Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

Found on Google Images

Title: The Other Boleyn Girl

Author: Philippa Gregory

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Summary: “A rich and compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her heart.

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take her fate into her own hands.”

My Thoughts:

On the very first page, Mary watches someone she knows get beheaded, which certainly drew me into the story. I continued to be interested the whole way through the book, which is saying something, since I went into the book knowing what would happen. The perspective also made the story interesting to read. Writing from the viewpoint of a woman, especially someone so often forgotten about made a well known piece of history feel new.

Gregory does a great job of giving readers a feel for what life at court was like without it feeling repetitive. While Mary and Anne Boleyn’s lives were crazy in many ways, life at court could potentially become repetitive to read about. She also did this well in Three Sisters, Three Queens, which I read last spring.

Gregory also clearly shows the complete lack of agency both Mary and Anne had in their lives, particularly when it comes to their relationships with Henry. Mary gets told exactly what to do to charm Henry, down to when she should sleep with him.

Now that I’ve addressed what Gregory did well, I need to discuss the big problem I have with this novel. (Hence the 3.5 stars). Before I say anything, I will acknowledge that this book is from 2001. However, The Other Boleyn Girl is still a popular read for historical fiction about the Tudors, so I think criticizing it is fair.

I found the portrayal of Anne as well as Mary and Anne’s relationship to be sexist. As a character in general, Anne is pretty one-dimensional. Obviously, the novel being from Mary’s perspective, the readers miss Anne’s inner thoughts. Still, Mary was her sister, so it’s safe to assume she would know the real Anne Boleyn better than most. But even with those closest to her, Anne is really mean, heartless and calculated. So basically, the sexist, simplified caricature the public already has of her as a historical figure. This portrayal surprised me somewhat, given that the book was written by a woman known as a feminist and interested in championing the stories of women from history.

Gregory does give Anne a good amount of agency, which I could appreciate, even if mostly involved her being mean to Mary constantly. She is shown to help her family strategize how Mary should keep Henry interested in her. She is really the only woman who talks about wanting autonomy and is shown to be ambitious. But again, she is a w f u l. Having the only woman with ambition being extremely unlikable and then be beheaded seems a bit sexist to me.

An example of other media that gave Anne agency in a much more positive way is The Tudors, a TV series. Anne is shown encouraging Henry to read writings by Martin Luther, giving her a direct and important role in the Reformation. I only include this to show that there are other ways to show Anne’s ambition in a way that shows her intellect, rather than her being manipulative and mean.

Mary and Anne’s relationship and different experiences with Henry and at court also bother me for similar reasons. The focus on Mary and Anne’s rivalry and Anne “stealing” Henry from Mary feels sexist and oversimplified. Sure, they are both shown to be pawns in their family’s plan, but there is also a focus on Mary and Anne fighting over the fact that Henry has been with both of them, during the same time. (This takes place earlier in the story, but still). This somewhat turns a complex game in order to grab power into an oversimplified rivalry between two girls in love with the same man. By focusing on their anger towards each other, Gregory turns Anne into the villain rather than, oh, I don’t know, maybe the guy who cut his wife’s head off??!? (Actually, more than one, but Katherine Howard comes along much later).

Additionally, Mary is shown to be apprehensive and uncomfortable with her role of sleeping with the king at the beginning, and remains the kind, sweet girl throughout the novel. Anne is more comfortable in her role from the get-go, and more matter-of-fact about what she needs to do for her family. This means the plot is essentially one of a sweet girl forced into a bad situation who ends in a happy, loving marriage. But the more ambitious, smart girl gets punished. Of course, Anne would die at the end, but if she was more complex, not just a calculated seductress, this inevitable end would feel less like the classic story of a woman rightfully punished for being intelligent and having ambition.

While I still really enjoyed reading The Other Boleyn Girl, I found the portrayal of Anne to be a big letdown. However, I loved reading from Mary’s perspective and getting into the mindset of what it must have been like to be in her position. I would maybe still recommend this book, because I did really like reading about Mary, but it was also so frustrating to read.


