I read some other stuff too (week ending June 25)

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Let’s do this:


I am all of the awkward, all of the time, and I really enjoyed this book. Tashiro talks about social awkwardness (and how that differs from introversion and social anxiety) and the science behind it. It’s definitely helped me learn some things about myself and get an idea of strategies I can use to help.

This was a tough read, but so important. Bauer and his team interview women and girls who have escaped from Boko Haram and this book is a collection of their stories and the terrible things they have witnessed and experienced. F you need trigger warnings, consider them all given – there is some truly horrific stuff in here.

This is a fascinating story of what happened to Susannah Cahalan when an auto immune disease started attacking her brain. Cahalan’s memory of the time is so impaired she has had to recreate the time from her medical records and interviews with family and friends. This book is beautifully written and absolutely terrifying.

I picked this one up as a Book Riot Insiders recommendation. It was a big bunch of good fun!

So I finally read High Fidelity. I haven’t seen the movie (due to an illogical dislike of John Cusack). Unpopular opinion time – I didn’t like this book. At all. Not even a little bit. I probably would have bailed in the first few chapters if it wasn’t for the excellent narration of Russell Tovey.

So I’m now at 132 books completed for this year (my Goodreads challenge is set at 150), and I’m pretty happy about that. As next weekend co-insides with the end of June (kinda) I might do some top 5s (as a little nod to Nick Hornby. Hm. I wonder if he got called Nick Horny at school…)

Also, sign ups for the 24 in 48 readathon are open, so get over there and do your thing!

Have an awesome week!

I Read Stuff (Week Ending June 18)

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I am unforgivably late with this post, and I didn’t want to hit you with a double whammy this week. So here we go:

Evicted was both interesting and heartbreaking. I was utterly astounded at some of the stats and figures, like people being able to buy properties for less than 20k (something which hasn’t been a thing here while I’ve been an adult) and the fact that property owners can evict people if the police get called to their properties – including calls for reasons of domestic violence. People, that is fucked up. If you live in the US you should read this book.

I read this one as part of an Urban Fiction book club through the Book Riot Insiders crew, and it turned into a hate read for all of us. It is an awful combination of not being particularly well written with blatant racism. Avoid at all costs.

I have been trying to make it through Angelmaker for the best part of a year but I couldn’t get past the first chapter because of how bland the protagonist was. I picked it up again after the Insiders crew waxed lyrical about it, and after persisting, I am a convert. The protagonist has a major growth arc, and the female characters go from being completely absent to awesome. The next question is, just how badly do I want a clockwork bee tattoo?

Sarah Knight is my favourite ‘anti-guru’, as she calls herself.  With relatable, no nonsense examples and lots of cursing, this is a great read, even if you have your shit together.

What have you been reading? Have you read any of these? Let’s chat!

This week’s reads (week ending June 11)

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It’s been a sad few weeks here. I ended up abandoning a few things I had started reading as I wasn’t in the right headspace. I also ended up with a bad allergic reaction which kept me to audio books (which slows me down considerably). So I have three titles for you this week.

I really enjoyed Revolution for Dummies. I find it frustrating that we in the west get so little news or savvy political commentary from the east, particularly when something big goes down. Youssef’s account is hardly neutral, but it is both savvy and informative, and well as incredibly funny. Youssef alternates truth bombs with one liners, and reminds us of what free speech actually is. 

Youssef’s documentary Tickling Giants is available on iTunes at the moment.

Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man is gripping, and hard hitting. As an Australian, I can tell you that our Indigenous people only became officially recognised as ‘people’ in 1967 (it’s the 50th anniversary this year) which means there are people not much older than me who remember growing up without rights or simple things like self-determination. Parents of people who are my age were basically slaves. My knowledge of timelines for slavery related events in the US aren’t great, and this depiction of the treatment of black Americans in 1953 broke my heart. Not just because of what it depicted then or the power of the writing, but that this seems just as relevant now as it was 64 years ago. What it wrong with us?



