Friday 56 – Don’t Call Me Princess

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

Today’s quote is from Don’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life by Peggy Orenstein.

Page 56 lands in the essay “Caitlin Moran: They Don’t Make Feminists This Outrageous Anymore.”

There is, for instance, the upkeep of that new presumed depilation (“I can’t believe we’ve got to a point where it’s basically costing us money to have a vagina”); the tyranny of stratospheric heels (“The minimum I ask for my footwear: to be able to dance in it and that it not get me murdered”); ever-teenier underpants (“How can 52 percent of the population expect to win the war on terror if they can’t even sit down without wincing?”).

Philadelphia Trip and the Poe House!

So. I did promise a real entry with pictures of Philly!

So. Friday around noon we headed up to Philadelphia from Baltimore, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, which I hadn’t yet actually listened to! It was quite appropriate, driving through Pennsylvania and seeing all the old buildings while listening to Hamilton sing about the civil war. So that was fun, and I definitely see why my husband loves Hamilton so much! (I also really want to read My Dear Hamilton now….)


Our first stop was Baldwin’s Book Barn. I mentioned this place on my Top Ten Libraries or Bookstores I want to visit, partly because I knew we were going to Philly soon and it was actually doable! It was pretty incredible. It’s a giant old barn, with four floors of used books. Lots of first editions, signed books, rare stuff. The stairs are narrow, and ceilings low – there were several rooms my husband couldn’t stand up straight in, and one stairwell he had to bend nearly double to go through! We picked up two books, one on sewing for my husband and one called How to Read Novels Like a Professor for me.

20181123_1915064012322295710401610.jpgFrom Baldwin’s we drove in and checked into our hotel, which was a really nice hotel, actually. We then got dinner before going to the concert that was the whole reason for the trip, VNV Nation at Union Station. The space was really neat – we found a spot on a ledge near the rear of the balcony, we had a good view but weren’t down in the crush, and we could sit. All things that were important to me. I like VNV, but not as much as Alex does. This was my first VNV concert, and his third! I was very lucky and managed to NOT get a migraine out of the concert, so that was fantastic. It was really fun, and he played three songs from previous albums that I knew and really loved. One of the songs was one that meant a lot to Alex and I while he was in the military, so that was pretty special. They were also selling a certain style of shirt that Alex really wanted, as his shirt in that style is wearing out and getting a little small. So he was very excited to get a replacement.

20181124_112512-effects4245030461536022959.jpgSaturday was our day for tourist-y things! First we walked over to City Hall and admired the architecture and statues. Google kindly filtered one of the photos I took and made it look really neat. I also had a moment, looking up at a statue of a dude riding a horse, where I discovered the horse was very much a stallion. (Loving care in that sculpture, man.) There’s a lot of neat sculpture built into City Hall, and I took a TON of pictures of it. Not sure you want to see all of them, though!


Next we drove over to Independence Park, since we needed to move the car anyway. (Parking downtown sucks, man!) We walked around and saw The Liberty Bell and the remains of The President’s House, which was the third Presidential Mansion, according to Wiki. I was impressed that a LOT of the exhibit addressed the slaves that lived there. It’s good that we don’t forget that even in the North slavery existed. We didn’t actually go over to Independence Hall, just took pictures. (That’s the photo on the left.)


After Independence Park, we walked up to the Poe House several blocks away. Philly is – an interesting city. There’s weird sculptures everywhere, and they have some DEDICATED graffiti artists – one of these pictures shows graffiti on the smokestacks of an old factory building!

I actually forgot to take any pictures of the inside of the Poe House, but I took several of the outside. There was also a big mural of Poe on a neighboring rowhouse! The Poe House in Philly is much bigger than the tiny cramped one here in Baltimore. Now we just need to get to the museum in Richmond!


After the Poe House, we walked back to Independence Park, passing by Franklin Square, which had a carousel and mini-golf and what looks like a giant fountain in the summer. It was currently drained and strung with lights, and probably looks pretty cool in the dark.

20181124_2158541914165567501657854.jpgOnce we retrieved the car, we headed back to the hotel. We’d planned on hitting up Reading Terminal for dinner, but my feet were BEAT. It was a good decision, because it started raining shortly after we got back to the hotel. I had some fun taking artsy photos of raindrops on our hotel window with the Philly lights behind them! We ordered in Chinese for dinner and watched several hours of the Holiday Baking Championship on The Food Network and just generally had a cozy evening.

We did make it to Reading Terminal for brunch the next day. I didn’t take any pictures, but that place is really neat. And one of the bakeries whose name I cannot remember now makes THE MOST AMAZING flourless monster cookies. SO. GOOD.

Once we ate, we headed back south to come home – kind of! We actually stopped off at a friend’s in Baltimore and played board games for the rest of the afternoon, and got home pretty late in the evening. It was really a fantastic weekend, and oh man, I have missed traveling SO MUCH. We have a trip to Pittsburgh and Toronto planned for this summer, and I can’t wait!

Book Review: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

lady's guide to petticoats and piracyThe Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
by Mackenzi Lee
Young Adult/Historical Fiction/LGBT
450 pages
Published October 2018

I have been eagerly awaiting this sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and it did not disappoint! In The Lady’s Guide we continue the story of the Montague siblings, with the book opening on Felicity showing up at her brother’s flat in London while she figures out how to get into medical school. I love the sibling relationship between these two, and Felicity’s friendship with Monty’s partner Percy. The three of them just make an amazing little group, so supportive and understanding of each other.

