Book Review: Petunia, The Girl Who Was Not a Princess

Wow, this review has been a long time coming.

We received this book free from Wandering Scientist in exchange for, um, her being awesome, I guess?  (If it was in exchange for an unbiased review, we really should have gotten this post out the door a LOT sooner.)

Petunia, The Girl Who Was Not a Princess is a fun book with great illustrations.  It’s about a girl who isn’t into the princess thing and doesn’t, to paraphrase John Green, understand princess-loving girls complexly.  A princess-lover moves in next door, and it turns out that the new girl is just as complex as Petunia is herself, as are all the other neighborhood princesses (and princes) and they are able to have a lot of fun together.

Books in this genre of girls’ books come in two flavors.  There’s the type that tries really hard to be a feminist book and completely and totally fails because they shame a subset of women (ex. princesses) or provide the message that misogyny is normal in a way that shouldn’t yet be crossing a toddler’s mind.  Petunia is the other type– the kind that doesn’t shame even the youngest of choice feminists.  Especially terrific are Holly Liminton’s illustrations, which take great care to include a diverse cast of characters doing fun things.

Of course, this book isn’t for mommy– it’s for DC2.  So what is really important is the toddler test:  Does DC2 enjoy it?  Does zie request it?  Yes and yes.  Zie also gets really excited whenever I’m looking at Wandering Scientist’s webpage and zie sees the cover on the page, “I have that book!” (Usually followed by the sound of pounding feet to get said book, and then a demand to have it read.)  That’s still true after a year of ownership.

So if you’re holiday shopping take a look at this one.  Additionally, you cannot go wrong with Nelson’s other children’s book, The Zebra said Shhh.

What are we reading?

So it turns out that our readers were 100% correct that The Suffragette Scandal is the best of the Brothers Sinister books.  The final short story is also worth reading as a nice coda.  Her Turner series is also pretty good– it was touch and go there for a little while with Unclaimed, but I should have trusted that Milan would turn the Prostitute With a Heart of Gold meme on its head.  Unraveled is excellent (and only 99 cents!).

I continue to enjoy the Lady Emily books by Tasha Alexander.  Currently on book 2.

Only a Kiss by Mary Balough was pretty disappointing.  Not up to par with the rest of the books in the survivor’s series.  Lady Imogen’s character doesn’t really seem to fit the character in the earlier novels and is only superficially explored.  The hero is kind of a jerk (and a pale imitation of a specific Heyer hero, though I’m not remembering which one off the top of my head).  Formulaic without heart or soul.  (I also tried reading 3 more of her old books but so much rapity rape and hero not taking no for an answer… at least with her more modern books she’s learned the sexiness of consent.  Thank goodness modern romance novelists no longer seem to think that “no means yes over-rule me” is acceptable.)

The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (free on kindle).  I found out on a long plane flight recently that I *hadn’t* read all the sherlock holmes stories, I still had one book in the unread folder in my kindle.  No idea how I missed it.  Anyway, this is the book with the dog that didn’t bark.  But it’s also got a nice little story about a woman who doesn’t trust her husband that has a surprisingly good moral.  Go Arthur Conan Doyle!

if you read edenbrooke as a parody of regency romance, it is excellent and hilarious.  If you take it seriously, it is horribly written, irritating and repetitive.  (Twirling?  Really?)  She does name her heroine after the irritating sister from sense and sensibility.

Was also somewhat disappointed with Bet Me by Jessica Crusie.  The heroine is really likable but I think forcing food on someone who doesn’t want it is almost as bad as telling someone she shouldn’t eat it.  Also, no means no.  I hate it when the hero is allowed to not take no for an answer.  Whether it’s physical relations or donuts.  That’s just not cool.  Trust people to have control over their own bodies and listen to what they say about them.

Also a little disappointed in Prudence.  It’s ok, but I think I won’t actually be buying a copy after I return the library book.  :/  Also the first chapter of the library edition is just swimming in typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors, though that seems to be limited to just the first chapter.  Very odd.

Lots of long plane flights, jet-lagged reading in bed at weird times, etc.  What have I read?

#2 gave me Serpentine by Cindy Pon, which I read on the plane and now I’m waiting for the sequel.  Easy to read and page-turning.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.  This is a series of high fantasy novels, each of which is well over a thousand pages.  I can only get through them on kindle on long long trips.  Good stuff, very evocative.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.  A podcast recommended this (and #2 got it for me as a wedding gift) and I liked it!  Hot.

