What I've Been Reading Recently
The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden*
Inspired by Russian fairy tales, this is the story of spirited young woman, Vasya, who realises that the fate of her village lies in her hands. There is good versus evil, new religion versus ancient beliefs, female strength versus restrictive tradition, and a whole lot of magic. It's apparently adult fiction but, to me, it was a book for feisty girls in their late teens who want to seize control of their own lives. It did feel a little slow to me, but that might just have been down to my own life - it took me a whopping two and a half weeks to read what my Kindle reckoned was a six hour book - but I also wanted to keep going until I found out how (surely how rather than whether?) Vasya saved the day.
Hurrah for Gin: A book for perfectly imperfect parents by Katie Kirby
I bought this right after writing this post about how tired I was feeling and it was pretty much exactly what I was needing. There are quite a few books at the moment in which a parenting blogger writes with humour about how hard looking after toddlers is yet how awesome interacting with them can be. This is one of them. And it made me laugh. A lot.
A Christmas Cornucopia: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Yuletide Traditions by Mark Forsyth
Why do we celebrate on 25th December? Who is Santa? Is Christmas a pagan/Victorian party mash up? Mark Forsyth answers (almost) all of your festive questions in a simple, witty style. The blurb says that everything you believe about Christmas is wrong - and, in my case (much to my surprise) that was almost entirely true. Fascinating stuff.
The Happiest Mommy You Know by Genevieve Shaw Brown*
Journalist and mother-of-two, Genny, has a theory that mothers would be a lot happier - and, by extension, better parents - if they treated themselves with the same love and care that they show to their children. In this book, she writes about her attempts to put that into practise. To be honest, other than having created offspring, I don't think Genny and I have much - if anything - in common; we're coming at parenthood from very different places and, as a result, have different strengths and weaknesses. That didn't stop me from agreeing with her premise and it didn't stop me from enjoying her (witty, honest, open) writing. She acknowledges that she's in a very privileged position - having supportive family around to help out and plenty of money to pay for things - but she also has a son with Down Syndrome and a demanding career so her life isn't entirely straightforward nor prioritising her own needs easy, and her attempts to pursue happiness made for entertaining reading.
A Girl Called Owl by A.J. Wilson*
At thirteen years old, Owl is desperate to know who her father was. Then she starts to develop amazing frosty magical powers and discovers that the truth is more incredible than she could ever have imagined. Early on in this young adult book, I was ready to roll my eyes - did Owl have to be a bit rubbish at everything except doodling owls? did her guide into the world of magic have to be a hot boy? where was the female empowerment?! - but it all fell into place as the story unfolded. I enjoyed this a lot as an adult and I would have absolutely loved it at twelve or thirteen.
How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King*
This should be handed out to parents at their kids' two year health check. So much common sense in one little book: why 2-7 year olds act in the [challenging? uncooperative? rebellious?] ways they do; why the traditional punish, reward and constantly remind approach doesn't work; and what simple measures parents can take to improve things. I've read similar pieces elsewhere but none of them laid things out in quite such a clear, persuasive manner. It also includes specific advice for looking after children with additional support needs. Parents of toddlers: read this now.
*Provided for review
Hi! I'm a 30-something stay-at-home feminist mother-of-one. I live in Aberdeen, Scotland with my toddler, boyfriend and two black cats. I talk a lot about this stuff: