Monday, 19 February 2018

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife
by Jennifer Worth

Summary: Call the Midwife' is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history. It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in the 1950's and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured.
I made the mistake of reading this book after I'd watched the TV show.

The problem with that is that the TV show is a really, really good and faithful adaptation so while I was reading, it felt like I had already read this story, and this was one of the rare occasions where the book didn't add much more to it than the show gave.

The only thing I got from the book that there was less of in the show was hindsight...the book includes a lot of information about how midwives and nurses were trained to treat patients back then, but Jennifer Worth also talks about the things they got wrong. Like having mothers on bed rest for weeks when now they know that it's best for them to be up and about as soon as possible to prevent complications. There's a little bit of this in the show via the narrator, but there's more of it in the book.

There were also some more graphic descriptions of child birth that obviously couldn't be shown on the show. It was actually pretty interesting to read about (I'm not squeamish about that sort of thing, if anything it's reassuring knowing what our bodies are capable of). It left me kind of in awe of the women throughout history who were having children before all of the medical advancements we have now (and the option of pain meds).

This review is a bit waffling and I'm not sure where I'm going with it really (out of practice), but I guess what I'm trying to say is that the book is really fascinating and informative and it pulls that off with so much heart and personality. It's hard not to love and care about the people from Jennifer Worth's stories when she talks of them with such warmth and realness.

I did genuinely love the book. I just wish I'd read it before seeing the show. The show is fantastic too -- the cast is excellent and it's so honest and heartwarming and heartbreaking and eyeopening, and I love seeing what it was like for women like my granny back then, and how the NHS and nursing and midwifery have evolved over time.

I really recommend checking out both, but maybe start with the book.

"Now and then in life love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul all unprepared..." - Jennifer Worth


Monday, 12 February 2018

The Royals 1-3 by Erin Watt

Paper Princess
The Royals Book 1
by Erin Watt

Summary: From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.

These Royals will ruin you…

Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.

Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.

He might be right.

Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.

I'm reviewing these three books in one review because the way the books are written, it doesn't really feel like they're individual books. Just one long story broken into three parts.

So. Here's the thing: I mentioned recently that the past year has been one of the worst reading years I've had in a really long time. Well, these three books kind of snapped me out of that slump I was in (or at least the first two did). I read the first two books in one or two sittings easily (the third was a bit more of a drag).

The first two kept me hooked and I was never bored. The third book had its moments but it didn't maintain the same pace as the first two, it really dragged in parts and felt so needlessly repetitive. For most of the three books, I felt emotionally invested in the characters and their relationships. For those reasons, I did enjoy the books.

But, this series has trope upon trope that I have some major issues with. Including, but not limited to:

  • Trivialization of statutory rape, sexual coercion (i.e. rape), and there were just little things littered throughout the book along those lines than irritated me (e.g. in the third book Reed, main love interest, makes a comment that one of the highlights of his night was seeing his friend grope the ass of a girl Reed didn't like while they danced even while she kept telling him to stop).
  • Using rape/attempted rape as a plot device (not even in relation to my first point, this was it's own separate thing)
  • Girl hate (there's maybe one positive female relationship in the book...though it does have its moments where it improves but there's still sooo much of the "catty girl cliche" and the "crazy ex girlfriend" tropes)
  • "You're not like other girls" vibes
  • That problematic romance between the two leads, where he treats her like crap but she falls for him anyway (I admit, those hate-to-love relationships are addictive but that doesn't mean they're healthy or that I don't feel bad for rooting for them) and he's kind of possessive and controlling (though not as bad in this as I've seen in other stories). This does improve once they're together, when he becomes kind and considerate towards her but still.
  • obnoxious rich kids
  • slut shaming (but only the girls)
  • MC being a virgin used to stop/counteract slut shaming rather than just "hey, slut shaming is wrong"
  • Trivialization of addiction (drug, gambling and alcohol).
  • Trivialization of violence (i.e. Ella actually finds it kind of attractive seeing her boyfriend fighting, rather than realising how dangerous it is and that one wrong punch could kill or seriously injure him or the person he's fighting).
  • Falling for the bully trope
  • Pretty much every issue is solved with either money or violence. 
And many things that bugged me. They didn't necessarily get in the way of how entertaining the book was, they just made me wish I didn't enjoy the books because they're not the kind of books I'm happy to recommend to people knowing all the harmful tropes they pull. 