Playlist:

I decided to pick songs that fit lyrically with the novel and then put them in order of what happened. Of course, none of them fit perfectly, except for the song from Six, but I tried. I had a lot of fun making this one 🙂

  1. Doll Parts – Hole
  2. Young God – Halsey
  3. Don’t Lose Ur Head (feat. Christina Modestou) – Six Soundtrack
  4. What Kind of Man – Florence + the Machine
  5. How F*****g Dare You – Lauren Tate
  6. Falling – Florence + the Machine
  7. Heavy Is the Head (feat. Chris Cornell) – Zac Brown Band
  8. Angel on Fire – Halsey
  9. Greensleeves

You can listen to it here 👑


Thank you for reading this feminist rant disguised as a book review 💚

My Month in Music – October (2019)

I hope you all had a great Halloween and October in general! Here is a playlist of what I listened to this past month, I hope you enjoy!

You can listen to the playlist here

Special Mentions:

For Halloween, I was the Live Through This album cover, so I feel like it is fitting to put in this post 🎀


Thank you for reading! ❤

My Month in Music – June (2019)

I hope you are all having a great July so far! Here is some music I listened to last month 🙂

You can listen to the playlist here 🔮


I hope you all have a great July! Happy listening and thanks for reading ❤

Book Review: Shout

Found on Google Images

*TW: rape, domestic violence

Title: Shout

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: “Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice — and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.”

My Thoughts:

The minute I heard that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Shout I knew I needed to read it. I haven’t read all of her books, but I’ve read a lot of them, and all were fantastic. I loved Speak when I read it, and although it’s been a long time since I read it, I remember how well she handled the complicated conversation around rape. She continuously tackles complex issues like eating disorders (Wintergirls) and PTSD (The Impossible Knife of Memory) so well. Shout is no different.

Anderson wrote in free verse, which I really enjoyed. It allowed her the freedom to write each poem in a different form and length, which kept it interesting. I also liked the mix of memoir (especially at the beginning) with poetry focused on the issue of sexual assault as a whole. Anderson was able to tell her own story while also addressing issues she herself never directly faced.

I really loved this book. There was not a poem I disliked. Of course, I had my favorites, but everything was well written and expressed different emotions and ideas. I’ve always thought Anderson is so talented with word choice and writing poetic lines in her novels, and Shout reinforced that. Some of my favorite lines are below (because quoting an entire poem is a bit much).

The image of my father hitting

my mother picassoed in front of me

like Sunday sunshine slicing

through the church windows, fracturing

and rearranging the truth on the floor.

Another example:

I didn’t speak up

when that boy raped me, instead I scalded

myself in the shower and turned

me into the ghost of the girl

I once was

Shout writes about the violence so many women experience in their lives in such a real way that nearly brought me to tears and filled me with rage. Anderson once again tackled a difficult topic with grace, expressing the anger and hurt so many women feel due to their experiences and the experiences of others. I cannot say enough that this book is excellent and everyone should read it.


Playlist:

This is a playlist of angry women (one of my favorite genres of music):

  1. Asking for It – Hole
  2. Nightmare – Halsey
  3. Can I Run – L7
  4. Oh Bondage Up Yours! – X-Ray Spex
  5. Seneca Falls – The Distillers
  6. World Against She – Hands Off Gretel
  7. Suck My Left One – Bikini Kill

You can listen to the playlist here 🤘🏻


Thanks for reading! ❤

My Month in Music – April (2019)

In April I didn’t listen to much new music, but there are some good songs in this playlist either way, since I have impeccable music taste. Just kidding, but I hope you enjoy it!

You can listen to the playlist here!


Thanks for reading! I hope your May is going well!

Book Review: Our Own Private Universe

Title: Our Own Private Universe

Author: Robin Talley

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Summary: “Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it’s mostly about sex.

No, it isn’t that kind of theory. Aki already knows she’s bisexual — even if, until now, it’s mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki’s theory is that she’s only got one shot at living an interesting life — and that means she’s got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It’s time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa — slightly older, far more experienced — it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories — and the result may just be love.”

My Thoughts:

I wanted something easy and fun to read, so I decided to read a YA contemporary novel. (Also, I realized I hadn’t read any since 2015, so there’s that). I love Robin Talley (please read Lies We Tell Ourselves if you haven’t), so I decided to read this 🙂

One thing I liked about this novel was the friendships. There were interesting dynamics between each friendship, which made it interesting. Also, the relationship in this book is so cute! They’re both young, figuring out their sexuality and what their future holds for them. There’s a lot of unknown things, but that they like each other isn’t one of them.