Felicity strongly hinted at being asexual in The Gentleman’s Guide, and through the course of this book, that is cemented. Even when she comes to care for someone, sex just…isn’t her thing. Romance isn’t really either, making her both asexual and aromantic. It’s fantastic representation for an identity we don’t see very often in books. Or, perhaps, an identity we don’t see explicitly mentioned in fiction. Many books don’t have romantic plots and just don’t investigate that aspect of their characters, but to investigate that aspect of a character and say NO, they are NOT interested in that is unique.

Similar to The Gentleman’s Guide, this is an adventure story. Unexpectedly, we veered into magical realism in this book, with the existence of some fantastical creatures I wasn’t expecting to see. Nothing about The Gentleman’s Guide had implied that the world they inhabited was not exactly ours, but The Lady’s Guide does deviate. So that was a big surprise, and I’m not sure I like it. It felt a little forced. I think the “secret” that someone was protecting could have been written as something real instead of a fantastic creature.

That minor quibble aside, I really loved this book, just like I did the first. These two are GREAT books, and the characters are outstanding.

From the cover of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy:

Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bonesetting – or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind – avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh, and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a small window of hope opens. Dr. Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician who Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward-thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend, Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to open old wounds, but she also has no money to make the trip.

Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

TTT – Platonic Relationships in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week’s theme is Platonic Relationships in Books! This is a little difficult, as I enjoy a thread of romance in my books. Some of these relationships are between main characters, but most of them are between a main character and a side character.

First, the sisters in Grace and Fury and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. In both books, the sisterhood is STRONG and the girls will do anything for each other.

There’s two platonic relationships in Darius the Great is Not Okay that I found really interesting – the one between Darius and Sohrab, that the book spends most of its time exploring, and the one between Darius and his father, which affects everything in the book.

Nils and Mare in Of Fire and Stars are heartbreaking.

The girls in Girls of Paper and Fire form a sisterhood of sorts, but the friendship between Lei-zhi and her maid, Lill, is super cute. I loved this book, and my review will be up soon!

The friendships in What If It’s Us are SUCH an important part of the book, and they’re so important to the characters. There’s another tight-knit group of friends in Queens of Geek, though two of them wind up pairing off so it’s not entirely platonic. Another small group of friends forms the heart of Goodbye, Paris, and they help the main character heal from the major blow she’s dealt.

The other two books in my read-but-not-reviewed-yet stack also have fantastic platonic relationships in them. In Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, one of my favorite relationships was between the main character and her male best friend. And the main character in The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is asexual and possibly aromantic – all of her relationships are platonic, and it’s great to see that kind of representation in young adult historical fiction! And of course, there’s her relationship with her brother Monty, from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. The two siblings are just amazing.


Book Review: Of Fire and Stars

of fire and starsOf Fire And Stars
by Audrey Coulthurst
Young Adult/Fantasy
389 pages
Published 2016

Having read the prequel to this book already, I can see why a lot of people complained about the lack of worldbuilding. Even though the prequel is based in a neighboring country, there’s a lot in this book that I understood based on events in Inkmistress. I definitely recommend reading that one first.

That said, I enjoyed this book a lot. I think Inkmistress is better, but that happens often with new authors. I think the sequel, Of Ice and Shadows, due out this summer, will probably be even better, and should bring the events of the previous two books together.

Like Inkmistress, bisexuality seems to be absolutely normal in Denna’s country, with Denna not expressing a preference, Mare having had male and female lovers, and one of Denna’s ladies having a female lover. (There is a brief mention of a gay couple as well.) I do wish nonbinary people would make an appearance, but it’s something, at least.

There are a lot of twists and turns to the plot in this book, so while Inkmistress was fairly straightforward, this one took me by surprise multiple times. It also makes it much harder to talk about the plot without giving anything away!

I wish we’d discovered more about the King’s council – several members of it seemed to have ulterior motives but we never got to see what those were. If we knew their motivations, some things might make a lot more sense and be a lot more satisfying.

Read Inkmistress. If you like the world, go ahead and read this book, because the events of this will be necessary to understand the third book, which takes us back to the country featured in Inkmistress. And I want to know more about that country!

From the cover of Of Fire And Stars:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile nations. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire – a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses – and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine – called Mare – the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms – and each other.

Sunday Stuff!

We’re driving home from Philadelphia today! We started the weekend with Baldwin’s Book Barn just west of Philly on Friday afternoon, before checking into our hotel in downtown and going to a VNV Nation concert that evening. It was my first VNV concert, but my husband’s third. I was worried it would trigger a migraine, as migraines are the reason I haven’t been to a rock concert since high school, but I got lucky and escaped without one. (Not sure how I managed that, but YAY!)

Saturday we walked around downtown and did touristy things. Saw City Hall, and the Liberty Bell, and the Poe House. (I took way more pictures than this, but I’m currently posting from my phone, so you can check my Twitter for some of them, and I’ll put together a real post when I get home.) It was a lot more walking than I usually do, even though I’ve started taking daily walks.

Saturday night we stayed in – my feet hurt, and it started raining! We ordered in Chinese from nearby Chinatown, though my fried rice showed up with peppers in it, which was unexpected. I can’t eat nightshades, so that was highly disappointing, and my husband went out and got fried rice from a DIFFERENT Chinese place so I could have dinner!

The plan for today is brunch at Reading Station before heading back home to Baltimore. I’m looking forward to walking around the market!