Sunday, November 27

12x12 Recap 2016 (So Far)

Guys, it's late-November, and I've been struggling with my 12x12 project this year! As of today, I've only read seven books this year - so I still have four books to go. Is it impossible for me to finish? No, but it'll be tough!

Since I haven't blogged about my project yet this year, here are the seven books I've read so far in 2016:

The Other Boleyn Girl
by Phillipa Gregory

What I Loved:

So, full disclosure, this book is one of my absolute favorite books in the world. I am a total nerd for anything Tudor-related (thanks to a diverse Young Adult section in my hometown library), so when I found this book by Phillipa Gregory when I was about fourteen or fifteen, I was in love. 💗

Phillipa Gregory writes almost exclusively historical fiction about the Tudor era, but it's not "historical fiction" in the way you think. I guess when I think of the historical fiction genre, I basically think of fan fiction where the author takes a bunch of liberties with the actual timeline of events and doesn't care about accuracy. Phillipa Gregory isn't like that at all. In the back of every book, she includes pages worth of all the books she consulted in order to get details right in the books, and (my personal favorite thing she does) everything that happens in her books is at least based on real rumors or theories historians have about what happened. Everything's based in reality, but Phillips Gregory manages to make everything relatable, humanizes characters from book to book, and focuses particularly on women in the era. They include a few really nice sexy moments in each book (if you're into that), but the focus is the story - it's historical fiction with elements of romance, not the other way around.

This book in particular is my favorite she's written, and for good reason. The Other Boleyn Girl is about Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn. It covers Mary's perspective about Anne's rise to power as well as Mary's life before and after. As a kid, I was obsessed with Anne. She was fierce, intelligent, stubborn, and changed the course of both religion and countries because of her ability to manipulate Henry VIII in a time where that was (literally) the best a woman could do to effect change. In many ways, she was my hero. As I get older, I relate a lot more to Mary. Although she was a lot more powerless, she made the best of every situation she could. As an adult-ish person, that really speaks to me.

The hardest part after reading this book is seeing these weird, demeaning representations of Mary in different Tudor accounts. Mary was Henry VIII's mistress for five years and (potentially) had two children with him. By all accounts, he adored her and (in a 1500's way) respected her... Then I'm watching "The Tudors," and she's portrayed as a whore who slept with Henry for like, two nights and gave him a blowjob before he got sick of her and cast her off. I get legitimately pissed about that, because I almost feel like it's a form of misogyny - recasting a woman in history who had a legitimate relationship with a man (albeit sexual) and turning her into this one-dimensional whore character. It's demeaning, and although I love "The Tudors" for what it is, I wish they had been more detailed in a variety of ways, not just relating to Mary.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

This is a perfect book, so there's literally nothing I don't like about it. However I feel obliged to point out that the movie is shit. I still own it, mind you - but it's terrible. This story is just not a movie-friendly timeline. Mary was Henry's mistress for around five years, and Anne was with him for around seven. Fitting the complexity of those relationships into an hour and a half movie (particularly Anne's manipulative relationship with Henry) just isn't feasible. What makes those relationships so incredible are their length at a time where Henry could have literally chosen anybody for his mistress, but in the movie, you just don't get a sense of that. On top of that, Natalie Portman (who I love) over-acts Anne, and Scarlette Johanson under-acts Mary. Eric Bana does a pretty good job as Henry VIII, but overall the movie just falls flat.

Would I Recommend This Book?

100%. It's a great example of a thoughtful, interesting, sexy historical fiction book. So if that's your thing, buy it and spend every waking minute reading this book!

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler

What I Loved:

Okay, don't hate me: before I read this book, I hadn't ever watched "Parks & Recreation." My only real introduction to Amy Poehler was SNL, "Baby Mama," and references to her in Tina Fey's Bossypants, which I read last year for my 12x12 project. I was hoping it would be about as good Bossypants, so imagine my surprise when I loved it far more. I know. Insanity.

Amy Poehler is a fantastic writer, and a little more blunt and straight-forward than Tina Fey. She came across as appropriately self-deprecating, intensely relatable, a fierce mother, honest (but kind) about her divorce from Will Arnett, and generally a person who we all wish we could become - or at least have as a best friend. I learned so much about improv, about improv troops, about her childhood, about service to others, and how much I wanted to "grow up" to be like her. There was a lot about "Parks & Rec" in the book, which is the reason I watched it for the first time this August. Now that I've watched every episode (and was devastated by the end of the last season), I really want to re-read Yes Please again; there were so many bits in there about the show that I feel it would mean way more to me now.