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig.  For fans of Richard Kadrey (which I am).

I think that’s all I read on the trip, besides several guidebooks.  Oh, and a book of short stories that was only ok.  And lots of crossword puzzles.

Other reading has included Chapelwood by Cherie Priest.  Squee!  Love this stuff.

I have a million books on deck, so exciting.  If only I didn’t keep having to go to my job!

summertime and the linking is easy

Let’s do this thing.

We very much love this Breaking Cat News (especially Elvis-kitty)

I don’t know where this storyline is going but it sure is cute (it’s getting grim as it goes on)

Let’s play Guess the Race (again)

And then we can go ARRRGH at this

and also Fcuk the po-po at this: “What’s wrong with you guys?“, indeed.  Indeed, sir.

Bonus book recommendations: Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Read ’em.

Check out these wacky old pics

Getting ready in the morning sucks.  (Key problem: morning.  Ugh.)

This cartoon really captures a part of my childhood: SPACE MUSEUM.



Moar reading diary

Hm, looks like yesterday was our five-year blogaversary.  Whoops!

What have we been reading lately?  A selection:

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev — picked up on the recommendation of a commenter.  The female lead is painfully naive at the age of 24, but she has pluck and gumption.  I like the complexity of the characters.  The male lead is a bit of a dork, but I promise there’s a happy ending with lots of happy family.  You should read it!

— More books in some urban fantasy series I’m reading.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.  Parts of this book are fascinating in the descriptions of the creatures who love books and the bookish city they live in (and under).  The characters are dinosaurs, gnome-like things, giant talking worms, sentient books, etc…. and YET none of them are female.  My score: plus one for whimsy and bibliophilia, minus three for sausage-fest.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan (which #2 also read and really liked).  Very cute romance with smart heroine.  I heard about it on a podcast.  An apparent happy ending, then complications.  Then a REALLY happy ending!  Note this is a bit more sordid than most of the regencies we recommend (it dips its toe into “Victorian” literature not just “Long Regency”), but it doesn’t go into graphic detail and the sordid events are in the past.  This book is a bit special because there are a number of times it takes a standard Regency trope and then resolves it sensibly or realistically rather than the way it’s typically resolved.  I kept going, I know what’s going to happen now, but oh, it didn’t, that is so much more sensible/realistic than what normally happens.  (Also the sex scenes are different than the standard formula a lot of these books use.  They illustrate character and provide growth for the couple.)  UPDATE:  We should have noted that this one is FREE FOR KINDLE.  Because it is like CRACK and she knows you will end up getting more in the series.  AT FULL PRICE.  At the AIRPORT.

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato.  Heard about it on Scalzi’s blog.  Enjoyable and I’ll read the next one.  Steampunk/romance/adventure and the heroine is a healer.

#2 has been clearing out some unread books in her bookcase in preparation for her trip, mostly by reading them or giving up on reading them and putting them in the to send/donate pile.  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson was ok but not a keeper.  Definitely a library book– worth reading once and never again (#1 has read two of these from the library).  A number of the “detective-midwife” mysteries that my mom left last time she visited didn’t make the cut because they’re too sordid for my delicate sensibilities.  Likewise a number of best-selling book-club books that my sister passed on didn’t make it either because they were too sordid (The Thirteenth Tale) [Hey, #1 liked The Thirteenth Tale! #1 has a higher tolerance for sordid.] or because they were boring (The Possessed).

Two library duds by Mary Balogh.  First comes marriage was really clunky and in sore need of editing (she would tell rather than show, then show in addition to the previous telling).  The hero was also kind of a jerk.  The ideal wife was much better edited, but really stretched believability to the point of cracking and threw in a random gratuitous rape near the end (not a rape scene, but a completely unnecessary rape to illustrate a point that had already been made multiple times and was dealt with as an aside by everyone involved– very poor form).  Sometimes she writes amazing work and sometimes you just have to wonder what she was thinking.  We suspect the quality of editing may have something to do with it, unless the 2009 copyright on the former novel is a lie.  (The 1991 initial copyright may have something to do with the latter’s flaws.)  OTOH, A Matter of Class was a delightful novella, and At Last Comes Love, the third in the Huxtable series, was much better than First Comes Marriage (granted, it also has rape in it, but at least isn’t so blase about it).

