spirits – but being strong willed and defiant in a culture like that only leads to bad things for young women!

That’s nothing more than a very short summary – this story is so much more than that and is full of adventure and familial love – something I think so many books are lacking! Reading the blurb, this book really sounded like another YA trope jumping in the fairy tale retelling bandwagon. While it probably could be considered YA, I feel it had a lot more context and a lot fewer tropes than your standard YA book.

What makes me very happy is that there is to be another book in this world, and based on what Katherine Arden has said on Goodreads that the second is to focus on Vasya and her siblings Olga and Sasha who are two characters I really wanted to learn more about.

If anyone has looked at this book and put it back down, I’d say give it a chance because it is genuinely one of the cosiest books I’ve read recently, and I would definitely say this is a Christmas-y read. I for one loved it and was taken very much by surprise!

 

5 Star Predictions || Blogmas Day 13

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Seeing as yesterdays post was all about my favourite books of 2017, I thought today would be a very good day to discuss books I haven’t read yet but think will become firm favourites – or 5* reads – in 2018. I’ve seen several people on youtube do this – Mercedes I think was first, but the idea caught on and I thought it would translate well in to a blog post.

A lot of factors make up a 5* book for me, it has to be well written, have a plot that keeps me hooked and have well rounded characters. They’re by no means the only things that makes me give a book 5* – but they do help. Equally, how a book reads influences my rating – books with no chapter breaks, or even paragraph breaks, or just places to generally put the book down and get on with stuff really irk me!

Anyone who follows this blog knows I’m an eclectic reader, and that doesn’t change in the books I feel I’m going to give 5* in 2018! So, let’s discuss.

First up is the classics and to The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This year I really found a love in Russian literature and I have nothing but high hopes for this book. There are a handful of other books by Russian authors on my TBR but this is the one I really want to get around to, but also have the most anticipation about! Interestingly, the next classic I’m optimistic about is Middlemarch by George Eliot which I read 2 years ago and only gave 3*. I’ve since come to appreciate George Eliot’s writing a lot more and I think that on a re-read this could improve enormously for me. It’s probably weird, for someone to predict that they’ll give a re-read of a lesser liked book 5* – but I’m always erring on the wild side!

As for new releases – I have exceedingly high hopes for Becky Chambers in her next instalment in the Wayfarers series Record of a Spaceborn Few. Both previous instalments in the series were 5* reads for me and I have zero doubt about this one. From what I’ve read it doesn’t follow any of the same characters, but that doesn’t worry me because the previous two books were enchanting, diverse and basically, this is the only book I currently have on preorder and I’m excited. I’m also sure that if the wonderful Ali Smith has a release in 2018 it will rocket to the top of my TBR and be a 5 star read. It has to be said that after reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden I’m quite excited about the follow up which is released in January – which the name of escapes me!

More popular fiction, or those books likely to be found on tables in Waterstones, are hard for me to pinpoint as they’re not the sort of books I lean towards but I’d like to finally get around to the two Zadie Smith books I haven’t read yet and the one I’m most optimistic for is NW as one of my friends said I would really enjoy it, so that’s one I’m thinking I may give 5* as I loved White Teeth when I read it years ago.

There are a few short story collections I also have a good feeling about – but short story collections are notoriously hard to give 5* reviews to because often there is just that one story which drags it down! But A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel has been on my TBR for a very long time and I have such high hopes for it. I also have a very good feeling about The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert which was published by Salt in 2010 and I recently purchased – the first story, from what I read – was amazing and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet! Also by Salt is another short story collection that I’ve had for over a year which is New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin.

I think, for now, that is enough books that I think will be 5*. I have over 200 on my TBR so narrowing it down this far was difficult. I’d love to hear what books you’re feeling really optimistic about in 2018 – and any you think I might enjoy because I always enjoy some recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Favourite Books of 2017 || Blogmas Day 12

It’s Tuesday and that means it’s a top 10 day! Today I’m going to be talking about my 10 favourite books of 2017 – obviously with 2 weeks left to go there is a small chance that this may change (I’m not feeling that’s going to happen though!)

On the whole 2017 has been a mediocre reading year. It’s had very few highs – and those highs haven’t been long-lived or memorable unfortunately! Trying to come up with 10 books which I could consider ‘favourites’ of the year is quite a task – and I really struggled. In the end I surprised myself with how much non-fiction I enjoyed this year.