Basically, it's just a really great book. I laughed out loud more times than I can count and the book flows effortlessly. I loved it. Want to read it again, will read it again. 💗

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

Really, nothing. I'm not huge into biographies or autobiographies, but if I loved this, you will too. I'm just sure of it. Unless you're a monster or something.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Yeah, clearly. 😊

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child"
by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

What I Loved:

Being back in the Harry Potter universe! Reading a new "book" in the world I love so much was overwhelmingly charming. I was willing to forgive almost anything in my joy. Thankfully, I didn't have to forgive much. 😊 I heard a lot of people complaining after the "book" came out that it wasn't a book - it was a play, and they somehow felt screwed over. So, if you're expecting a book by J.K. Rowling, you're going to be sorely disappointed. It's a play and it's definitely not by J.K Rowling... but it's been officially approved by her, so it's canon and I'm not complaining.

As a play, I was thrilled by the story. I've read plays before, so I understood the format and was comfortable filling in the blanks myself. There was a lot that wasn't explicitly explained. Most of the characters do magic in the play, and I found myself totally able to picture what they were doing, but excited/confused about how they would make those things happen on stage. The themes of the play were really obvious, and it made me think that although I loved it in book form, it would definitely be better performed than read in my own head.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

As a storyline, it's hard to follow because the play involves time travel. There were times were I was trying to figure out what year the scene was in, which wasn't immediately obvious to the reader. The time travel, like some other aspects of the story, would be a lot easier to understand when performed because the use of costumes and makeup would help explain to the audience what year we were in or what scene happened before another.

I also had an issue (that I'm still dealing with/thinking over) with the idea of Voldemort as a willingly sexual being. I won't say more than that in case you haven't read it yet, but in my understanding of Voldemort as a character, he wouldn't necessarily use sex or sexuality for anything except a tool - certainly not for pleasure or fun. I'm actually going to write an essay about this for a different forum, so I won't go into this more now, but think on it.

Would I Recommend This Book?

YES. Ultimately, this play felt true to the series. I loved the relationship between Albus and Scorpius, I liked the overarching themes of fatherhood/son (-hood?), and it felt whimsical to me in the same way that the first few Harry Potter books felt whimsical. I'm dying to see the play, and I loved being transported.

In the Company of the Courtesan
by Sarah Dunant

What I Loved:

I should preface this by saying this book is not smut. I think I got it when I was in high school, but this is only the second time I've read it. I have another book by the same author that I love, but that's a little darker, so I have to be in a particular mood to read it. I read this around June of this year while I was studying for the bar and needed something as different as possible from the law. I succeeded.

What I love about this book in particular is that it's not a hard read. It's from the perspective of a little person who works for a courtesan in Italy, around 1500 (I think. Years are hard. Don't quote me on that). There's actually a surprising lack of sex in the book - it's more about their business, trying to attract clients, save themselves from dangers, etc. I understand that sentence is not a sexy sentence or likely to make you want to read the book, but trust me when I say that this is a good, distracting read. It has elements of mystery, romance, action, and it flows well as a book. I also really like that it's from the perspective of someone who is "little," as well as disabled, because as an able-bodied white woman, it's good for me to look at things from another perspective.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

While I'm glad this book isn't difficult or heavy reading, it's definitely not something I'd suggest for someone who wants a serious read. It's a good distraction, it does involve some history, and I'd definitely say it's enjoyable - but it's not something for a philosopher.

Would I Recommend This Book?

That depends on who you are and what you like. If you like reading historical fiction and you'd like a quick read that doesn't challenge you, I'd say go for it. You'll probably like it, but you probably won't write home about it (I understand the irony of saying this on a post where I'm literally writing about whether to read this or not, but that's what this blog post is about, so, oh well).

A Wind in the Door
by Madeleine L'Engle

What I Loved:

Again, to be upfront, this is one of my favorite books growing up. I had this, A Wrinkle in Time, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (which I have somewhere, but I have no idea where and I would actually love to read again). I. Love. These. Books. They're engrossing, thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, and generally just great books to read. They're meant for children in particular, but they're probably the books I've re-read the most except for Harry Potter. Madeleine L'Engle doesn't treat children like these dainty, fragile beings that need to be coddled and given easy literature - these are heavy and dark, but also uplifting. They taught me that it was more important to be smart than beautiful (but also that it's okay to want to be both) and that my instincts were powerful. They taught me that love and light always conquer hate and darkness in the end, which I truly believe.

