Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor

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My reading of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death has happily co-incided with the news that HBO is turning it into a series, and George R. R. Martin will be one of the executive producers. I look forward to seeing how HBO handles the adaption, and I'm sure having Martin as one of the people on deck will be great for the series.

Who Fears Death was written in 2010 and has won a truckload of awards, including the Nebula, and the World Fantasy award.

What I love most about Okorafor's writing is her superb blend of African culture and fantasy. I didn't love Who Fears Death, mainly, I think, because it's a freaking tough read. If you have any triggers, I would strongly suggest you stop here.

Onyesonwu is a child of rape – an horrific event revisited multiple times – and her name means 'who fears death?' We find Onyesonwu sitting in a prison cell, and she relates her life story – from her conception, through her 11th year rite (genital mutilation), her discovery of her mystical powers and her training in magic. Onyesonwu discover that some of her powers come from her biological father, who is keeping a magical eye on her – not for any good reason. There's plenty of confronting content. Onyesonwu's activation and exploration of her powers is done so well, and explores some deep questions.

The other thing that made me feel a bit funny about the book was that I listened to the audio – which was performed by Anne Flosnik. Don't get me wrong – Flosnik did a great job. But is a white British person the most appropriate pick to voice an African character? (John Lee voicing The White Tiger also made me feel squiffy).

Who Fears Death was 100% worth the journey, and deserves all the accolades it has received.

Have you read Who Fears Death? What did you think?

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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I've set myself a number of challenges this year, and it has really shown me that as far as reading is concerned, I am a contrary beast. I've smashed my Goodreads goal of 150 books, and only a few of those have been for the other challenges.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is part of my Reading Around the World challenge. I picked this one up thanks to the Book Riot team – as an Aussie who doesn't really watch TV, I have no idea who he is in the US. Here in Australia, we have a significant number of (white) South African immigrants, who, for the most part, left the country around the time that Apartheid was overturned.

Noah's book is a fascinating look at what black and coloured people who lived under the regime had to deal with, as well as the changes that happened when Apartheid was overturned. Born a Crime is a series of stories of Noah's childhood and youth, growing up in South Africa. The title of the book is due to Noah's parentage – as the child of a white father and a black mother, his existence was illegal. This also meant that he couldn't be seen with either of his parents in public or they would go to jail.

I really enjoyed Born a Crime. Noah's stories reflect the grinding poverty, the stupidity of racism, and the difficulties he and his family encountered (including the terrible abuse by his stepfather) in a way that is absolutely relatable. I learned so much about South Africa and the many cultures therein. Plus the stories are, for the most part, incredibly funny.

I listened to this one on audio – it's read by the author, and is great in that format.

5 out of 5 hilarious poo stories.

24 in 48 opening survey

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It’s Saturday afternoon here in the land of Aus, but the US is just getting started.

The 24 in 48 is off and running. I’m at the 7 hour mark, although I haven’t finished a book yet. I spent the morning listening to The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. while I did housework. This afternoon I’ve been reading Eligible  by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Here are my responses to the opening survey  from the 24in48 site:

1. I’m reading from Brisbane, Australia. It’s perfect readathon weather being chilly midwinter here.

2. This is my third 24 in 48.

3. Where did I originally hear about the readathon? I think I heard about it on Litsy the first time.

4. What am I most excited about reading this weekend? To be honest I have some tomes that I’m hoping to get through, so The Three Body Problem if I get to it.

5. Something about myself? I hit my Goodreads target of 150 books for the year last week. Of those 150, about 4 of them are for the other challenges I decided to do this year. I have discovered I am absolutely a mood reader.

6. I’ll be mostly posting on Litsy this weekend (you can find me there as @sue
Are you participating in the readathon?

A Couple of Shameless plugs

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Hi folks!

This is just a quick post about a couple of awesome things that I hope you have on your radar. If they aren’t, I hope you will check them out.

If you live in the West and haven’t heard about the Hulu adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale, you must have been living under a rock for months. It has only been available here in Australia for a couple of weeks (it’s on SBS’s on demand service). I’m only three episodes in and it’s just amazing.

One of my favourite podcasts has done an hour long episode and some mini character based episodes which are worth tuning in to if this is your kind of thing. Check out the Deviant Women podcast – Lauren and Alicia are totally great (all their other episodes are great as well). You’ll love their cute Aussie accents and tendency to curse – I know I do.

There’s also a whole US podcast based on the series. It’s called Mayday and you can find it here

Lastly, the 24 in 48 readathon is happening THIS WEEKEND! Despite the name, there is no stress and you can just do as many hours as you can fit in. How ever, if you can go the distance there are some awesome prizes up for grabs! Make sure you sign up here and get your stacks and snacks ready for Saturday!

Cheers!

Top 5s for January – June 2017

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As promised, here are my top 5s for the year so far. Please note, these are top 5 books that I have read in each category, rather than a selection of books published this year. The list of books within the 5s are in no particular order.

Let’s go!