In related news, I gave Carla Kelly a second try, and Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career was far better than my first attempt at reading her.  The ending was still pretty ridiculous– Kelly seems to think she needs to pack in unnecessary drama at the end when a simple conversation would suffice.

One surprising book that turned out to be a keeper is a 1940 YA book (library discard) entitled The Fair Adventure by Elizabeth Janet Gray.  Despite the cover and title, it is not actually an Adventure book– I was expecting spies or treasure or something, but nope, it’s a slice of life coming of age book.  It is about a girl from the South who has just graduated valedictorian from high school and more than anything wants to go to (a renamed) Bryn Mar. It’s full of her relatives saying sexist things.  And yet… Despite being decades earlier than the wonderful Dinny Gordon books, it has a lot of the same themes (though not as good on race issues) and is quietly subversive.  Worth a read!

 Anything you want to add to your reading list, Grumpeteers?  Anything we should add to ours?

Ask the readers: Help! DH stepped on my oldschool Kindle 3

We didn’t have an ask the grumpies thing queued this week because it has been a crazy insane week, but I have an emergency question!

#1 asks:

DH stepped on my old school Kindle 3– the kind with the side page turners (which I love) and the keyboard.  If money is no object, should I get the Voyage, the Paperwhite, the currently-offered no frills kind, or a used ebay replacement?  (Amazon no longer sells refurbished Kindle 3s and the replacement screens are no longer available for sale anywhere.  We tried all the recommended kindle rebooting things and they erased the stuck picture but it still no longer shows new text.)  If money is an object, what would you get?  Anybody have personal experience with multiple kindles?

I don’t have an answer to this.  The replacement kindle 3 is $35 (including S+H) but sold “as-is” from a 99.4% satisfaction store that has sold 45 of them so far.  The no-frills is $99 without ads.  The Paperwhite is $139.  The Voyage is $219.

Like I said, I really like the side page turners, but I haven’t tried reading with the screen touch, so it might be fine.  I am also skeptical of lighting, but again, haven’t tried it so it might be fine.  I don’t want to see how much time the kindle things I have left– I liked the percentage left options, but I might get used to it.  Basically I’m scared of changing up something I like for something that might irritate me.  But it might be fine!  Is it fine?

Thanks in advance for your help.  I need to keep reading She (free on kindle!– also the origin of the honorific “She who must be obeyed”).  Analysis paralysis is not fun at all.

In which we talk about good books that are great to read

#1:  BTW, *all* of the Survivors’ Club books I’ve read so far have been delightful.  It is a fun fun series.
#2:  I stayed up late reading The Escape.  It was so good!  I was impressed with how Balogh managed to work everything out neatly at the end of The Escape.  Not TOO neat and tidy, but everything turned out in the end!

#1:  right now I’m knee deep in the first one I think the Escape’s been the best so far, but I seriously enjoyed the first two.
#2:  who gets together in the first one?
#1: Hugo, Lord Eames.

#2: Big ups for disability representation. I was impressed.
#1: YES! and she’s obviously done her research on the disabilities, even the mental health ones, which you will see in Flavian Lord Ponsoby’s story
#2:  excellent.  He has the stutter, and doesn’t Hugo have the PTSD? At the end of The Escape is a short story called “The Suitor” about Vincent, too.
#1:  Hugo mostly came to terms with his disability in the 7 years between leaving the war and the book starting. But there’s another mental health story that rings really true in the first book
#2: Excellent.
#1: You know I’m going to have to get the series.
#2:  Phillippa Dean is supposed to go marry Vincent the Viscount, but her heart is set on old flame Julian Crabbe…. CAN TRUE LOVE WIN THE DAY?
#1:  oh man oh man.  We meet Phillippa Dean at the beginning of Vincent’s book and her engagement is mentioned in his book near the end. They’re all so good. Vincent is a good guy.
#2:  well we already know who Vincent marries

