Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blogiversary Giveaway!

It’s my blog’s fourth birthday, and I’m giving you the gift! Enter to win a book of your choice from Book Depository (up to $20USD value). The giveaway is open internationally, as long as Book Depository ships to your country for free.

Thanks for supporting Read All The Things! I can’t believe I’ve been blathering about books for four years . . . 

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Kings, Queens, Death, Sex, And Scandals

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is ten book recommendations for people who like ________. I’m filling in the blank with “Kings, Queens, Death, Sex, and Scandals.”

Kings, Queens, Death, Sex, And Scandals

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics – Eleanor Herman

In royal courts bristling with testosterone—swashbuckling generals, polished courtiers, and virile cardinals—how did repressed regal ladies find happiness? 
Anne Boleyn flirted with courtiers; Catherine Howard slept with one. Henry VIII had both of them beheaded. 
Catherine the Great had her idiot husband murdered and ruled the Russian empire with a long list of sexy young favorites. 
Marie Antoinette fell in love with the handsome Swedish count Axel Fersen, who tried valiantly to rescue her from the guillotine. 
Princess Diana gave up her palace bodyguard to enjoy countless love affairs, which tragically led to her early death.

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge – Eleanor Herman

Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering tale of passion and politics chronicles five hundred years of scintillating women and the kings who loved them.

The Middle Ages: Everyday Life in Medieval Europe – Jeffrey L. Singman

We consider the Middle Ages barbaric, yet the period furnished some of our most enduring icons, including King Arthur's Round Table, knights in shining armor, and the idealized noblewoman. In this vivid history of the time, the medieval world comes to life in all its rich daily experience. Find out what people's beds were like, how often they washed, what they wore, what they cooked, how they worked, how they entertained themselves, how they wed, and what life was like in a medieval village, castle, or monastery.

Margaret The First – Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when “being a writer” was not an option open to women. As one of the Queen’s attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London—a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution—and the last for another two hundred years.

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History Without The Fairy-Tale Endings – Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

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.

Royalty’s Strangest Characters: Extraordinary But True Tales From 2000 Years Of Mad Monarchs And Raving Rulers – Geoff Tibballs

Just as the monarchy has been hereditary in many countries, so insanity has been hereditary in many monarchs. Here are 2,000 years of crazy kings and potty potentates, including such infamous characters as Caligula and Vlad the Impaler.

Severed: A History Of Heads Lost And Heads Found – Frances Larson

The human head is exceptional. It accommodates four of our five senses, encases the brain, and boasts the most expressive set of muscles in the body. It is our most distinctive attribute and connects our inner selves to the outer world. 
Yet there is a dark side to the head’s preeminence, one that has, in the course of human history, manifested itself in everything from decapitation to headhunting. So explains anthropologist Frances Larson in this fascinating history of decapitated human heads. From the Western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred massacres to Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of the Japanese home to their girlfriends, from Madame Tussaud modeling the guillotined head of Robespierre to Damien Hirst photographing decapitated heads in city morgues, from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores our macabre fixation with severed heads.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide To Sex, Marriage, And Manners – Therese Oneill

Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era? 
Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there's arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn't question.) 
UNMENTIONABLE is your hilarious, illustrated, scandalously honest (yet never crass) guide to the secrets of Victorian womanhood. 
Irresistibly charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and featuring nearly 200 images from Victorian publications, UNMENTIONABLE will inspire a whole new level of respect for Elizabeth Bennett, Scarlet O'Hara, Jane Eyre, and all of our great, great grandmothers. 
(And it just might leave you feeling ecstatically grateful to live in an age of pants, super absorbency tampons, epidurals, anti-depressants, and not-dying-of-the-syphilis-your-husband-brought-home.)

A Treasury Of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories Of History’s Wackiest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors – Michael Farquhar

From Nero's nagging mother (whom he found especially annoying after taking her as his lover) to Catherine's stable of studs (not of the equine variety), here is a wickedly delightful look at the most scandalous royal doings you never learned about in history class.

Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra To Princess Di – Kris Waldherr

Illicit love, madness, betrayal—it isn't always good to be the queen. 
Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers. But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises. Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends—dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. They always had to be on their toes and all too often even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters was not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp), to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there's a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome.

Do you have any books to add to my list?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. 
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Review: There was a slang word in this book that I didn’t know. It made me feel old. I shook my fist at the book and yelled, “Dang you, kids! Stop saying made-up words. And get off my lawn!”

Also, sneakers are supposed to be cleaned? Apparently, they are. There are sneaker-cleaning kits. I did not know this. I just scrape the mud off mine with a stick.

Okay, you guys have heard about The Hate U Give, right? The publisher paid an obscene amount of money for this book. There was a massive amount of hype surrounding its release. As soon as I read the synopsis, it shot to the top of my “most-anticipated releases” list. After spending months sitting on the world’s longest waiting list, I finally got a chance to read it, and . . .

It was really good. Not perfect, but really good.

The narrator, Starr Carter, is trapped between two extremes. She lives in a poor neighborhood that’s controlled by drug-dealing gang members, but she goes to school in an ultra-wealthy suburb. She doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. One night, she’s on her way home from a party with her friend Khalil when a cop pulls them over. The cop kills Khalil. Starr suddenly finds herself in a world of police brutality, gang wars, judgment, and celebrity.

“I can't change where I come from or what I've been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?” – The Hate U Give

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to relate to it. I’m a rural white girl. Where I grew up, there weren’t enough people to make a gang, and the only things that got shot were dangerous or delicious animals. Cities are alien to me. I don’t even like reading about them because I can’t understand why anyone would want to live in one. As I read The Hate U Give, I decided that the point isn’t to relate to the story. The point is to shut up and listen. So, that’s what I did.  

I think the author did a fairly amazing job of showing the good and the bad in all of her characters. They have complex emotions and motivations. Starr makes some questionable decisions, but she’s a believable teenager. I was rooting for her. Starr’s father is involved in the gang world, but he loves his children and will do anything to protect them. Khalil dies within the first few pages, but he’s also complicated. He’s a drug dealer, but he didn’t deserve to get shot. He was unarmed and didn’t have any drugs on him.

“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.” – The Hate U Give

This book is unusual in the YA world because it’s a story about family. Starr’s parents and siblings play a bigger role in her life than her friends. Most of the friends in this book are underdeveloped side characters. That’s different because it’s usually the other way around in YA. The friends are everything, and the parents are pushed to the side. I loved seeing parents who are involved in their kids’ lives. It’s refreshing. I hope this book starts a trend. I’d like to see more parent/child relationships in YA.

I wish the friend characters were more developed, though. A few of them seem to only exist to teach the reader lessons about racism. They’re important lessons, but I get annoyed when books try to teach me things. It pulls me out of the story.

“That's the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?” – The Hate U Give

My only other complaint about this book is the length. It’s over 400 pages, which is really long for a contemporary. To me, it felt long, especially in the middle. There’s some interesting family-dynamic stuff in the middle, but I still got bored waiting for something to happen.

So, what’s the verdict on my most-anticipated release of 2017? Is this my favorite book ever? No. Is it overhyped? Yes, slightly. Should everybody read it? Most definitely. It’s completely worth reading, especially if you’re a rural white girl like me. One of the reasons I read is to learn about the world. This book showed me a part of the world that I’m unfamiliar with. I think a lot of people are unfamiliar with the experiences of black teens in the inner city. So, go read The Hate U Give. You’ll learn something.

“Holy shit. Who the fuck complains about going to Harry Potter World? Or Butter Beer? Or wands?”  - The Hate U Give

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Sunday Post #109

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
  • On Tuesday we talk about kings, queens, death, sex, and scandals. You know, all the interesting stuff.
  • On Wednesday it’s my blogiversary, and I’m giving you gifts. If everything goes according to plan, there will be a giveaway.