Another thing Talley does really well is her dialogue is great. It’s very natural and differs with different characters well. Here’s a good example:

“The new guys are going to be incredible,” Lori had whispered to me as we walked to the party with the others.

“They’re going to be exactly the same as the guys we already know,” I whispered back.

“Not true. These guys are way cooler. Much less boring.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

“Look, I’m an optimist, okay?”

p.13

In addition to the same-sex relationship in Our Own Private Universe, Talley included other characters that made this a diverse novel. Aki and her family are black, and it takes place in Mexico, meaning many of the side characters are Mexican. Aki and at least one other character are bisexual, there is an out lesbian character, and one character who is pretty sure they’re pansexual. Very rarely are there books, especially contemporary YA novels this diverse.

There were also some things about this book that were less prominent that I still want to mention. For one, it’s very sex positive, specifically regarding LGBTQ+ people. Talley brings up topics about safe sex and the issues of sex education, which largely only teach about one kind of sex. On a completely different note, all of the sections of this book have Prince song titles as titles. Additionally, there are more references and mentions of Prince throughout, which was fun. There is also a small section with a long conversation about Harry Potter, which made me very happy.

There were some things I didn’t love about Our Own Private Universe, though. For one, while I liked Aki, Lori and Christa (and other characters), I didn’t love any of them. I liked some of the background characters a little better, but overall they were all just fine. There were traits in them all that really bothered me too much to really love them. (Saying exactly what things bother me would spoil a lot, so I can’t be specific). The other main issue I had was with the characters arguing over stupid things and lying to each other. It made some of the conflicts feel catty and unoriginal. (Again, putting specifics would spoil things so I can’t be more specific).

Overall, I think this books like this one are very important as LGBTQ+ relationships are very under represented in books and the YA genre. If you want a fast, cute romance novel this is a good one to choose!


Playlist:

For this playlist, I chose artists and bands that have members in the LGBTQ+ community.

  1. Keep on Livin’ – Le Tigre
  2. Sheer Heart Attack – Queen
  3. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
  4. Plum – Troye Sivan
  5. Angel on Fire – Halsey
  6. Re: Anne – Charlie Raphael – Campbell
  7. Love You Old Fashioned – Semler
  8. The Original High – Adam Lambert
  9. Viz – Le Tigre
  10. She Walks on Me – Hole

You can listen to the playlist here 🙂


Thank you for reading!🌈📖

My Month in Music – October

Albums:

New:

IMG_3074Six Feet Under All the Same – Semler (2018)

This album is really good (and it was released on Halloween which fits perfectly). I love the quality of her voice and the sound of each song. The album is cohesive, but there is also a good diversity of sound. Semler sings about everything from heartbreak to murder to falling in love with a vampire, so there’s a lot of different topics covered. I certainly can’t say that for most albums I listen to. I’m glad to have more music to listen to around Halloween!

Some of my favorite songs (this is most of the album… there are only 7 songs. I’m bad at picking favorites):

Old:

  • Harry Potter Soundtracks

Still how I am making it through very boring reading for class. And interesting reading (but it’s still really long, so I need something to keep me reading for a long time). This will probably be the same for a long time. I just really still love Harry Potter, so this way I can involve it in my life all the time. Also, to anyone that wants to make fun of me, yes I know I am 18, judge me all you want, I will never be shamed for my love of Harry Potter. 💛⚡️📚


Songs:

New:

Old:


Thanks for reading!💀❤️

Book Review: Dirty Blonde

IMG_3058
Found on Google Images

Title: Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love

Author: Courtney Love

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: “A multi-textual memoir chronicling the life of one of our most potent pop icons.

Groundbreaking rock musician. Award-winning actress. Perceptive songwriter and author. Mother. Wife of a rock god. Fashionista and trendsetter. Provocateur. In each and every one of these roles Courtney Love has demonstrated a wholehearted commitment to her art, and an intense drive and a lust for life that have made her a star and a celebrity icon — but have also led her into some unwise, uncharted, and even dangerous territory. Simultaneously candid and enigmatic, Love has a mordant wit and vivid intelligence matched in intensity only by the extraordinary life she has led, from a bleak early childhood through great fame and terrible heartbreak to the present day. By turns exhilarating and unsettling, this is a story told for the first time in Dirty Blonde.

