What I’ve been reading

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Hey there folks!

We’re 13 days into 2019 and so far my reading is going very well! (It’s a bit too early to have crapped out right?) I thought I’d run you through a few things I have read an enjoyed so far this year (and where I’m using them in my challenges!)

My first really fun read of the year was After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson. This one was recommended by Amie Kaufman on one of her Instagram stories, and you know how I love me some Aussie YA. This is a great story about Prudence, whose dad is a “prepper” – ie he’s waiting for the apocalypse and he is P R E P A R E D. As the oldest Pru has been taught everything she could possibly need to know to survive the end of times. But when the end of times happen and her father has been caught up in it, Pru knows she needs to look after her younger siblings but can’t find it in her to turn her back on her town (and the new boy who she likes). I really enjoyed this one, and it has a realy hopeful vibe for something which is about the end of times. (Trigger warnings for some abusive parental behaviour). I’m using this as my Aussie spec fic for the Aussies Rule Challenge.

A Really Good Brown Girl is a wonderful book of poetry from Canadian Marilyn Dumont (who is of Cree/Métis descent). It talks about the difficulties of racism, growing up with prejudice and poverty and honouring the self and her ancestors. Dumont’s writing is beautiful, thought provoking and heart breaking. I’m using this for number 4 of the FOLD reading challenge.

My Mother, A Serial Killer I picked up on a whim from the local library as I was passing through, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Hazel Baron suspected her mother was a murderer when she was 9. The morning after her father had come home from hospital and made an accusation to his wife about the young man hanging around the camp, Ted Baron had disappeared. Hazel kept her peace even through the deaths of another two men. When her husband started coming home injured from working with her mother and step father, Hazel went to the police with her suspicions. This is a fascinating story about a woman who sounds like an actual psycopath. I’m using this for the Aussie True Crime prompt for Aussies Rule, and for the book with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads prompt for Read Harder.

You would have to have been living under rock to be an Aussie and not have seen Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton around the traps. I avoided it for a while but then picked it up early this year, and I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed it! It’s a pretty difficult and gritty story about a boy whose parents are drug addicts and then dealers. The book is based on Dalton’s own childhood, and he has mentioned in pieces written about it the admiration he has for his mother and the love he has for his family. It also reads to me like a love letter to Brisbane. Books set here are few and far between, and Dalton has included a lot of detail from the suburbs and a lot of locations I am very familiar with. I don’t know if a reader not from here would find it as evocative. But I loved it (despite the huge cheese factor.) (Trigger warnings for child neglect, domestic violence, gang violence, and violence towards children). I’m using this for the “book by a journalist” prompt for Read Harder.

I finished Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi last night and I’m still processing. What a sucker punch of a book. It’s absolutely brilliant. The being that is Ada is an ogbanje – a being summoned into existence by prayers to the gods. Parts of this book are told by a chorus of voices – the beings occupying the body of “the Ada”. Great trauma causes Asughara and St Vincent to break from from the chorus. Asughara is very dominant and she and Ada negotiate their day to day existance, but Ada just wants the pain to stop. In interviews, Emezi talks about the spirituality of shifting selves and how this is something not really accepted or acknowledged by the wider community and also talks about the process of transition not necessarily to a gender but to ogbanje. This one is going to stick with me for a long time. (Trigger warnings for child abuse, rape, self harm, sucidal ideation and suicide, eating disorders.) I’m using this for the non binary author prompt for Read Harder.

How are you going? What reading gold have you struck so far this year?

Cheers!

#BookishBloggersUnite – 2019 Reading Goals

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Hello folks! I’m hosting our first #BookishBloggersUnite post for the year. Bookish Bloggers Unite is a tag developed by a group of bookish friends who wanted to blog about books together. You can join in at any time – just let us know and add your link to the comments.

It’s time to talk about our reading goals for 2019!

I was planning on paring back my challenges and goals this year, but that hasn’t really happened. Here’s a run down:

Goodreads Challenge – set at 150. Very achievable but set a bit on the low side so I feel comfortable to read bigger books.

Read Harder Challenge – put together by the delightful Rachel Manwill from Book Riot, this is always a good way for me to stretch my reading diversity, and this year is no exception.

Aussies Rule Challenge – We’ve talked about this – you know what it’s all about.

FOLD Challenge – This one was brought to my attention by a Canadian Book Riot Insider. The FOLD stands for “Festival of Literary Diversity”. You can find the blog here.

Dymocks52Challenge – Dymocks is an Aussie bookseller challenging people to read 52 books in 2019 and there are prizes and stuff so I’m playing along.

Some more general goals:

  • Read more Aussies – even though I was really trying Aussies only ended up being about 20% of my reading total from 2018
  • Also read more Canadians and NZers – the UK and US book market doesn’t need any help from me – I really want to read more people who aren’t getting the support of a massive publishing industry
  • Read more Authors of Colour – my AOC rate was a 47% for 2018 – I want it over 50% this year
  • Read more LGBTQIA2S authors – my LGBTQIA2S rep in my reading was pretty woeful last year. I want to get that up to at least 20%

And that’s me!

What are your bookish goals for 2019?