I Contain Multitudes was a fascinating read, but I’m easily suggestible, and my scalp itched the entire time – which makes no sense whatsoever, but there you have it.

This is a look at the importance of bacteria in our lives and in the world around us. Yes, there is such a thing as being too clean, the indoor air is gross (and the best solution to this is to open a window) and fecal matter transplants (now available in a handy poo pill) can save lives. Young looks at a wide range of organisms and I really enjoyed his writing style.

Have an amazing week. Embrace every day.

This Week’s Reads (week ending June 4)

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An interesting look inside the the life of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. The content was interesting, but the book itself seemed pretty average. It certainly did convey how completely useless Nicholas was. I listened to this one and it seems that no one cast could satisfactorily pull off a Russian accent. Interesting. (I will confess that I’ve started reading October by China Mieville and this book pales in comparison to Mieville’s masterful prose. *swoon*)

Jodi Taylor tore at my heart with this one. I’m a little sad to have reached the end of this series. I hope there is another in the works!

I’m probably the only person who picked up this book not knowing who Gabourey Sidibe is or having seen any of her work. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Sidibe is smart and hilarious, and articulately discusses being body shamed as a black woman, the issues of food addiction and dealing with depression. Read this!

I spotted this on my library’s overdrive page so snapped it up and inhaled it. As a Triple J listener for many years I’ve been aware of Marieke Hardy’s work as an adult. I hadn’t realised that she was Frank Hardy’s granddaughter (the shock!) Nor did I realise she had graced my TV screen years prior as part of the Henderson Kids cast (damn I loved that show when I was 13). It was very refreshing to read a woman writing about sex and alcohol with no fear of reprisal. I also enjoyed that she gave people she had written about a right of reply and included their emails at the end of their chapters.

Speaking of having your heart ripped out. Eliza Griswold has travelled to Afghanistan to find and translate the poetry of Afghan woman (Landays) into English. Landays are only short – two lines, with the first 9 syllables and the second 22. Griswold includes lots of (heartbreaking) explanatory prose. A lot of her research and meeting with the women had to happen in secret, as poetry is still seen as dishonourable in some areas (it was banned under the Taliban).

This book is short, and I desperately wanted more. But I did feel as though it had thrown me down a rabbit hole of wonders that I hadn’t previously reaslised existed. Read this beautiful book now!
How has your reading week been?

Paul Beatty in Brisbane with Wesley Enoch

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I was bitterly disappointed to read this article about Paul Beatty’s interview with Michael Cathcart at the Sydney Writers Fest. It leaves me cold and embarrassed – how could the festival organisers get it so wrong? How could a middle class white guy be the right person for this interview (especially with some of the lack lustre questions and his use of the n-word?!? Dear white people, check yourselves! That is never ok!)

I was both grateful and excited the week before to have attended an event in Brisbane where Paul Beatty was interviewed by Wesley Enoch. Enoch is a playwright and artistic director. He has worked as the artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company and is currently the director of the Sydney (Theatre) Festival. He is of Murri descent and is a proud Noonuccal Nuugi man.

I can see why Beatty can be thought of as a “difficult” interview subject. Enoch’s questions were wonderfully open, and gave Beatty lots of room to move with his answers. He answered lots of questions with “I don’t know” or “It’s not for me to say” but then was able to discuss his ideas in a way the audience seemed to enjoy (I know I certainly did) and Enoch was able to bounce off his responses to get the best out of the conversation. 

Beatty spoke about his decision to write at the age of 25, and how he tried to put it off, but eventually he can’t help himself. He said “I write because I can’t fight.” Enoch mentioned that he felt a responsibility to the Aboriginal community and asked Beatty if he felt similarly. Beatty responded that he was a member of a bunch of communities and quoted Kafka: “What do I have in common with the Jews when I have nothing in common with myself.”