I did really like the characters for the most part. I really enjoyed reading the hate-to-love romance and the friendship/sibling relationships that formed between Ella and the Royals. The plot didn't really pull much of anything I haven't read before, but it was entertaining.

The third book was the only one I struggled with because it was so dragged out and the ending was so obvious right from the start.

Basically, this series was quite addictive and I love that it pulled me from my reading slump...but, if you read it, go into it knowing that it is really flawed and if any of the stuff mentioned in the bullet points is a deal breaker for you, maybe steer clear of the series.


Monday, 18 December 2017

Top Ten Books of 2017

Well then, it's been a while, hasn't it? About a month and a half, I think...

To be honest, this year has been one of the worst reading years I've ever had. I had reading slump after reading slump in the first half of the year, then since July/August, life has just gotten in the way (health scares, family health scares, home renovations, etc) so I've not been reading much at all. When I'm not reading, I tend to not blog much.

But I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things soon. Until then though, I figured I'd make my favourites list for the year since I'm not sure if there'll be any last minute additions to my list.

I only read 41 books this year, and quite a few were children's books (best friend had a baby), so it's not a long list to choose from and because it's such a short selection, I won't be limiting it to 2017 releases, just books I read this year. But here goes:

My Favourite Books of 2017

1. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour - I lovelovelove this book so much. It's a short book but it packs a big punch that hit me right in all of the feels. It's about grief and love and family and friendship and heartbreak, and it handled the issue of sexuality beautifully (i.e. it didn't make it into an Issue at all). It's just a general favourite now.

2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - I didn't expect to love this one quite as much as I did, but like We Are Okay, I consider it to be a favourite book in general rather than just a favourite from this year.

3. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - I loved the first book, I wasn't quite sure if the second could live up to the standard set by the first book but it kind of surpassed it. I adored this book, maybe more so than the first because I liked the characters way more and the relationships interested me more.

4. The Princess Bride by William Goldman - I've been a fan of the movie for ages, but I kept putting off reading the book because I didn't think I'd love it as much. But I did. It was excellent (had a few issues, but overall, I loved it).

5. F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher - This book wasn't at all like I was expecting it to be based on the cover or description. It was actually better, and it was one of the few reads I managed to speed through in one sitting this year. It was just really fun and there were only one or two things I didn't like about it.

6. The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg - This is an odd book and I loved it. I don't read many graphic novels but this is the kind that makes me want to read more of them. It's beautiful and feminist, sort of a retelling of Arabian Nights and I loved it. My only issue with it was that the font was sometimes hard on the eyes.

7. Ten by Gretchen McNeil - I wouldn't consider this book a favourite, but it was good and definitely one of the most enjoyable books I read this year. It's a retelling of Agatha Christie's, And Then There Were None. It delivered the 90's slasher vibe I was hoping for from There's Someone In Your House but didn't quite get.

8. You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson - I wasn't really familiar with who Phoebe Robinson was before reading (read: listening to) this book. I picked it up on a whim because I was in the mood for some feminist non-fiction/memoir type books. I may not have been familiar with Phoebe's work when I started the book, but I definitely finished it a fan of hers. She's funny and intelligent, her audible narration was fantastic and the topics she spoke about were so important.

9. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher - I listened to this one on audiobook, not long after Carrie died and I really enjoyed the book. Carrie's narration was fantastic, she made me laugh and it was an interesting glimpse into what it was like behind the scenes of the original Star Wars movies (which, like many people, I grew up loving). I've heard it's not the best of her books, but it was the first I'd read so I had nothing to compare it to, so I wasn't disappointed by it.

10. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta - I'm quite torn on this book. On one hand, I'm not really sure this was Melina's story to tell. On the other, I feel like she maybe did it well in spite of that, but I'm also not really qualified to judge that. It's probably my least favourite of Melina's books (given she's one of my favourite authors, that's not an insult) but it was still good and it was still one of the better books I read this year.

I guess that's all. Not the best reading year as far as quantity goes, but definitely a few quality books in there to make up for that.



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