Cheers,

Post Apocalyptic Fiction by First Nations Authors – Article by Claire Coleman

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Hi folks!

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago looking at some post apocalyptic fiction by First Nations authors.

Claire Coleman, author of Terra Nullius, has posted a link on twitter to an article she wrote in 2017 entitled First Nations Australians Don’t Have to Imagine an Apocalypse- We Survived One .

It’s well worth a read so make sure you check it out.

Cheers,

Sue.

The Aussies Rule 2019 Reading Challenge

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I really enjoyed my Aussies Rule Challenge this year, and I know there were a few people playing along. So I’ve decided to keep it going for 2019! Also there will be prizes!

Here are the prompts:

  1. An Aussie book about politics or social science
  2. An Aussie play
  3. Some Aussie speculative fiction
  4. Some Aussie true crime that doesn’t focus on violence against women
  5. A book by an ATSI (Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander) person
  6. A book by a Miles Franklin winner
  7. A book by a winner of the Black and Write! Prize
  8. A winner of the Australian/Vogel literary award
  9. A book short listed for the Prime Ministers Literary Awards
  10. A book about an immigration or refugee experience
  11. New Zealanders also rule – a book by an Maori author
  12. A memoir by an ATSI person published in the last 10 years
  13. A book about ATSI history
  14. A book from Dr Anita Heiss’ Black Book Challenge
  15. An Aussie graphic novel
  16. A book by an Aussie LGBTQ+ author
  17. An Aussie book recommended by an Aussie author
  18. An Aussie book recommended by an Aussie booktuber, bookstagrammer or blogger
  19. A debut YA book
  20. An Aussie book you loved as a child or that is highly recommended for children.
  21. An Aussie book recommended or promoted by your local book store
  22. An Aussie book about feminism and/or gender
  23. A book by a new to you Aussie author
  24. A book by or about a disabled Aussie.
  • Prizes!
  • There will be prizes for the first to finish the challenge, and the person who finishes with the highest points.
  • Points? What points?
  • This year we’re going to use a point system to add more fun.
  • If you read a book for a prompt that is by someone who is:
    • LGBTQ+
      An Author of Colour
      Differently abled/neuro diverse
  • you will get an extra ‘point’, unless that specification is made in the question.
  • So, for example, if I read a book by Jen Wilde (who identifies as queer and neuro diverse) for the LGBTQ+ question, you get an extra point. If you read one of Jen Wilde’s books for the debut YA question, you get 2 extra points.
  • Sound like fun?
  • Excellent, time to start planning! I’ll be posting suggestions here. Let me know if you are confused to have questions.
  • Happy New Year!
  • #BookishBloggersUnite: 2018 in Review

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    Hello friends!

    In this edition of #BookishBloggersUnite, we’re looking back through our achievements of 2018 and some of our favourite reads from the year. This week the lovely emmy from Books Beyond Binaries is hosting – make sure you check out their blog!

    First of all – Challenges:

    I nailed my Goodreads challenge – I tend to set it low so I don’t stress myself out. It was set at 150, and at the moment I’m at 215 books for the year. I’ll probably finish another couple before the year is out but I’d be surprised if I made it to 220. Either way I’m happy with that number.

    I have finished the Read Harder Challenge and my Aussies Rule Challenge. I’m one book off finishing the Reading Women Challenge and I may not get there.

    Even thought I was trying really hard to read more Aussies this year I’m finishing with Aussie authors as 21.8% of my total. I really want to do better with that next year. My Authors of Colour percentage was a lot higher at 47.4% but I still want to get that higher next year as well. I haven’t really focussed on LGBTQ authors this year so that percentage is woeful and will be another area of focus for me next year. I’m really hoping to find more queer Aussie authors next year to support and I’ve found a lot more resources this year to help me find queer reads in general.

    Favourite reads this year:

    I have read a bunch of amazing books this year. I picked up my first Candice Fox book and was hooked. The Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant books I read this year were so good, and ditto for Martha Wells’ Murderbot books.

    Here are my top 5:

    1. Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman

    2. Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

    3. Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

    4. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

    5. A Planet for Rent by Yoss

    Another special mention for Melanin Garden by Anisa Nandaula, which is a stunning book of poetry from a local author and slam poet. I hope we get more to read from her soon!

    How was your 2018 in reading? What were your favourite reads this year? Did you meet your goals? Do you have places where you want to improve next year?

    Cheers,

    Post Apocalyptic Fiction by First Nations Authors

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    Hi folks,

    I’ve recently found a new favourite genre – post apocalyptic fiction written by First Nations authors. In Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice’s character sums up why I have such a deep feeling towards these books. This is one of the community elders talking:

    Yes apocalypse! What a silly word. I can tell you there’s no word like that in Ojibwe … Our world isn’t ending. It already ended. It ended when Zhaagnaash came into our original home down south on that bay and took it from us. That was our world. When Zhaagnaash cut down all the trees and fished all the fish and forced us out of there, that’s when our world ended. They made us come all the way up here. This is not our homeland! ….But then they followed us up here and started taking our children away from us. That’s when our world ended again. And that wasn’t the last time. … We’ve had that over and over. But we’ve always survived. We’re still here.