Without further ado, let’s talk about the books!

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I’ve not included re-reads in this, because I think re-reads are a bit unfair and have an advantage over new reads – I’m already rereading them, I know I love them!

My favourite book of the year – without a shadow of a doubt – is Bleak House. It was one of the first books I read of the year and has stuck with me for the full 12 months, it’s going to be one of my long-time favourites and re-ignited my love of Dickens after a few slightly less than stellar reads!

Another classic on my list is Crime and Punishment which I am so, so glad I finally read. It was a case of reading the perfect book at the perfect time I think, but in hindsight it would have been a great place to start with Russian literature!

In Order to Live and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks were the stand out non-fiction for me this year for very different reasons. I read a lot of non-fiction this year, and I enjoyed all of them, but those two were stand outs and books that will stick with me for a long time. Those two books are two that I would encourage anyone to read – they’re stand out and thought provoking.

Mend the Living was my favourite of the Wellcome Prize shortlist and a very, very much deserving winner. I was absolutely elated when it was announced because this book was just incredible. I’ve since recommended it to several people since I read it, it just is a book I can’t forget. If you’re interested in non-fiction, and where it intersects with fiction, reading from The Wellcome Prize shortlist is a really good place to find recommendations (interestingly, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was nominated when it was released a few years ago!)

What would be a favourites list without a Daphne du Maurier book? Technically it’s a reread, but I genuinely cannot remember a thing from it from my first read which must have been about 10 years ago. So I’m counting it as a first read! It was bloody amazing. Good place to start with du Maurier for sure! Can’t really say too much about it, it’s du Maurier, it was impeccable.

The same logic applies to Ali Smith. Although I read Winter more recently, and loved it even more, Autumn was a grower and a book that I kept thinking about the more the year went on. I’ll have to reread it at some point and pay closer attention to the nuances. But basically I loved it. There.

Stay With Me is on the list because it surprised me. I was sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it and then BAM – I read it to prove a point and hopefully get to write an unpopular opinion and I go and love it! So, sometimes hyped books are as good as the hype says. I read it in one sitting, propped up in a bed in a caravan while it rained. It was incredible.

The last two are a short story collection and a poetry collection – both I did only give 4 stars to but I really enjoyed them both. Kissing the Witch is a surprise entry on this list as I’ve not even reviewed it yet. I went in to it with low expectations and came out of it happily surprised. The last two Emma Donoghue books I’ve read really disappointed me, so I was wary, but this collection lived up to the high praise I’ve heard from people. I absolutely loved it so look out for the review in a few days. The final of my top 10 is You Sad Feminist – which was one of the only poetry collections I read this year and I absolutely loved. Megan Beech is one talented young woman and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

So there we have it, a very disjointed top 10. I’d love to hear what your top books of 2017 have been, and if you’d have as much trouble picking them as I did!

Review: Mythos – Stephen Fry

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Rating – 5*

When I saw this book on Audible I knew I had to get it – it’s one of the few audiobooks I’ve actually preordered this year. My thoughts were it is Greek mythology and Stephen Fry; sounds like a perfect combination. I wasn’t far wrong.

Greek Myths have an awful habit of being very dull reads – this however was not dull. The familiar tales were told in a much more modern, approachable way than the starchy collections I’ve read in the past. What I love most about this collection is how seamlessly he wove modern culture, and what we have obtained thanks to classical myth, in with the story – literature and music are referenced in abundance, but then there is also origins of elements and compounds in science which I had absolutely zero idea about prior to reading this! It’s both fiction and non fiction simultaneously because, actually, I feel I learnt a lot about what shaped humans (given that modern civilisation has a lot to owe to the ancient Greeks!)

The collection is told in a round-about chronological way, starting with the creation myth of Chaos, on to the Titans and the Olympians. The way the stories are put across is like a multi-generational saga, it makes it so much more modern than other collections I’ve read which are essentially the same stories. We get those familiar stories of Pandora and her box (or vase, as it was a mistranslation), Midas, Echo and Narcissus… so many of the stories which I adored as a child (and on reading this, love again).