Composed of an astonishing and eclectic collection of deeply personal artifacts including personal letters, childhood records, poetry, diary entries, song lyrics, fanzines, show flyers, other original writings, and never-before-seen photographs, Dirty Blonde leads us through the unimaginable highs and the despairing lows of one of the most compelling and creative figures in the world of popular culture. Through these diaries we see Love’s accomplishments, her mistakes, her history, and her bright future in a whole new light. From her upbringing in Oregon through her years living in Japan, New Zealand, and London, from her career highs with Hole and as a Hollywood leading lady to her personal heartbreak and struggle, Dirty Blonde is Love laid bare — a wholly fascinating portrait of a fierce and insightful woman with an unblinking worldview and a determination to express herself no matter the cost.”

My Thoughts:

Dirty Blonde is a very honest look at Courtney Love’s life. I don’t necessarily think it gives a clear life story, but it showcases thoughts and ideas she did not intend to share with the world initially. It also shows thoughts she had when she was far from being the Courtney Love most people recognize.

(This one)

Readers can learn more about Love as a child, where she was in juvie and got reports such as: “…she has consistently done well academically. The previous school quarter which ended in November saw Courtney make honor roll status. Behaviorwise, Courtney has had significant problems…” I felt like through reading this book, I could better see who she is and why she is that way. Seeing her writing as a child shows these things clearly and demonstrates she has always been very talented as a writer. There are so many great examples, but I pulled a few from different years of her life here:

“what’s left that isn’t swept by the Rages of Apathy? why do i always crave change? when will it settle?”

Or this, which she wrote at 9 (ish)

“there’s got to be something to this

cold haunted gloom

where everythings misty and grey

where I’m being pulled away

by the angels of time

the sparkles of life”

And an example when she was much older:

“they think were stupid swooning bitches

they think were 28 day bloody witches

they want to burn me at the stake

and put a knife right through my heart

and turn the weak of us against

the strong

and turn woman into girls

and make the worst of us into predators

its a bloody mans private world”

Dirty Blonde hides very little in that Love shares diary entries about her husbands’ death, letters she wrote to people, ideas for songs and poetry and more. This feels very familiar, as Love has always seemed to rip her heart out of her chest and put it on display for everyone to see. Her performances are full of emotion, whatever emotions those are. This book felt very fitting in that it had the same quality, of Love bearing her soul for everyone, not caring if it makes people uncomfortable.

The only issue I had with Dirty Blonde is that Love does not have the best handwriting, which made it hard to read sometimes. This is not a fault of anyone really, except Love I guess. I have messy handwriting too that I occasionally can’t even read, though, so I can’t really fault her for it.

Fans of Courtney Love would really enjoy reading this book and understanding Miss World a bit better. ❤


Playlist:

For this playlist, I tried to do two things: to showcase at least 1 song from each stage of Courtney Love’s career and to pick some lesser known songs.

  1. Babydoll
  2. Dicknail
  3. Beautiful Son
  4. Mono
  5. She Walks on Me
  6. Boys on the Radio
  7. Honey
  8. Northern Star
  9. Miss Narcissist
  10. I Think That I Would Die

You can listen to the playlist here. Click on (almost every) song to see a live performance 🙂 Say what you will about Courtney Love, she can put on a damn good show.


Thanks for reading!🎀

My Month in Music – March

Albums:

New:

Louder Than Love – Soundgarden (1989)

I really like this album! It’s very cohesive in terms of sound, although a lot of it sounds Hair Metal-ish, which is generally not my favorite because of the people that tend to be making those albums. *cough* Axl Rose *cough* However, as Chris Cornell was not a known sexist and racist, as the previously mentioned was, I have a much easier time enjoying myself while listening to some Hair Metal-sounding Soundgarden. Again, not surprised that I liked this album, as I really like pretty much any and every Soundgarden song I’ve ever heard.

Some of my favorite songs:

Superunknown – Soundgarden (1994)

I love this album! Not really a surprise, again. I unknowingly already knew a lot of this album before I sat down and listened to it, as it is Soundgarden’s most commercially successful album. I knew Black Hole Sun, The Day I Tried to Live, My Wave and Fell on Black Days. (Honestly though, if you only know one Soundgarden song,  it’s likely Black Hole Sun).