    Who better to write about the end of the world than peoples who have already experienced it, and who continue to experience displacement, racism and pressure to minimise or cease their traditional practices?

    In Moon of the Crusted Snow the power goes out in a small Anishinaabe community in the far north. This is not unexpected – the remoteness of the community means the power supply goes out sometimes, especially during the harsh winter. But soon two of the community’s young men return from college with disturbing stories of what is happening in the outside world and the community leaders understand they are in trouble. The community draws together in order to survive – although as in any community tempers flare and there are disagreements, trouble makers and those who want to shirk off contributing as they know they will still be taken care of. When strangers arrive, things become more tense. These newcomers don’t know or respect the ways of the community and it causes further friction, which builds to the nail biting denouement.

    In Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse explores a more fantastical apocalypse – the world has drowned and the Dinetah are thriving for the most part. There are gods and monsters who occasionally make life difficult. Maggie is a monster hunter (and is questioning if she is a monster herself). But something is stealing children, and Maggie is hired to find out what. This takes us through an amazing story of monsters, and gods, and also allows us to see how Maggie has and still is suffering at the hands of others who think she is too different, and the impact that has on her.

    Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman is a book I’ve been talking about all year. Australia has been invaded – again. Coleman skilfully weaves the story of colonisation, it’s impact on the Natives, the views of the Colonisers. We follow the stories of Jacky, a child who has run away from the mission with it’s abuse and mistreatment; Esperance, who is trying to keep her mob alive and away from the Colonists; and Johnny Starr, who after being part of a brutal massacre of Natives, walks away from his fellow troopers to join the Natives.

    These three authors weave the stories of the suffering of their people through their books, and allow us to see through a close up and personal lens not only the hardships and difficulties they have faced, but their grit, determination and strength in the face of a majority who has, and in most cases still is, trying to wipe them out.

    I love the idea of First Nations people writing books like this. People have always told stories to each other, but a lot of the colonists don’t want to hear these stories and are probably unlikely to pick up something like a memoir which gives a first hand account of how colonisation has been a bad thing for their people, and the terrible consequences it has had on them for generations. I hope that these stories in fiction will be more likely to find their way into the hands of people who need this perspective to better understand the trauma suffered by those who continue to be oppressed.

    The other thing these books do is allow First Nations people to see themselves represented accurately in a genre where they would usually see themselves portrayed as the exotic other, if at all. I also hope this brings more First Nations people to both read and write in this genre.

    While I’m coming to Trail of Lightning and Moon of the Crusted Snow as a non North American person, these books have given me better insights to the traditions of the peoples as well as their continuing suffering – the impact outsiders who don’t understand or care have on the community and possible fracturing and continuing loss of tradition, the terrible impact of ongoing violence from both inside and outside the community. (Note – I am aware that Roanhorse has attracted some criticism for her sharing of some parts of Diné culture and spirituality. You might like to have a read of this article which I found helpful.)

    As a white Australian, Terra Nullius is a brutal read, with each chapter being heading by some form of letter, journal entry or other epistolary writing to give the perspective of the Colonists or the Natives. It’s particularly difficult to read knowing that the views of the colonists in these are visited upon our First Nations peoples every day by present day colonists who are just as ignorant as the ones in the book.

    I highly recommend you getting your hands on these three, particularly if you are a white reader in a colonised country, or if your country has been responsible for colonisation in the past. Even if you aren’t, these are damned good reads.

    Cheers,

    It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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    Hi folks!

    No I am not referring to the fact that Christmas is nearly upon us (I’m a bit of a Grinch – I hate the over hyped, capitalist versions of religious celebrations (and I’m not religious anyway) but this one in particular does my head in).

    I’m talking about this:

    Sign ups for the 24 in 48 Readathon are open! I particularly love the first readathon of the year – it always tends to fall on a long weekend here in the land of Aus, plus it’s in the depths of summer where there is nothing to do but hide in the air conditioning. If you haven’t signed up to the 24 in 48 blog you should – the link is here. You can sign up and get any news or updates. You can also donate to the cause – the team does a great job sourcing prizes from publishers, but it’s always more difficult to source prizes for overseas people. Even a couple of bucks can help.

    And then there’s this:

    2019 is year 5 of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, put together by the incomparable Rachel Manwill (who also heads the 24 in 48 team – she’s a champ). I’m always excited to see what the new challenges will be, and 2019’s list doesn’t disappoint. One of the challenges is to read a manga, and Imogen has challenged me to read a whole manga rather than the one volume. So I think Ouran High School Host Club will be getting some attention from me in the new year.

    I love the Read Harder Challenge as it always pushes me beyond my usual reading, and I always find something I enjoy that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.

    You can check out the whole list of the 2019 Read Harder Challenge here.

    Are you going to join the fun for either of these?

    If you do Read Harder, are you a planner or a pantser? Normally I’m a pantser (I read what I like and then assess where I am in about June), but for 2019 I think I will do more planning and try to hit the harder for me challenges first.

    How are your challenges for this year going? Are you nearly done?

    Cheers,