#1: Get The Proposal (Book 1) next that’s the one I am thoroughly enjoying.  It also has a lot of commentary on class and culture and some signs of the end of the victorian age. The only thing it’s lacking is more stuff about agriculture.  I mean, it talks about agriculture, but doesn’t get into the weeds like I like.  Heyer does a good job getting into the weeds there.
#2:  if you want long tracts about agriculture you can always read Anna Karenina
#1: ugh, no thank you
#2: so many cabbages
#1:  I wrote a paper in college on Emma in the midst of an agricultural revolution
#2:  you are delightfully nerdy
#1:  My prof was especially impressed with me noticing that the only time Harriet says anything sensible is when she’s talking about agriculture.
#2:  you are one smart cookie.
#1:  That semester I was taking three classes that spent large portions of time on 19th century England.  Only my math class was exempt.
#2:  in college I wrote snarky-ass papers about how much I liked the characters in the V.I. Warshawski Novels by Sara Paretsky.  Especially Lotte, the Austrian Jewish doctor who performed free safe abortions
#1:  I have not read Sara Paretsky
#2:  I dunno that you’d like her. Chicago-based private eye VI Warshawski solves mysteries. If you like detective novels they’re good.
#1:  My mom left a bunch of similar themed books here the last time she stayed.  They haven’t been light enough for me to want to get into them
#2: yeah, they’re probably not fluffy enough for you right now
#1: it must be a sub-genre, mystery novels with abortion doctors in them.  My mom left one series about a historical midwife who solves crimes, I think.  They’re all just a little bit sordid
#2:  oh, hunh.  I didn’t know that.  This character’s main trait isn’t that she does abortions though, it’s that she is a great friend
#1:  mostly they seem to be early 20th century.  Wait, does this have an Australian mini-series based on it?
#2: no
#1: have you seen that?
#2: not that I know of anyway.  What series?
#1: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries I think set in the 1920s.
#2:  no, these ones are later than that
#1:  we saw two episodes and it was really high quality but too sordid for me
#2: these [Paretsky] ones are like in the 1990s
#1:  ah, the ones my mom left are all 1920s-1950s
#2: and I think (IIRC) that the friend is not specifically an abortion doctor, just that she knows how to do abortions and so she does them (in addition to other doctoring).  The VI Warshawski ones are like 1990s. If I’m thinking of the right series, she goes rollerblading.
#2:  hunh! Never heard of those but it does look like lovely production values
#1:  I suspect you will love it.  Australian.  Really interesting because the upper-crust all have British accents, but the normal people have Aussie accents.
#2:  actually I think I have heard of the book series but not read them
#2: I will probably enjoy that, you’re right

#1:  I want to read the stories of some of these other characters too [in the Survivors’ Club].  The glimpses of backstories are so interesting that I’m certain there must be another series that gives them full attention.  I love the way Balogh has created an entire world and we see people in it multiple times.  Even if there are still more young attractive dukes than could ever be possible.  I wonder what book is Lily’s story
#2: mmm delicious dukes
#1: this one has a lovely way of showing the same scene from both the hero and the heroine’s perspectives. Aiee, I just hit the part where the reader is firmly convinced that they’re perfect for each other.  Balogh is CLEVER.

Read the book first or watch the movie first?

While watching old vlogbrothers videos, I found out they have a campaign to “read the book first“, that is you should read the book before watching the movie.

The book is (almost always) better than the movie… I think everyone can agree on that.  It’s an almost universal truth with only enough exceptions that they prove the rule.

Because most people prefer pleasure to increase over time rather than decrease, it makes sense to save the best for last.  Watch the movie.  Then read the book.

What about spoilers?  I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like surprises, so I’m fine with spoilers.  I love wikipedia so much because I can read plot synopses before deciding to watch a show.  If you really love to be surprised, then yeah, you should probably read the book first, though keep in mind that the movie often deviates substantially from the book for cinematic reasons, so you might not be as spoilered as you think you are.

#2 says:  The correct answer is: read the book first and watch the movie never.  The movie is NEVER as good as what’s in my head when I read!  It’s not worth it.

There, solved that for ya.

#1 disagrees.  CASE IN POINT:  The Princess Bride.  YES, the book is better, but the movie is AMAZEBALLS.  Watch the movie first, then cherish the book.  Similarly, Captain Blood.  Delightful movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland.  Even better book (free on kindle!).  Both are worth the experience.  And then there are fantastic adaptations, think Clueless based on Emma.  Same plot, different experiences.

Obviously some movies suck and aren’t worth watching ever even though the book is good (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh).  But there are a lot of excellent movies adapted from excellent books.  Experience both!

What about you?  Which first?


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