Every so often I try to be a better reviewer, and shortly afterwards realise that my head really doesn’t work that way. I do want to talk about the things I’ve been reading, though, so I’m going to experiment with a monthly post that includes copies of the book-thoughts I post on Goodreads/Library Thing and perhaps a bit of extra commentary.  

March was a bit unusual for me, because I had surgery at the end of February and was therefore going through various stages of recovery during March. Because of this, I was mostly watching reality TV at the beginning of the month. That said, I did eventually do some reading, much of it PhD-focused.

My favourite fictional read this month was easily The Serpent’s Skin, by Erina Reddan—such a strong, original voice! As for non-fiction, I particularly enjoyed Prostitution and Victorian Society, by Judith R. Walkowitz, which combined thorough research and an engaging writing style.

Hard in Hightown: Varric Tethras (Mary Kirby)
This was a lot of fun and I especially enjoyed the cameos of the various companions. It felt very true to something Varric would write. I wish it had been a bit longer than it is, and it’s definitely aimed at fans rather than people completely new to Dragon Age, but I am very much in that fan category 😉

 Secret Identity (Sweet Dreams, #22): Joanna Campbell
I struggled a bit with the protagonist in this one because she was just so perfect and had such a perfect rich girl life. As a teen, the secret identity of Eric would’ve been right up my alley, but even then I wouldn’t have been able to get excited about the romance, because of course Miss Perfect would end up with Mr Perfect 😉 I think it would’ve been a little more fun if she didn’t have it all to begin with.
As an aside, this is the first Sweet Dreams book in the series where there’s any mention at all of sex—well, IMPLICATION of sex, really—which I found quite interesting. Not that the protagonist is down for that, natch. She’s not “one of the usual”, as the book says!

Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State: Judith R. Walkowitz
A thorough and engagingly-written work, which focuses mostly on the Contagious Diseases legislation in England and the movement agitating for its repeal. I do wish there was more in here from the perspective of the sex workers themselves, but I realise that the voices of middle-class and upper-class men and women are those more likely to have survived.

Debutante Nation: Feminism Contests the 1890s: Susan Magery, Sue Rowley & Susan Sheridan (eds)
A solid collection of essays about the absence of women in earlier discussion of the 1890s in Australia. A little less ground-breaking almost 30 years post-publication than it would have been at the time, but I still found it a worthwhile read.

Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America: Caroll Smith-Rosenberg
A very thought-provoking collection of essays. My personal favourite was the first, which explores the author’s changing historical practices and assumptions over time.

The Serpent’s Skin: Erina Reddan
What a wonderfully written book this is. A story of the secrets held within families and the ties that both bind people together and tear them apart. The voice is strong throughout and feels authentic with regard to the protagonist’s young age in the first part without becoming too childish to engage the book’s adult audience. A powerful piece of writing.

Women, Class and History: Feminist Perspectives on Australia 1788-1978: Elizabeth Windschuttle (ed.)
This is a very wide-ranging collection of essays on women within Australia’s society and workforce, but I think the very breadth of it is a little limiting, as most readers will be interested in a particular section of the 200-odd years covered. (I, personally, didn’t read anything from the 1920-45 and 1945-78 sections, which means that marking it as “read” is really a half-truth.) I think it’s a bit dated at this point, as well, which is to be expected 40 years later. A good introduction to many of the issues raised, however.

Sex and Class in Women’s History: Judith L. Newton, Mary P. Ryan & Judith R. Walkowitz (eds)
This one definitely feels dated by now, unfortunately. I also struggled a bit with the large opening essay about a mixed-class relationship that felt so deeply abusive to me that it was hard to read.