Not only is it more modern, it’s so much more fun and I can’t help but think that’s entirely down to Stephen Fry as an author putting a bit off lightness in all the characters and having a bit of fun – and I loved it. I listened to this in the space of 2 evenings and it was a joy to listen to as he narrates it himself, making it twice as much fun as it would have been otherwise. I can only hope that he does more like this because, damn, it was so much fun!

I’d highly recommend this to anyone who likes Stephen Fry, classical myth, audiobooks, or is generally curious because actually while this is fiction I feel I learnt a lot of (useless) information from it which I can now use to impress my friends!

End of Year Book Tag || Blogmas Day 10

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Today I’m being quite lazy and doing another tag that I’ve seen several people over on YouTube doing. Seeing as we are 10 days in to December now  I felt it as good a time as any to use the tag to discuss my reading as a whole for 2017 and look towards 2018, although I may do a more in depth discussion of the later point closer to the end of the year.

So, without further ado, let’s discuss!

1) Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
As it stands at present – no. I absolutely hate starting the year on a book I’m half way through, it really messes up my spreadsheet. I don’t even like carrying books through to another month! So I don’t have any unread books as it stands, and I doubt I will come the 31st as it’s something I just can’t deal with!

2) Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?
I feel that I’ve already done this! I found reading Winter by Ali Smith was a good transitional book, but I think also anything by Dickens lends itself to cosy nights and warm drinks. Actually, classics as a whole are pretty good reads for this time of year and I find myself a lot more inclined to read them around November/December.

3) Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?
New releases, not so much. Honestly aside for a select few books I haven’t found myself lusting after many new releases this year, those I have wanted I’ve just bought! I’ve even just spent 30 minutes scrolling through Amazon and I can’t see any new releases from the last 90 days that I actually want to purchase.

4) What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
Erm, this is a toughie as I’m not really writing a TBR as such, just going with the flow. But, if I have to pick three:-

  • The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell
  • The Celtic Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends
  • Something by Daphne du Maurier – I haven’t read any of her books in a while so I’m feeling in the mood to read another

5) Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?
No. Not unless I manage to squeeze in another book by Charles Dickens. I read Bleak House in January and it is going to take something momentous to knock that out of my top spot!

6) Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?
Read! Read and be happy, reread, new reads, any type of reading. I’m still undecided if I’m going to set my goodreads goal high or low – high so I aim for it (I’m a very target motivated person) or lower so I don’t feel as stressed come December!

I want to read more non-fiction, I want to find new authors, I want to read more graphic novels, and I want to read more books by women. But I’ll probably post more on my reading goals for 2018 closer to the end of the month!

 

 

Audiobooks || Blogmas Day 9

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It’s the weekend! And today, I want to have a discussion about audiobooks.

Audiobooks aren’t something I thought I would, at the age of 24, be bowled over by and spend hours on end listening to – but they are. Before I got in to them, I honestly thought the selection was limited, I thought they were something that only blind people, or elderly people enjoyed. How wrong I was! I’ll admit I was ignorant, and I have seen the error of my ways over the last few years (in which audiobooks have become one of my favourite things!)

When I last did blogmas in 2015, audiobooks were something I was very new to and had only listened to a handful of. Two years on, however, it is a completely different story. Over half of the books I have read this year I have listened to some, if not all, of the book. I am someone who happily uses a combination of physical and audiobooks, and if anything it only enhances my reading experience. I have found that audiobooks give me a freedom that I couldn’t otherwise have – I can read and do something else. I can play stupid games on my iPad, I can colour, or more recently I have been wrapping gifts while listening. It means I can still read, I can still get that experience of ‘escaping’ that I get with a book but I can do other things alongside it and I love that.

Compared to a physical book, audiobooks can be quite pricey, but they really don’t have to be. I myself do have an audible subscription (which I love) and I get 2 credits a month to trade in against any of their ever expanding library, and I can purchase additional credits at the cost of £17 for 3 – which when you compare the cost of that to the cost of the audiobook alone is stupidly cheap in many cases. Audible nearly always have deals going too – 2 for 1, or buy 3 audiobooks with cash or credits and get a £10 gift voucher to spend are the most common which I often take advantage of! Not only that but they have an excellent returns policy – if you don’t like a book, or a narrator, or you have technical issues, it can be returned no questions. Obviously it isn’t something to take advantage of, you can’t use the service like a library!