Fiction:

  1. Invible Man – Ralph Ellison
  2. If We Were Villains –  M. L Rio
  3. Mullumbimby – Melissa Lucashenko 
  4. Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo
  5. Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Non Fiction:

  1. Awkward: The Science of Why we are Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome – Ty Tashiro
  2. I Contain Multitudes – Ed Yong 
  3. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue – John McWhorter
  4. Kierkegaard: A Single Life – Stephen Backhouse
  5. The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu – Joshua Hammer

Science Fiction and Fantasy:

  1. The Broken Earth series – N. K. Jemisin
  2. Lotus Blue – Cat Sparks
  3. Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway
  4. Binti and Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor 
  5. Fledgling – Octavia Butler

Memoirs:

  1. The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke
  2. Reckoning – Magda Szubanski
  3. Revolution for Dummies – Bassem Youssef
  4. In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi
  5. Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan

YA:

  1. Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde
  2. Dreadnought – April Daniels
  3. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  4. Star Touched Queen/Crown of Wishes – Roshani Chokshi
  5. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

It turns out I’ve read a heap more memoirs and fiction than usual and a lot less YA and Sci fi/Fantasy. I’m definitely a mood reader.

Have you read any of these? Is there anything totally awesome that should be on my lists?

Book Launch of Charlatan by Catherine Jinks

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I don’t think I’ve ever waxed lyrical about a book I haven’t read yet, but there’s a first time for everything right?

If you’ve heard of Catherine Jinks, it’s probably for her Evil Genius YA books. I first came across her work when I was studying to be a high school teacher. Pagan’s Crusade was a breath of fresh air into the YA field at the time. The main character’s voice was smart and so very sassy and unique. 

Fast forward a number of years (I’m going to make you work for that date) and a hefty writing career that has spanned children’s, YA, adult fiction and non fiction, Jinks’s new book Charlatan has just been released, and it looks like a ton of fun. We attended the book launch at Avid Reader book store (the indie store that took on a bunch of ‘men’s rights activists’ and won) this week, where Jinks spoke about her new baby with Rob Barclay from Radio National.

Charlatan is about a 19th century guy by the name of Thomas Guthrie Carr and charges raised against him by Eliza Gray, who accused him of mesmerising and raping her.  (Gray likened Carr to the Mad Dentist of Wynyard . I’ve put in a handy link for you. I’ll wait.)

After having burned his bridges in the UK, Carr came to Australia to try his luck here. Carr dealt in mesmerism and phrenology (the ‘science’ of determining a person’s personality by feeling the bumps on their head) and was essentially a showman. Jinks described him as ‘a fraud, a narcissist and a shameless self-promoter’. There were very few personal documents to be uncovered in her research, but Jinks said she was able to put together such a full picture of Carr due to his predilection to write up every little thing he did and put it in the paper.  Jinks said that she could count on Carr to never do the right thing, and she spent most of her time researching thinking ‘you’ve got to be kidding!’ as she uncovered each new indiscretion.

Charlatan is a true crime book, exploring the trial of Carr for the mesmerism and rape of Eliza Gray.  But if we know that mesmerism is a sham, what actually happened? 

By all counts merticularly researched (as Jinks’s work always is, and the 40 odd pages of reference materials certainly indicates it to be), I’m really looking forward to reading this one. You won’t regret adding this to your TBR.

 

Last Week’s Reads (week ending July 2)

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I picked up Lotus because of an article my N. K. Jemisin. That lady doesn’t lie, this was awesome – the world building was fantastic and the pacing of the plot was wonderful. I’m a big fan of being dumped in a complex world and being expected to keep up. Amazing stuff.

Every Secret Thing is both darkly humourous and absolutely tragic. This is the story of the “river mob” (Aboriginal people) and the “mission mob” (white missionaries) trying to get used to each other and live together. The missonaries don’t understand why the river mob don’t want to abide with their instructions about the new way they should live and interact. Munkara skilfully weaves in both the seeming general idiocy of the whites along with institutionalised sexual abuse, physical abuse and issues about the Stolen Generation and the legacy that the people have to live with. The missionaries certainly don’t come off as being terribly well meaning. 


All the Bright Places tackled some pretty weighty issues about grief, depression and other mental illness, and suicide. It’s a gutsy, brave book, but was only a 3 star read for me.


A mysterious book store,  a secret society and a clueless but sassy protagonist?  Yes please! 

Controversial opinion time – I didn’t enjoy this book. It could be argued that this is not a book to enjoy – the information in it (the harrowing journey of one of the Lost Boys from Sudan) is deeply disturbing and upsetting. Stories like this need to be told, no told to the Western audience so we know of the horrors that have occurred in places like Sudan. Unfortunately I found the delivery boring – the structure seemed forced. Despite that, this book is incredibly important.

I’ve watched Tracey Spicer on telly for many years, and this book was not what I expected. Rich with ribald humour, this book is both a self deprecating look at her own journey through her media career and a scathing commentary on the Australian media industry. Worth a read!

This book is so bizarre. The main character is completely unlikable, and seems to walk through the world with little to no clue about the consequences of her actions. She has no real idea about empathy or how to interact with others. The story is gripping because you have no idea what she is going to do next.  If you’ve read Harmless Like You, Helen’s voice is how I imagine Yuki’s internal monologue may have sounded. (If you haven’t read Harmless Like You, you should remedy that immediately.)

What have you been reading?