Princesses Behaving Badly

Title: Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings

Author: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie. She is a freelance journalist, this is her first book.

Genre: Nonfiction

Readers: Professors JoLee and Irene Adler, publishing professional Gigi, attorney Elizabeth H. and librarian Mary Liz.

Summary: You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

Our Take: These short real-life tales of princesses are fun and frightening, great for short reads. Not perfect for big history buffs who want lots of detail, but great for the casual lover of royalty.

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Motherhood Comes Naturally

Motherhood Comes Naturally by Jill SmoklerTitle: Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies)

Author: Jill Smokler. She is the author of a previous book of parenting essays, Confessions of a Scary Mommy and blogs at ScaryMommy.com

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Readers: Mothers Sulyn, Megan V., Katie and Reinventing Mommy.

Summary: Newly pregnant and scared out of her mind, Jill Smokler lay on her gynecologist’s examination table and was told the biggest lie she’d ever heard in her life: “Motherhood is the most natural thing in the world.”

Instead of quelling her nerves like that well intentioned nurse hoped to, Jill was instead set up for future of questioning exactly what DNA strand she was missing that made the whole motherhood experience feel less than natural to her. Wonderful? Yes. Miraculous? Of course. Worthwhile? Without a doubt. But natural? Not so much.

Our Take: A funny and candid look at real parenthood that would make a great gift for new parents. Our readers enjoy Smokler’s frankness, but warn that she may offend more sensitive readers.

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They Used to Call Me Snow White

Title: They Used to Call Me Snow White… But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor

Author: Gina Barreca. She is the author of several works of non-fiction focusing on women.

Genre: Nonfiction

Readers: Stay-at-home mom Marina, prosecutor Rochelle, retiree Sulyn, teacher Ninian and publishing professional Gigi.

Summary: Snow White became an instant classic for both academic and general audiences interested in how women use humor and what others (men) think about funny women. Barreca, who draws on the work of scholars, writers, and comedians to illuminate a sharp critique of the gender-specific aspects of humor, provides laughs and provokes arguments as she shows how humor helps women break rules and occupy center stage. Barreca’s new introduction provides a funny and fierce, up-to-the-minute account of the fate of women’s humor over the past twenty years, mapping what has changed in our culture and questioning what hasn’t.

Our Take: This re-release is definitely more of an academic feminist tome than a light romp. Our readers were intrigued but wish the new edition had more current examples in it.

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Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

Title: Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

Author: Peter Graham

Genre: Nonfiction

Readers: Writer/Editors Kristina and Denise, stay-at-home mom A Military Mommy and professor Michal.

Summary: On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme—better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry—and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline’s mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline’s mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora’s determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson’s Academy Award–nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.

A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls’ relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time.

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Abandoned Ship

Title: Abandoned Ship: An Intimate Account of the Costa Concordia Shipwreck

Author: Benji Smith. This is his first book.

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Readers: Consultant Alila, prosecutor Rochelle, teacher Ninian and policy wonk BakingSuit

Summary: On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia — a thousand foot long luxury cruise ship, twice the size of the Titanic — ventured into shallow water and smashed into the rocks of a tiny island off the coast of Italy, throwing the four thousand passengers and crew members into a state of chaos. The captain and officers all abandoned ship, leaving the few remaining castaways to fend for themselves as the boat toppled onto its side and water flooded into the passenger decks.

In the wee hours of the night, newlyweds Benji Smith and Emily Lau feared for their lives, desparate and terrified after a malfunctioning lifeboat left them stranded on the sinking ship. By this point, the other lifeboats had all gone. They had been left behind.

This thoughtful memoir — hailed by The Daily Telegraph as “a compelling, minute-by-minute account of the chaotic evacuation” — tells the remarkable story of the couple’s harrowing escape, as they clung to a rope and rapelled down the hull of the doomed vessel.

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