It seems more that Beatty doesn’t want to speak for anyone apart from himself. He said that he wasn’t writing to change the world – that was too much. He doesn’t believe that there is anything untouchable. He is not writing to be liked – he hopes people like his work but that is not what makes him create. Beatty mentioned that he had done slam poetry once, but found it off putting. He also mentioned that he feels people pick up books thinking of them as a “black book” or even “the black book” which is not the way he reads (and, I’m inferring, not the way he writes). Beatty revealed that one of his first pieces of fan mail was from a young Vietnamese man about his book The White Boy Shuffle who saw it as just like his own life.

When asked if it was a conscious decision not to name the main character of the Sellout, Beatty said “A little bit” and reflected that he’s not that good coming up with names. He also mentioned that the timeline of the book was unclear as he was wanting to give a sense of “this is how it always is”. 

Enoch asked about the bringing back of slavery and segregation in the book, and the “heresy” that these things could have positive sides. Beatty spoke a little about his own experiences of segregation, and the difference between segregation and self-segregation (ie choosing to live in a community of like people vs not having that choice). Beatty mentioned that he had heard people say that blacks had it better under segregation with their own restaurants and so forth, to which his response was “Really?”  Beatty also talked about the difference between being proud and not being ashamed or embarrassed. Not being ashamed or embarrassed allows you a space in which to be, he said, but pride narrows thinking.

To me, Beatty came across as humble, self deprecating and very real. For me authors are like rock stars are to most people, so I have a bad habit of being both star struck and tongue tied at signings, blurting inanities like “I think you’re amazing” and then being too embarrassed by my stupidity to say anything else. At the book signing afterwards, I found Beatty very easy to talk to, and he took time to chat with everyone in the queue.

I’m so glad that the Brisbane Writers Festival engaged Wesley Enoch for this event. Sydney, have a long hard look at yourselves.

Note: Enoch also mentioned the practice of “blackbirding” that had occurred in Australia’s past. Blackbirding was a practice of white people sailing around the local pacific islands, luring the indigenous people on board through trickery and bringing them back to Queensland to work the sugar cane fields. This occurred from the 1860s through to the early 1900s.  You can find more information here and here


 

What I’ve been Reading – week ending May 28

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I missed posting last week – I was a little preoccupied listening to Paul Beatty talk about his Man Booker prize winning book The Sellout. But I’ll post about that later.

Honourable mentions from last week:



If We Were Villains
has been touted as being similar to the Secret History. It is, insomuch as they are both set in schools and one of the characters dies. But apart from that, not so much. If We Were Villains is an amazing celebration of Shakespeare and his works and is also a look at what can happen when passionate teens end up sucked into a world of make believe. I loved this book – it made my inner Shakespearean nerd very, very happy.


My main criticism for this book is that there just wasn’t enough of it. Edited from her “unruly” PhD, Susan Carland details her examination of feminism within Islam, based on a series of interviews she has conducted with a selection of Muslim women both in Australia and Northern America. Very interesting and well worth your attention.


I had been anticipating this book since hearing Liberty from Book Riot wax lyrical about it last year. And it is totally awesome. Set in the future, humanity has basically sorted out everything. The Thunderhead (what the cloud has morphed into) looks after most of humanity’s needs. Death and illness have been abolished. Everyone has enough to eat. Over population is the only real issue. This is solved by the Scythes – individuals whose job it is to “glean” a specific quota of people each year in order to keep the population manageable. Citra and Rowan are taken as apprentices and must compete against each other to enter Scythedom – and for their lives.


This book was delightful, exquisitely written with some lovely world building. Twylla is poisonous – she is the court executioner and kills with a touch. Everyone in the palace avoids her, including the prince to whom she is betrothed. Until a new guard takes charge of her, and everything changes. Yes, there is the dreaded YA love triangle, but there is so much more going on in the story.


The only Dick I had read up till now was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This book is so good! It’s gritty and cyberpunky. Originally published in 1969, it’s a little dated (the “future” was 1992, and women are either good girls or femme fatales), but still totally awesome.