Some of my favorite songs (I tried not to include the Superwellknown ones):


Songs:


Comment Below: What music did you listen to in March?

Book Review: Hit So Hard

IMG_2393
Found on Google Images

Title: Hit So Hard

Author: Patty Schemel

My Rating: ★★★★

Summary: “A stunningly candid portrait of the Seattle grunge scene of the ’90s and a memoir of an addict during the last great era of rock ‘n’ roll excess, by Hole drummer Patty Schemel.

Patty Schemel’s story begins with a childhood surrounded by the AA meetings her parents hosted in the family living room. Their divorce triggered her first forays into drinking at age twelve and dovetailed with her passion for punk rock and playing the drums. Patty’s struggles with her sexuality further drove her notoriously hard playing, and by the late ’80s she had focused that anger, confusion, and drive into regular gigs with well-regarded bands in Tacoma, Seattle, and Olympia, Washington. She met a pre-Nirvana Kurt Cobain at a Melvins show, and less than five years later, was living with him and his wife, Hole front-woman Courtney Love, at the height of his fame and on the cusp of hers. As the platinum-selling band’s new drummer, Schemel contributed memorable, driving beats to hits like “Beautiful  Son,” “Violet,” “Doll Parts,” and “Miss World.” But the band was plagued by tragedy and heroin addiction, and by the time Hole went on tour in support of their ironically titled and critically-acclaimed album Live Through This in 1994, both Cobain and Hole bassist Kristin Pfaff had died at the age of 27.

With surprising candor and wit, Schemel intimately documents the events surrounding her dramatic exit from the band in 1998 that led to a dark descent into a life of homelessness and crime on the streets of Los Angeles, and the difficult but rewarding path to lasting sobriety after more than twenty serious attempts to get clean. Hit So Hard is a testament not only to the enduring power of the music Schemel helped create but an important document of the drug culture that threatened to destroy it.”


My Thoughts:

In Hit So Hard, Schemel did a very good job of adding humor to her stories. Throughout the difficult subjects she talks about, like drugs, death and being homeless, she makes the reader laugh. It always felt well timed and provided relief for the times the reader was left to sit with the pain Schemel endured. As I have read and watched a few documentaries about rock stardom, which often end in death, it was refreshing to have someone live through it (this…I had to) and be able to make jokes about it. Here are some examples:

“Adolescence. Oh God, red hair, and glasses. That was me in a nutshell, the dark side of a John Hughes movie. Also: GAY.”

Another, on heroin addiction:

“There was nothing like a free expensive candle and a shot of heroin to make my life complete.”

Along with the humor, Hit So Hard is very honest. Schemel is being brutally truthful about everything she experienced and felt during her life. As someone who went through so much, it would have been easy to sugarcoat how difficult things were or not include certain experiences. The fact that she puts it all out there makes this book so clearly honest and brave. It really helps to see just how strong Schemel is to have lived through (…this) all she did. And because of how honest she is, Hit So Hard can be heartbreaking and I found parts difficult to read.

After reading this book, I felt even more respect for someone I already had a lot of respect for as a musician and from watching the documentary Hit So Hard. It makes me really admire her strength.

Lastly, I think Hit So Hard and books like it are very important, because it really helps people see (and helped me see more clearly) that addiction is truly an illness and should be treated as such. Often people have very little sympathy for addicts and act like they want to be addicted or don’t look very deep into why they have drug or alcohol problems. Schemel’s book promotes empathy and compassion.

Also, obviously I think you should read this book, but if you like movies better and want to watch instead of read about Schemel’s life, you can watch the documentary Hit So Hard


Playlist:

This playlist is some of my favorite Hole songs, not including Nobody’s Daughter, because that album didn’t have any original Hole members other than Courtney Love. Although I really like it, I don’t consider it a real Hole album because of that reason. I also included only one Celebrity Skin song because even though I love that album, it seemed unfair to include much from it as it was recorded without Schemel.

  1. Hit So Hard
  2. She Walks on Me
  3. Pretty on the Inside
  4. I Think That I Would Die
  5. Miss World
  6. Violet
  7. Teenage Whore
  8. Jennifer’s Body
  9. Plump
  10. Babydoll

You can find the playlist here. Click on the songs to see great live performances 🙂


Comment Below: What good books have you read recently?