If you’ve seen my recent Femmeuary TBR post, you’ll know that throughout the month of February I’m attempting to read only books written by female authors. This is going extremely well so far, as I think by default I gravitate towards female writers anyway and consequently they make up the majority of my bookshelves. However, sticking to my TBR list is proving to be another issue entirely.
I’ve never been one for setting rigid ‘to-be-read’ lists for myself. I’m very much a mood reader, so I often find that planning my reading ahead of time just doesn’t work for me – what I think I’ll be in the mood for one day is most definitely not at the top of my list the next. It should come as no surprise to anyone, then, that I’ve veered off from my set TBR slightly and read a couple of books that weren’t initially included on my Femmeuary reading list. That being said, they are both fantastic feminist reads, written by and featuring strong women and very real problems facing women today, so I think they still count towards my Femmeuary reading, and I’m very glad that I got around to them both.
Published 13th July 2017 by Simon & Schuster Ltd // Purchased // ☆☆☆☆
In her series of open letters, Em Clarkson addresses all manner of subjects and absurdities that impact on our modern-day lives. She unpicks the validity of notions such as ‘the thigh gap’; writes a letter to the cellulite on her upper thigh; questions the merciless quotidian scrutiny of the Daily Mail; ponders the etymology of the term ‘plus size’; considers our unshakeable obsession with dieting and assesses why some of us are still crying in changing rooms. Writing with gumption, fearlessness and sharp wit, Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? is a window into the ridiculous ideologies and the remarkable expectations that shape women’s lives today.
I am a big fan of Emily Clarkson; her blog, Pretty Normal Me, is one of my most visited, and I’m an avid listener of the podcast that she hosts of the same name. When I heard that she was releasing a book, a collection of essays on issues facing young women today, I immediately pre-ordered it… and then forgot to read it until now. Story of my life! It was, however, certainly worth the wait, and definitely the perfect pick for Femmeuary.
The format of the book is told in a series of letters, which made for a really fun reading experience. Ranging from recipients such as friends, companies, to herself, to readers, to her personal belongings, and, ultimately, to any woman who feels that they don’t quite fit in to society’s definition of a ‘normal’ girl, this is a deeply personal and therefore highly relatable insight into Emily’s life. A few of the chapters resonated with me more than others; some I completely found myself nodding along with while reading, and feeling so heartened that Emily was voicing thoughts that I’ve had myself, while others I didn’t related too as much but still found Emily’s opinions interesting and valid. I have definitely struggled with my appearance and with fitting in at various points in my life, and Emily really does make you feel as if you have a friend and an ally in her, someone that knows exactly how you feel and feels it, too.
While I could go on for hours about how much I enjoyed Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? I’ll just say this instead – go and do yourself a favour and read it. If you’re a young woman looking for some reassurance that you’re not alone, that you’re wonderful and that you can do anything, or even if you simply just want something fun to laugh at and unwind with, then you really must read it. Entertaining, invaluable and ultimately empowering, Emily Clarkson and her amazing words are there to reassure us that we’re worthy of being in this world, just the way we are.
Published 7th September 2017 by Little Island Books Ltd. // Purchased // ☆☆☆☆
Tangled tales of earth, salty tales of water
Bewitched retellings of thirteen classic fairy-tales with brave and resilient heroines. Tales of blood and intrigue, betrayal and enchantment from a leading Irish YA author.
With 13 stunning black and white illustrations by new Irish illustrator Karen Vaughan.
Tangleweed and Brine is a beautiful collection of unique, feminist retellings of the classic fairytales that we all know and love. I’d heard so many great things about this collection, so going in I had rather high exceptions, which I’m pleased to say were certainly met. I love anything to do with fairytales, so dark, twisted retellings with a feminist edge was always going to be a winner in my book! In all of the stories, the female characters are stronger, darker and certainly more complex than I’ve ever seen before in a fairytale retelling, and Deirdre Sullivan’s take on the classic tales was both refreshing and empowering.
As is the case with all short story collections, there were some that I enjoyed more than others, but I don’t think that I came across a single one that I didn’t like. All of the characters and stories had a different take than anything that we’ve seen previously, which gave the collection a really fresh and exciting vibe, something that I find can be difficult when it comes to retellings of well-know, classic stories. Each protagonist was also dealing with issues that women can, in one way or another, relate too, even if the issue in question wasn’t immediately apparent to the reader.
I loved the twist that Sullivan put on the tales, and the angles at which we came at the story – in the Hansel and Gretel retelling we saw the backstory of the ‘witch’ in the gingerbread house, while the Rapunzel retelling focused on her mother’s reasons for giving her to the witch as a baby. Some of my favourites included the Cinderella tale, the very first in the collection, which showed once and for all that women don’t need men to whisk them away and solve their problems, and the Frog Prince story was so unique and different and I’d love to read a whole novel based on it! I enjoyed how the Bluebeard retelling was the only real love story included, completely turning the tale on its head, and the Snow White story was so dark and twisted and unlike anything I had come to expect from that classic fairy tale.
Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable and extremely well written anthology full to the brim with strong female characters and beautiful prose. Fairytale retellings are both extremely popular and numerous, but Tangleweed and Brine is fantastically unique collection that deserves to be read for that reason alone. Fresh, exciting and with girl power in abundance, it is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Are you taking part in Femmeuary? What have you been reading lately?