Talking of libraries, most libraries have a selection of audiobooks available as CDs in the physical branches. However, a lesser known secret is OverDrive – a fantastic little app which you can sync your library card to and get access to their digital lending library of eBooks and, you guessed it, Audiobooks!

If you haven’t already taken advantage of the First Free Listen on Audible, I’d highly recommend it. You don’t have to continue with a subscription if you get an audiobook and it isn’t for you, but it’s a really good way to experience a first audiobook without splashing out any money.

Hints & Tips:-
First tip if you’re new to audiobooks definitely pick something that will hold your attention as a first listen. You don’t want to pick a long ass book which is dry as stale bread and sends you to sleep (I’ve picked up my fair share of those, trust me!)

02 - harry potterFor something familiar to most people, you can’t go wrong with the Harry Potter series – any of them. In the UK they’re narrated by Stephen Fry, and I believe over the pond it is Jim Dale. They’re something familiar, something you already know the entire plot of, but in a new way. Listening to the audiobooks for the first time was like reading the books anew for me and really breathed fresh life in to the characters.

Go for a book narrated by the author – this can be fiction or non-fiction but because the book is theirs they read it how it was intended. Some recommendations here would be anything by Neil Gaiman (who is an incredible narrator even if I’m not the biggest fan of his books) or find a celebrity you like and see if they’ve narrated their own autobiography!

Don’t be put off by the speed! A lot of people, when I mention I enjoy audiobooks, say “but they’re so long” – they don’t have to be. Generally speaking 1x speed is too slow for me, but most audiobook apps enable you to speed the narration up. With Audible you can go up to x3 speed meaning that a “30 hour” audiobook is suddenly going to be a much more doable, and less scary, 10 hours. And it isn’t fixed – you can speed up or slow down at any point during a book and that’s great. I started listening at 1.5x speed and now most books I do listen to on 3x speed, so don’t be put off by the ‘length’ of a book – because it’s only as long as you make it, essentially!

If you’re worried about not following it, pick a book that you’ve had on your shelf for a long time and find an audio version of it (just be careful if it’s translated, especially if it’s a classic as there is a lot more room for variation in the translation!). Settle down with a cuppa, and both an audio and physical copy of the book. Find the narration speed that works for you and follow along with the book for a little while. If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon feel you’re absorbing enough of what is being said to go do something else alongside it!

Anyway, this has been a very long post today – I am apparently very passionate about audiobooks! I’d love to hear your opinions on them because I think they are becoming less stigmatised now, and I’d love to hear if you’ve listened to any particularly fantastic books lately as I’m always game for a few recommendations! Equally, if you want a more specific recommendation I’m happy to try and assist.

Happy reading!

Review: Sealskin – Su Bristow

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Rating – 1* – DNF

It isn’t very often I fail to finish a book, give it only 1* and return it to Audible, but this is apparently my Waterloo. I was excited by this book, it’s set in Scotland and is a take on the myth of selkies. In a nutshell it sounded fantastic. That is until I started listening to it.

While the atmosphere is evocative, the writing is beautiful and it was fantastic to listen to, I’m not able to enjoy a book which has rape culture seeping through its every line. I’m not okay with that. Noone should be okay with that and I don’t understand how this book was even published. Within the first few pages our arse of a main character, Donald, sees some seals shed their skin and turn into beautiful girls and begin dancing on the shoreline. He likens them to children and yet he steals one of the pelts, and when they fled and one is left on the shore unable to go back to the sea, he thinks it’s a great idea to force himself on her. It comes out of nowhere. I’m thankful it wasn’t graphic but it was already too much. He then decides to take her home, because that’s a fantastic idea – essentially this is where the main bulk of the story starts.

When he gets home, with this young, naked, bleeding girl who isn’t capable of speech, his mother is understandably baffled. When she asks what happens, he tells her words to this effect:- “I saw this beautiful naked woman dancing there, like she was meant for me, and so I couldn’t help myself!” – bear in mind this was before the 50 page mark. So these words are spoken at the very start of the book. After that, I was just so angry I had to take a break.