In My Reading Life

So much reading, guys. I finished So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Then I read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Right now, I’m reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Cookies.
  2. Last week’s Game of Thrones episode was pretty epic.
  3. I might actually reach my goal of reading 12 books this month. I’m really trying. A few of the books on my to-read pile are chunksters, though.
  4. I went for a run, and it wasn’t a billion degrees outside.
  5. We have a cover for Turtles All The Way Down.

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Discussion: I Reread The Harry Potter Series, And I Have Thoughts

Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight host the 2017 Discussion Challenge.

One of my goals for 2017 was to reread the Harry Potter series and re-watch all the movies. I did it! Here are my thoughts. If you don’t want spoilers or opinions, back away from the computer now. You’re about to get a faceful of them.

Random Harry Potter Thoughts

Rereading didn’t ruin anything. I reread the whole Harry Potter series before the 7th book came out, but that was 10 years ago (!). I was terrified that the series wouldn’t be as much fun as I remember. I shouldn’t have worried. I loved the books as a teen, and I love the books as an adult.

Except Cursed Child. Cursed Child is awful. I know that the Cursed Child play takes place many years after the series ends, but the characters don’t seem like themselves in the play. I much prefer the book characters.

So much foreshadowing. Have you guys noticed how much foreshadowing is in the series? It’s not something you notice unless you’re reading with hindsight, but there is a lot of it. J.K. Rowling’s organizational skills must be intense. How did she keep all those characters, and plotlines, and tiny details clear in her head?

So much angst. As a teenager, I must have had a much higher tolerance for romantic angst. There were times near the end of the series where I wanted to shake the characters and scream, “A dark wizard is trying to murder you! Ignore your hormones for five seconds! If you’re dead, none of your romantic relationships will matter!” The angst didn't annoy me as a teen.

The movies did a pretty good job. Those books are massive. I think the movie people did a pretty good job of deciding what to keep, what to change, and what to ignore.

My favorite scene in the movies is when Harry and Hermione are dancing in the tent after Ron leaves their Horcrux hunt. It breaks the tension perfectly.

Why are wizards so hard to find? Why is it so hard for the Ministry of Magic to find Sirius Black? Hedwig the owl has no trouble finding him to deliver Harry’s letters. Why can a bird find somebody but the whole wizarding government can’t? (That’s probably a metaphor for real-life governments.)

Order of the Phoenix needed editing. I never realized how saggy the middle of that book is. Phoenix was always my least-favorite, but when I was younger, I didn’t know why. Now I know. It seriously drags in the middle. Also, Harry needs a prescription for chill pills.

It’s always who you least suspect. My favorite part of the series is that is shows the problems with making snap judgments about people. A bad person can have good motives. Good people make mistakes. If you’re blinded by hatred, you’ll miss what’s happening in plain sight.

Dumbledore is complicated. I loved learning more about his past in the sixth book. That book humanized him. Before the sixth book, he was like a mythological figure.

Draco Malfoy. People on the Internet seem to love him. I don’t understand why. He’s a spoiled bully. What’s so appealing about him?

Ginny Weasley. When the series was still coming out, there was a lot of Ginny hate online. Do people still hate Ginny? I like her. She’s tough and funny.

Ron and Hermione. Am I the only one who doesn’t think they make a good couple? Their relationship feels forced to me. I usually don’t give a crap about the romantic relationships in books, but this relationship just never seemed right to me. Ron and Hermione are such different people. They’re great on their own, but together . . . ? They must argue constantly.

Severus Snape. I think he’s one of the most interesting characters in modern children’s literature. I hate him, but he’s interesting. The author keeps the reader guessing about his true motives for the entire series. I could never love an adult character who bullies children, but he sure made the series more suspenseful.

Let’s discuss: Have you ever reread a book you loved as a kid? Did your opinion of it change?