This book in particular is the second book in the "series," and focuses around Meg saving her sick brother. I honestly can't get any deeper into the story because (if you haven't read it) you're just going to be like, "Oh my god, this girl is insane; what is she talking about and was she high on drugs writing this blog post?" I promise you I'm not high. If you're an adult, I'd honestly suggest reading all three of those books. If you're a parent and your kid is old enough to read chapter books, please please please give them these books. They changed my life.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

I don't mind this, but all of these books are ones you need to re-read to really understand them (if you ever do). They are emotionally and mentally heavy, they are full to the brim with difficult concepts, and you need an active imagination to keep up. All of these things are not downsides, but something to keep in mind if you're considering reading them.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Absolutely! Go out and buy them right now.

What Kind of Nation
by James F. Simon

What I Loved:

This was a book recommended to my 1L law school class my first semester of law school in Civil Procedure. I think I bought it my 3L year (which was actually still this year - it feels like ages since I graduated), and read it late this spring. I was inspired to finally read it because I took a class on Federalism where I was learning a ton about the founding fathers and how their particular views influenced the law, the Constitution, and our government. This book is about Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall (probably the most notable Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court ever), how they interacted, and how their opposing views influenced the country.

Honestly, I loved it. I loved it so much. It solidified my belief that Jefferson was a huge asshole, and it made me fall a little bit (okay, a lot) in love with John Marshall's brain. Jesus, if I was half as smart as some of the people I read about, I would be golden. So much of my Federalism class was about how the justices of the Supreme Court made calculated decisions about whether or not to hear a case, how to decide it, and how to actually write the opinions. Marshall single-handedly created the power of the Supreme Court because he wrote an opinion that honestly makes no sense... except to give the court power to interpret the Constitution while also appeasing Jefferson, who hated him. It's genius. I can't say it enough. Also, Marshall really liked Jane Austen, so.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

Even though it's not a thick book, it's a lot to process. While it was nice to have the themes of the book tie in with the themes I was dealing with in Federalism, it was also a little exhausting to be reading about Federalism for 6+ hours a day, not including class. If you can handle all that, awesome. I did okay.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Sure, as long as the subject matter interests you. If reading about the law and the founding fathers doesn't interest you, stay far, far away. If it does, you should check it out!

Bad Feminist
by Roxane Gay

What I Loved:

When I bought this, I didn't have any idea what to expect besides the fact that I had seen a couple of girls I know and admire online reading this. I had no idea who Roxane Gay was. Two chapters in, I was totally sold. It's a collection of essays she's written, all about either being African American, a woman, a feminist, or sometimes all three at once. The title "Bad Feminist" is based on an essay in the beginning of her book about how (especially online) we try so hard to be perfect feminists. Sometimes it feels like there's this set of rules that we have to adhere to, and if we slip up, we're "bad" feminists (or not real feminists at all). Her point in that essay was essentially that there is no perfect feminist, and that just because we're not perfect doesn't mean we're not feminists. Sure, maybe we're "bad" feminists, but fuck it - we're trying, we're making an effort, and we're always learning. So let's embrace being "bad" feminists and just try our bests to be good and do good in this world, as feminists.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

There were things in the book I just couldn't relate to. Ironically, it wasn't her essays on being African American, because I found her perspective deeply fascinating and eye-opening; it was the fact that she loves Scrabble and joined a few tournaments. I wanted to be into the Scrabble essay(s), but I just couldn't. I'm sorry. I'm the worst. I know.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Totally! Overall, I thought she was funny, endearing, thoughtful, and the book was enjoyable. I would definitely suggest it.


Phew! I made it through seven reviews, and I can't believe this blog post is finally complete. I know it's been a long post, but you really didn't want to read seven different posts about these books, did you? Yeah, me neither.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Will you read any of these books now?


  1. Thanks for sharing. I loved "The Other Boleyn Girl" too when I read it. We are currently on season 6 of Parks and Recreation so maybe I'll add Yes Please to my list. Thanks!

    1. Hey Elizabeth! "The Other Boleyn Girl" is sooo good! I try really hard to read new books instead of just re-reading old ones, but it's one of those I just keep coming back to. :) Oh gosh - if you like Parks & Rec, you'll love "Yes Please." Amy Poehler's voice in that book is really special.

      - xo M