If this were a story from Mhairi’s perspective, I think I could have liked it. She has no voice throughout this, she’s a plot device and a metaphor for Donald’s ‘redemption’ (bullsh*t redemption at that). The blurb of this book says it’s the story of atonement and forgiveness and I really struggle to see how when it’s nearly 300 pages of a rapist (and his mother) holding his victim, essentially, against her will. I fail to see how at any point this book could consider itself to be romantic.

I didn’t finish this book. I rarely DNF a book, I usually plod on and try persevere but with this, no. I’m not going to sit and read a book which is about a girl falling in love with her rapist when she doesn’t even get a voice.

Would I recommend, no. No I wouldn’t.

Is It Ever Too Early for Feminism? || Blogmas Day 7

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We are 7 days in to this month and on the posting of this I have succeeded in one full week of blogmas! Today is another discussion type post and it is on picking books for children and what a minefield it can be. Also I’ve included a few kids books for children in your life (and also yourself if you want something fun to read!). This one is going to be lengthy, but I think it’s an important topic and I want to hear your opinions on it!

Recently, I had the experience of buying books for a friends daughter and it was a lot tougher than I was expecting. I had no idea that in this day and age, where we live in a (supposedly) equal society that children’s fiction is still so overrun with the age old idea of boys being heroes and girls sitting at home with no ambition waiting for a prince/hero/male to come and rescue them.

I’m not a parent, I have no intention of becoming a parent, and while I only have a small part to play in the childhood of my friends children, I absolutely do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes. I always tell her how smart she is, when we play she can be whoever or whatever she wants to be. I’m not her parent, but I adore her and I don’t want her to grow up with a skewed idea of what women are in society. I see this kid once a month and she is growing in to an amazing little girl – she’s a little firecracker, and bright as a button, and I will always encourage her to be that – but sometimes I worry that society, even in this modern day, will squash her down and shoehorn her in to a box of what she is expected to be by antiquated standards.

I was adamant I wanted to buy my friends daughter books for her 4th birthday as she loves reading. Now she’s starting to sound out words and read herself, I wanted to get her some picture books aimed at the 4-5 age group and it’s a minefield – so many of them are just not something that would build her confidence as a person. Books with female main characters often focus so much on things like beauty and innocence that is it any wonder that, subliminally, children get warped ideas about what they look like from such a young age?

The view of females in children’s books is something that is so dated and antiquated that I found myself getting frustrated – not only did I not want to impart that oh-so-gentle misogyny on to my friends 4 year old, I didn’t want it to then become okay for my friends 1 year old son when he inevitably read the same books in a couple of years. I wanted him to have positive representations of females too. If there is one thing I’m certain of it’s that the books you read when you’re first starting out stick with you – the stories, the underlying messages they have a profound impact.

So, on my mission to find Good Representation of Women In Children’s Fiction I found these two gems (below) and when I read them I could have cried. I was elated, because not only are they kickass girls, there’s representation of race, gender, and they’re not just ‘girls books’ – I know my friends son will get just as much out of them as her daughter. I certainly enjoyed them when I proof read them and I’d highly recommend them for any child in your life because they’re fantastic!

07 - book pic

I recently read an article which said something along the lines of 50-something % of children’s books have male protagonists, only 20-something % have female protagonists. The reason being a girl will read a ‘boys’ book, whereas a boy is unlikely to read a ‘girly’ book – there shouldn’t be genders in literature at any age in my opinion, but kids books are reinforcing stereotypes of men having all the action and girls having quiet, homey stories. Even books with animals as protagonists have primarily males at the core of them. Boys need feminism as much as girls do – male characters who cook, clean, are sole parents, are scared or cry – from my memory those things rarely happen in children’s books and that needs to change.

On to the topic of the day which is “is it ever too early to introduce a child to feminism?” – my answer is no. It doesn’t have to be shoved down a child’s throat, it can be subtle, but just simple things like books with female protagonists who don’t sit around and wait for a prince can have a huge impact on a child – male or female – and the same for male characters who aren’t always the hero.

My friends children are lucky – they have incredible parents who encourage them to be whoever and whatever they want to be, even at the ages of 4 and 1. They’re going to grow up to be wonderful human beings because their parents treat them equally and will teach both of them to respect themselves and other people, regardless of gender. I’m not trying to condition my friends daughter in to a “militant” feminist, she is only 4 after all, but I want her to see that she can be the superhero in her own story if she wants to be.