You can thank M.L Rio for this one. Et tu Brute?


This story is just adorable. Three best mates head to a con in LA. One is there as a Youtuber and new movie star, and she takes her two geeky besties along for the ride. Jen Wilde gives us, an MC who is both a WOC and bisexual, another MC who is on the autistic spectrum (Aspergers) and has terrible anxiety, and all of the fandom, geeky love you could possibly want. This book gave me all the feels.

What have you been reading?

What I’ve been Reading (W/E May 14)

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Hi everyone, Happy Mother’s Day to you if you are that way inclined!

Here’s a run down of my reading week:


If you haven’t heard of Hidden Figures by now you must have been hiding under a rock. Hidden Figures is the story of some of the black women that worked behind the scenes for NASA, working on the computations that helped get people into space. I appreciate the research that went into the book and it’s wonderful that the stories of these women are coming out, but I think I would have felt more lost understanding exactly what the women did if I hadn’t read Rise of the Rocket Girls a few months ago. Shetterley seems to have focussed more on the women’s family lives and how they coped fitting working and family together than on the amazing work these women did, which I found a bit disappointing.

The last of my Stella shortlist reads, this one was a punch to the gut. Chris and her sister Bella live in a small country town. They have no real family except for each other. After a weekend of no contact, Chris gets a visit from the police that no one wants. They’ve found a body, could she please identify it?

Maguire takes you through the cycles of grief experienced by Chris – the horror of what has been done to her sister, the desire of the media to get a juicy story, the speed of which all of this circulates in a small country town and the pressure that Chris feels. This book is a raw examination of grief and how we live through it. Have the tissues ready.

Jodi Taylor’s St Mary’s series has been my go to read for palate cleansing for a little while. I love the St Mary’s crew and Max in particular. I love the irreverent and very British tone of  Taylor’s writing, and I absolutely love the idea of travelling around through history to see what happened rather than having to rely on inaccurate accounts. This one was lots of fun, as usual. I’m waiting for my library to buy the next one!


I discovered quite by chance that Susan Faludi is out here talking about this book, which is about the journey that started with her estranged father contacting her to let her know that he had undergone gender reassignment surgery and was entering the world as Stefi. 

In the Dark Room is an exploration of identity and how gender, religion and culture make up parts of who we are. Can you tease out one without the others? Faludi seems to have had limited contact with her father over the years (and the book demonstrates why). She describes her journey to get to know her father as a woman as well as from her own changed point of view as an adult. This seems to be further complicated by Stefi’s desire to erase, or at the very least mask, the pieces of the past that she would rather not acknowledge. Stefi also talks about the number of different roles she has willingly played during her life, and her own self awareness of this is fascinating given the context. This is a complicated narrative and a very interesting exploration of identity. I’m really looking forward to seeing Faludi talk to this topic.

In 1845, John Franklin’s expedition to chart the Artic passages, consisting of 2 ships and 129 men, was lost. This is the story of the journey to find the lost ships and determine what happened to the crew. Watson gives a great account of all the missteps taken between the disappearance of the ships and their eventual discovery over a century later. I found his account of Lady Jane very interesting – she sounds like one hell of a women. I was a bit mystified when she was described by Watson as “high strung” almost immediately after a number of details of her adventures through very harsh conditions. (Lady Jane was considered “highly strung” as she was a vocal opponent of the British Navy’s lack of action to find her husband when his ships had gone missing. I wonder how a similarly vocal man would be described in this situation?) What I did enjoy about this book was the inclusion of Inuit oral history about the wreck – it seems that if the Navy had taken this information into consideration that answers would have been found much sooner.

This week I’ve also discovered the Deviant Women podcast. Alicia and Lauren are exploring women who push against the boundaries of society in life and literature. Give them a listen – they are smart and sassy and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the episodes I’ve listened to.

That’s it for this week. What are you reading?